SA bishops: Same-sex couples “full members” of church; no-change on marriage
[Anglican Church of Southern Africa] Anglican bishops from across southern Africa have resolved that gay and lesbian partners who enter same-sex civil unions under South African law should be welcomed into congregations as full members of the church.
In a pastoral letter issued to Anglicans today, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said a document outlining guidelines on members living in same-sex unions would be sent to the church’s Provincial Synod, its ruling body, which meets later this year.
He added: “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.”
Explaining the practical implications of the guidelines, he said congregations would not be able to refuse to baptise children of same-sex couples, nor should either they or their parents be stigmatised. Quoting from the bishops’ guidelines, he said, “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. . .”
However, Archbishop Makgoba acknowledged that southern Africa’s bishops were divided over whether to marry same-sex couples in church, or to allow clergy to enter same-sex civil unions. As a consequence they would continue to be bound by the broad consensus in the Anglican Communion, which is that the church can neither bless same-sex unions nor permit its clergy to enter them.
He said the differences among the bishops were both over the theology of marriage and a result of realities on the ground 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, health care 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.”
Archbishop Makgoba expressed his determination to avoid splits in the church in Southern Africa over the issue. He said the bishops were agreed that their differences did not constitute a “church-dividing issue.”
He added: “We overcame deep differences over the imposition of sanctions against apartheid and over the ordination of women, and we can do the same over human sexuality.”
Anglican churches in North America have experienced internal splits over the issue, and leaders of the Communion have taken steps to reduce the role of The Episcopal Church in the United States in the wider Anglican Communion as a result of its decision to approve the marriages of same-sex couples.
Click here for the full text of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s pastoral letter
See Also: http://goo.gl/W8AAUl
In their very own ‘Way Forward’, The Anglican Church in Southern Africa has opened up the possibility of a path towards the full acceptAnce of Same-Sex Couples into the Church.
“Archbishop Makgoba expressed his determination to avoid splits in the church in Southern Africa over the issue. He said the bishops were agreed that their differences did not constitute a “church-dividing issue.”
This agreement on the part of the bishops of the Anglican Church in South Africa, that the welcoming of Same sex couples into the Church was not a “church-dividing issue”, seems to point the way for other Churches of the Anglican Communion to come to the same conclusion. Although there are, naturally, different views about the theology and propriety of Same-Sex Marriage, this should not be an exzcuse for Church members to split from the Church, especially when the Church still retains its Canon Law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The new tolerance, that enables Christian Same-Sex couples to be welcomed by and into the Church is merely an option to extend the sort of monogamous, faithful and life-long commitment to one another that dignifies the more prevalent heterosexual nature of a marriage partnership.
Having, with my wife Diana, tonight attended our very own meeting in Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, to hear the substance of the hot-off-the-press report of our ACANZP Task Force. looking into the possibility of providing a liturgy for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions in our Church; it was interesting to hear from those most vociferously opposing such a provision. One dear lady said that “God told me” this was not what He wanted for His Church. Fortunately, the Chair of the Meeting pointed out that this was not the proper arena for a theological debate, but a presentation of the effort of the Working Group to the next General Synod of our Church, so that it could be debated there and dealt with as the General Synod might think appropriate, in order to maintain the basic unity of our Church – before any local discussion in dioceses could take place to decide on whether each diocese should accede to, or reject the proposal for itself.
Apropos the thought of changes being made in Church polity and doctrine, I am reading at the moment a book by Peter Webster, called Archbishop Ramsey – The Shape of the Church, in which the author says this (page 40) of the one-time well-loved Archbishop of Canterbury (1961 -1974), one of the Church of England’s foremost Scholar-Archbishops:
“Attached to catholic order though he was, Ramsey’s attachment to it was always subject to the reality of divine action in the present age. In a situation of crisis in church relations, and indeed throughout the church and the nation (U.K.) from the mid-1960s onwards, many things that had seemed certain in inter-war Cambridge seemed mutable, dispensible. If the greater need of God’s church on earth demanded it , then was was little in the ordering of the church, so often thought to be immutable, that could not, and ought not to be overturned. What God had instituted, God could surely amend” – Peter Webster, author.
In Ramsey’s time as ABC, these measures were supported by the Church in the U.K.:
- Homosexual Law Reform
- Marriage and Divorce Reform
- Birth control by Contraception
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand