Thinking Anglicans

Southern Africa bishops: Same-sex couples “full members” of church

The bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have issued this statement. Also available here.

The bishops again discussed and worked over their draft Pastoral Guidelines in response to Civil Unions within the wider contexts of Marriage and Human Sexuality in readiness for decision at Provincial Synod. These reaffirm our assurance that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. However, they they do not change our current policy, which is that the Province ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’ (Resolution 1:10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998).

The Prayer Book affirms ‘that marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union partnership between one man and one woman’; therefore the draft guidelines affirm for now that ‘partnership between two persons of the same sex cannot be regarded as a marriage… accordingly our clergy are not permitted to bless such unions… nor are they permitted to enter into such unions while they remain in licensed ministry’…

Additionally the primate of this province, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has published this pastoral letter. Also available here.

…We have issued a joint statement from the Synod, but I want to report to you in more detail to give you the full context of one of the more challenging matters we discussed. One of the key tasks before us was to fulfil the mandate given to us by Provincial Standing Committee and to finalise pastoral guidelines for couples in South Africa who are in same-sex civil unions. Against the backdrop of the international debate on this issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion, our discussions were frank, open and robust. We sensitively considered our role as the Anglican Church in Southern Africa within the broader family of the Communion, cognisant of the divergent strands of theological thinking within the Province of Southern Africa and of the different pastoral challenges that the different dioceses and the different countries of our Province are facing.

The document we have agreed upon will go to Provincial Synod for adoption in September, and will be published a few months ahead of Synod in the First Agenda Book. I believe that its adoption by Provincial Synod would be an important first step in signalling to the LGBT community that we in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, through our top deliberative and legislative body, see them as welcome members of our body as sisters and brothers in Christ. In the words of the guidelines:

“We reaffirm our assurance to them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. Many of these are baptised and confirmed members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships.”

In another section, the bishops declared that: “We are of one mind that gay, lesbian and transgendered members of our church share in full membership as baptised members of the Body of Christ…”

This has important implications in parishes where, for example, same-sex couples who are living in civil unions under South African law bring their children for baptism and confirmation. No child brought for baptism should be refused merely because of the sexual orientation of the parents, and particular care should be taken against stigmatising not only parents but their children too.

We also tried at the Synod of Bishops to draw up guidelines for clergy wanting to bless couples in same-sex unions, or who want to enter same-sex unions themselves. We constituted a group of bishops reflecting a cross-section of our views to discuss such guidelines. On this issue, I had to report back to the Synod, the only agreement we reached is that we were not of one mind.

Our differences do not only revolve around the theology of marriage, but are also a result of different pastoral realities in different dioceses. For example, most of our dioceses across Southern Africa are predominantly rural, and for many the urgent priorities of food security, shelter, healthcare and education crowd out debate on the issue of human sexuality. In some rural dioceses, responding to challenges to the Church’s restrictions on polygamous marriages is a much higher pastoral priority.

As a consequence, the Synod of Bishops has agreed that we will continue to regard ourselves bound by the broad consensus in the Anglican Communion, expressed by the Lambeth Conference in 1998, which is that we “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”. Having said that, we did address the questions of whether that decision is immutable, whether it has replaced scripture, and when a Province of the Communion, or a diocese within a Province may deviate from it…

This province encompasses St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, Mozambique (Lebombo and Niassa), the Republic of Namibia, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Kingdom of Swaziland and Angola in addition to the Republic of South Africa itself.

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LorenzoDaniel Berry, NYCLaurence RobertsS CooperFr Andrew Recent comment authors
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Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

The CPSA going backwards too.

Seems to be an anglican problem these days.

These people regard us lgbt as ‘those people’ – if tone is anything to go by. And they can have no idea how deeply they hurt us.

AND they have no idea how very bad they look, with these weak words so lacking in integrity.

S Cooper
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S Cooper

How much better if SA & SEC & Canada and NZ could be part of a global, liberal Anglican fellowship of churches….. Why waste more years in painful hypocrisy and compromise?

Father Ron Smith
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One has to wonder what Archbishop Desmond Tutu might make of this decision “Not to Bless” Same-Sex Unions.

The Statement made by Archbishop Makgoba still does proclaim a second class status for those faithful monogamously-partnered Same-Sex couples who Love God and their neighbours, without receiving a reciprocal respect for and recognition of their status.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

I share the disappointment that the Anglican Church of South Africa has not made as much progress on this as many of us would like. Nevertheless I can’t help but be impressed by the quality of Archbishop Makgabo’s Pastoral letter. It displays an honesty and transparency about their process which is in stark contrast to what we are told about the workings of the CofE’s House of Bishops. I am thinking of the statement that on same sex marriage “I had to report back to the Synod, the only agreement we reached is that we were not of one mind.”.… Read more »

S Cooper
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S Cooper

The Church of England will do even less….. And English liberals will bravely put the kettle on …..& nothing will change. Suppose nice robes and housing matter more than principle – easier to talk about King and Mandela than risk anything for principles

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

‘How much better if SA & SEC & Canada and NZ could be part of a global, liberal Anglican fellowship of churches….. Why waste more years in painful hypocrisy and compromise?’

Posted by: S Cooper on Tuesday, 23 February 2016,

S.Cooper makes great sense to me.

Some Justice for lgbt, but perhaps balm for a dying Church …..

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

‘And English liberals will bravely put the kettle on …..& nothing will change. Suppose nice robes and housing matter more than principle – easier to talk about King and Mandela than risk anything for principles’

I share your disgust and desire for change.

However, sneering is easy and gets us no further forward.

What action do you suggest liberals take?

S Cooper
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S Cooper

I’ve suggested many times that a new organisation (a TeC Global) could be formed and English liberals could leave Welby’s political holding positions and be part of TEC(UK)…. Obviously, that’s brave action – stepping out of the Church of England

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

The ‘liberals’ knew what to do and have failed to support lgbt all through my lifetime.

Warm words followed by betrayal, has been my experience in both the Church of England and the South London Industrial Mission.

So forgive me if I do not give detailed ‘instructions’, as invited, Andrew.

Equality in work, in housing, in marriage, in all civil rights applied in all spheres, including ‘Church’. Nothing extra.

Btw I am now retired, and so go back a long time, and do not suffer anti-gay words and deeds, or ‘liberal’ excuses easily.

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

I’d love to hear a discussion about how we gay members of the church can be denied two of the sacraments – Orders and Marriage – except on the basis of our being notorious evil livers. According to the 1662 book, that also excludes us from Holy Communion. Where does the stricture against the one leave off and the others begin? Has anyone heard a conversation among theologians about how, in one province, a same-sex couple who are priests can have – and have had – a nuptial mass celebrated by their bishop, while in other provinces, well, their bishop… Read more »

Lorenzo
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Lorenzo

It’s utterly meaningless. Murderers too are full members of the church if baptised, what of it?