Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the head of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has scrapped a proposal to allow its clergy to bless same-sex unions, while also reaffirming its outright rejection of same-sex marriage.
Meeting in Gauteng from 27 February to 3 March, the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) had extensive discussions on the proposal submitted by the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality.
The proposal would have permitted same-sex blessings to be performed in parishes in dioceses where both the priest and the congregation agreed. It would have exempted any diocese, parish and priest from having to perform these blessings if they did not wish to do so.
The bishops debated the issue over four sessions described as “quietly impassioned, but respectful.” On one side, bishops expressed their unhappiness that faithful Anglicans “are denied the church’s blessing of their loving, faithful, monogamous, committed same-sex partnerships”.
Opposing bishops argued that the church “must hold true to scripture and uphold tradition as it has been received down the ages” and should resist efforts to “conform to the world”.
The bishops ultimately failed to agree on approving the proposal to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions, a matter that has been under discussion in the church for almost a decade, with no progress made.
During the debate, the bishops did agree on two matters. They reaffirmed their seemingly hollow and contradictory position that “all Anglicans, of whatever sexual orientation, are equally deserving of our pastoral care”.
“We are not at peace with one another on this issue.”
They also restated their unwillingness to even discuss changing the church’s definition of marriage which is a “union and partnership between one man and one woman”.
“The divisions within the Synod of Bishops reflect the divisions in the church as a whole, and we are not at peace with one another on this issue,” commented Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the head of the ACSA, who has been a strong supporter of the LGBTIQ+ community
In lieu of their failure to agree on accepting same-sex unions, he went on to urge the bishops to develop guidelines on “providing pastoral ministry to those in same-sex relationships”, including prayers to use when, for example, blessing their houses or meals in their homes.
The synod agreed to his proposal (which members of the LGBTIQ+ Anglican community may find insultingly inadequate), and appointed a sub-group of bishops to draw up these proposed prayers.
“The bishops will consider drafts for the formal prayers at their next meeting in September before presenting them to church ruling bodies which also represent other clergy and lay members of the church,” said Archbishop Makgoba.
In January, the Church of England – the Anglican “mother church” – was slammed by LGBTIQ+ activists for continuing to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to only offer them day-to-day blessings and prayers. Conservative Anglican churches, particularly in Africa, have threatened to split from the Church of England if it embraces same-sex marriages.