South Africa’s Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, – who heads 24 Anglican bishops in the country – has said that he supports the proposed controversial Civil Unions Bill which will legalise same-sex partnerships.

Speaking on Thursday, he said that there should be two separate types of marriage; the existing law which covers heterosexual couples and a new concept which would allow for same-sex unions.

Ndungane said that “I have said to my friends who are gay and lesbian that using the word marriage is like a red flag to a bull. They will be wise to use the word partnership or union.”

The matter was the subject of a recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa which has decided not to challenge the Civil Unions Bill. Nevertheless Ndungane said that the Church will not bless same-sex unions, although it would provide “loving support and care”.

“People of homosexual orientation are God’s children. We cannot penalise someone for something not of his or her own making”, said Ndungane, adding that, “Diversity is a creation by the almighty. We need to embrace all of us in our differences and seek to walk together.”

The Archbishop’s position is a moderate one among South African religious groups, many of whom do not support any kind of same-sex unions or marriage. Protest marches against same-sex marriage are planned for this weekend around the country.

Most gay organisations have rejected the bill as unconstitutional and separatist, calling instead for same-sex marriage to be incorporated within the existing Marriage Act.

Tensions within the Anglican Church over the issue of homosexuality have recently reached breaking point, with ultra-conservative branches, such as The Church of Nigeria, threatening to split from the body because other branches have ordained openly-gay clergy.

Members of the Joint Working Group (JWG) – a coalition of South African LGBTI activist and support groups are preparing written submissions, a letter writing campaign and even pickets outside parliament to convince government to abandon the Civil Unions Bill and instead adapt the Marriage Act.

To view the proposed bill, click here (PDF document).

Click here for more information on how you can play a part in the letter-writing and petition campaign.

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