[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Anglican Church in Southern Africa is to consider blessing same-sex civil unions when its provincial synod meets next month. But the motion, proposed by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, would not permit clergy to solemnise same-sex marriages. The motion says that clergy should be “especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI” but that “any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so”
“The motion . . . proposes that any bishop of the church who wishes to do so may make provision for her or his clergy to provide pastoral care to those who identify as LGBTI,” the Archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of Southern Africa, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said. “This proposal affirms the assurance already given by our bishops that church members who identify as LGBTI are loved by God and share in full membership of our Church as baptised members of the Body of Christ.
“More controversially, the motion also proposes that clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes. It also suggests that ‘prayers of blessing’ should be able to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions. However, it specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law.
“It also accepts that any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so.”
He added: “Without anticipating what Synod will decide, this debate is overdue in the top councils of our Church, and I welcome it.”
In addition to South Africa – which legalised same-sex marriage in 2006 – the Anglican Church of Southern Africa includes Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Kingdom of Swaziland, Angola and the British Overseas Territories of St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.
The full text of the motion on pastoral care in a context of diverse human sexuality reads:
The Anglican Communion has wrestled for many years to produce a comprehensive and mutually acceptable pastoral response to the issue of diversity in human sexuality, to homosexuality and to same sex unions.
In 1998, Resolution 1.10 adopted by the Lambeth Conference called the Anglican Communion to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to assure 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, and called on the Communion to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation;
Anglicans have historically chosen to use Scripture, Tradition and Reason and Experience when discerning God’s unfolding call to mission, knowing that these pillars provide a helpful space in which many voices can be heard and many insights shared, so that a loving pastoral response to those identifying as LGBT can be offered
Provincial Synods of ACSA have asked the Bishops of our Province provide guidelines for ministry to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex (LBGTI), but have been unable to complete these guidelines
Lay and ordained Anglicans who identify as LGBTI, throughout the Communion and within our Province and Dioceses are in need of pastoral care and spiritual support and look to the church for help especially when wanting to enter into same-sex unions
Therefore, this Synod resolves
1. That a Bishop may:
1.1. provide for clergy to be especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI, accepting that any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so;
1.2. provide for pastoral counselling of those identifying as LGBTI;
1.3. provide for the preparation for and the licensing of those in same sex unions to lay ministries on Parochial, Archidiaconal and Diocesan levels;
1.4. provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same sex civil unions;
1.5. provide for the licensing for ministry of clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same sex civil unions;
1.6. provide for the use of Liturgical Rites in regard to the above ministries.
2. That a Bishop may not
2.1. provide For the solemnization of same sex unions by clergy, in terms of the ACSA Canon on Marriage (Canon 34).
3. That the Archbishop be respectfully requested to establish an Archbishop’s Commission to:
3.1. Review, reflect on, research and share such theological, pastoral and prophetic principles emerging from this Motion;
3.2 Recommend further actions, both through Interim Reports, tabled at meetings of the Synod of Bishops, and through a final Recommendations Report which is to be tabled at the 2018 meeting of PSC, so that Recommendations, Measures and Motions can be put forward to the 2019 session of the Provincial Synod.