Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba on Saturday expressed his deep disappointment at the church’s provincial synod decision not to allow bishops to “provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same sex civil unions”.
The church’s top legislative body the provincial synod – covering Anglicans in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and on the island of St Helena – held a debate in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng on Friday on the issue of pastoral care to people of gay and lesbian orientation who were in committed same sex relationships, Makgoba said in a statement.
The two proposals before the synod which drew most public attention were firstly, that bishops should be allowed to license clergy who identify as LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex) and were in legal same sex civil unions under South African law to minister in parishes. The proposers of the motion before synod withdrew this proposal before debate began.
Secondly, it was proposed that a bishop may “provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same sex civil unions”. The motion before the synod did not propose that clergy should be able actually marry same sex couples under church law.
“Under the canons [church law], I declared the issue a controversial motion. This meant that to be approved it needed a simple majority vote in the three separate ‘houses’ of the synod – the house of bishops, the house of clergy, and the house of laity, the latter representing the people in the pews. In addition, if it had been approved in each of those houses, voting separately, it needed a two-thirds majority overall to pass,” he said.
The motion failed to achieve a simple majority in any house. The bishops voted 16 to six against the motion, the laity 41 to 25, against and the clergy 42 to 34 against.
“We live in a democracy, our church has strongly advocated democracy, and people on all sides of the debate have to accept the result. At the same time, the debate is not over. Without trying to predict its ultimate outcome, or to suggest what that should be, it was notable that a number of opponents of the motion did not reject it out of hand, but suggested instead that opinion in our church was not yet ready for such a move.”
As it was, the degree of support for the motion was quite substantial compared to other African provinces of the Anglican Church, most of which were vigorously opposed to same-sex unions in any form. This was the first time this issue had been seriously debated by synod and representatives were free to raise it again at future synods.
“It remains my hope that those on both sides of this debate can overcome their differences in a way that will be an example to the rest of the Anglican Communion, which is as divided over the issue as we are.
“I was deeply pained by the outcome of the debate. I was glad I wear glasses or the synod would have seen the tears. I wanted to be anywhere but in the synod hall – I wished I was at home quietly in Makgoba’s Kloof.
“If one of you, my church members, is in pain, then I am in pain too. The pain on both sides of the debate in synod was palpable and no one celebrated or applauded the outcome. There are no winners or losers in the Kingdom of God and we recognised that whichever way the vote went there was going to be pain.
“Nothing that I heard in the last two days takes away from what the bishops have already said to people of LGBTI orientation. You are loved by God and all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. We urge you to stick with us to play your full part in the deliberations to come,” Makgoba said.
– African News Agency (ANA)