When the global Anglican Communion censured the Episcopal Church in the United States for redefining marriage eight months ago, it warned that similar actions would be applied to other provinces “when any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity are taken that threaten our unity.”
Next month, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) may toe up against that line.
The ACSA—which includes South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Angola—won’t allow clergy to marry same-sex couples like the Episcopal Church did, but it announced this week that when its provincial synod meets next month, the province will consider blessing same-sex civil unions and allowing clergy in legal same-sex civil unions.
“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,” stated Thabo Makgoba, archbishop of Cape Town and primate of Southern Africa.
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.
The proposal comes with a caveat. “Any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so,” Makgoba stated.
The Episcopal Church’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage resulted in the church being barred from Anglican committees and other decision-making for three years.
South Africa legalized same-sex marriage early—in 2006, the second country outside of Europe to do so. It’s the only African country so far to allow it.
Anglicans have remained behind. In 2004, Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a sermon that “to discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.”
And when Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, lost her license as an Anglican priest this summer after she married her same-sex partner in late 2015, her bishop told The Telegraph he hoped it would be short-lived.
“When I married my wife prejudice slammed a door of opportunity in my face,” she wrote in an email to News24. “With this proposal we are ‘rattling the hinges.’”
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SOURCE: Christianity Today Gleanings – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra