South African bishops chart course

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of South Africa has released a statement to the Anglican Communion regarding their intentions toward the proposed Anglican Covenant and their need to respond in an appropriate pastoral manner to those seeking the Church's blessing for same-sex unions.

The statement reads, in part:

To this end ACSA [Anglican Church of South Africa] is committed to the Communion’s exploration of an Anglican Covenant, as a means of providing a basic statement of the common faith and mission that holds the Anglican Churches together in visible community. It is hoped this will make explicit what it means to live in interdependence, and will articulate more clearly the basis of the “bonds of affection” between us that we now enjoy.

We, the Bishops and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have, on a number of occasions, spelt out our common mind at this stage of our journey with the world-wide Communion. We believe that we are called to love others with God’s unconditional, sacrificial love and do not believe sexual orientation is a barrier to leadership within the church. However, maintaining as we do, that Christian marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, we hold that clergy unable to commit to another in a Christian marriage partnership are called to a life of celibacy.

We have also received the resolution of the Diocese of Cape Town requesting us to provide guidelines for the pastoral care of those in committed same sex relationships. Despite the misconceptions created by media reports that Cape Town Diocese is intending to proceed with the blessing of same sex unions, we recognize the request to be pastoral in nature (reflecting the new situation created by the South African Government’s legislation allowing for civil unions between same sex couples) and not in any way in conflict with Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The task of responding to this request has been referred to a task team, which will prepare a preliminary paper building upon the resolutions and statements made thus far by ACSA.

The full statement follows:


Statement by the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

9 September 2009

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) met in Midrand, Gauteng, from 7 to 9 September 2009, to share in prayer, fellowship and breaking bread together. We reflected on passages from the Gospel according to St Luke, guided by homilies from His Grace, the Archbishop of Cape Town. Conscious of the call to uphold our faith with justice and mercy, and in dependence upon Christ’s example, his leading, and his sustaining, we discussed a breadth of issues currently before our Church.

The Synod was disturbed by various recent reports in the media to the effect that the world-wide Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church in Southern Africa are on the brink of schism. We want to assure the faithful that these reports are grossly exaggerated and, in some cases, a misrepresentation.

Our worldwide Anglican Communion has for a number of years been struggling with the issue of human sexuality without, as yet, having reached any significant consensus. There are, indeed, broken and damaged relationships within the Communion, but there is still a deep desire among the bishops throughout the world to maintain the bonds of unity in obedience to the High Priestly prayer of our Lord that “they may be one as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

To this end ACSA is committed to the Communion’s exploration of an Anglican Covenant, as a means of providing a basic statement of the common faith and mission that holds the Anglican Churches together in visible community. It is hoped this will make explicit what it means to live in interdependence, and will articulate more clearly the basis of the “bonds of affection” between us that we now enjoy.

We, the Bishops and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have, on a number of occasions, spelt out our common mind at this stage of our journey with the world-wide Communion. We believe that we are called to love others with God’s unconditional, sacrificial love and do not believe sexual orientation is a barrier to leadership within the church. However, maintaining as we do, that Christian marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, we hold that clergy unable to commit to another in a Christian marriage partnership are called to a life of celibacy.

We have also received the resolution of the Diocese of Cape Town requesting us to provide guidelines for the pastoral care of those in committed same sex relationships. Despite the misconceptions created by media reports that Cape Town Diocese is intending to proceed with the blessing of same sex unions, we recognize the request to be pastoral in nature (reflecting the new situation created by the South African Government’s legislation allowing for civil unions between same sex couples) and not in any way in conflict with Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The task of responding to this request has been referred to a task team, which will prepare a preliminary paper building upon the resolutions and statements made thus far by ACSA.

We remain committed to upholding the bonds of unity with one another, as we journey together through the difficult questions that confront the worldwide Anglican Communion. Differences of opinion are inevitable, schism is not.

Alongside our consideration of matters of human sexuality and the life of the Anglican Communion, we were also mindful of the many urgent socio-political and economic needs that face the countries and people of our Province. It is these that are paramount in our hearts and minds, as we strive to fulfil our calling to mission and ministry, as God’s faithful people in this time and place.

Now to him, who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen

(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Inquiries: Cynthia Michaels on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Note to editors - The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, which the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, heads, encompasses Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, St Helena, South Africa, Swaziland and Tristan da Cunha.

Comments (4)

The ACSA statement refers to
"the new situation created by the South African Government’s legislation allowing for civil unions between same sex couples".

"New" is a relative term. Civil Unions became legal in South Africa on 30 November 2006.

ACSA recognizes the existence of diverse sexual orientations and sees homosexuality as a benign state which does not bar an individual from leading a Christian congregation. At the same time, despite the intrinsic non-pathology of homosexuality, gay clergy must live isolated from the benefits of knowing partnership with another person. ACSA to gay Clergy: embrace the agonies of living a celibate vocation to which you aren't called.

ACSA desires to extend God's unconditional and sacrificial love to lay people in same sex relationships while affirming that those same relationships are incompatible with Holy Scripture and the nature of Christian marriage (following Lambeth 1.10). ACSA to gay Lay people: please let us love you with God's unconditional and sacrificial love while we devalue your relationships and undermine your sense of worth.

So, ACSA believes God's unconditional love is declared in the suffering of gay Clergy and Laity. the logic always leaves me stunned, saddened and angry.

-Stuart Caban-Siegel

Stuart,

On one level, I heartily agree with you, and highlighting this type of illogic is part of the prophetic role that we must necessarily take up. Thank you for your comments.
On the other hand, ACSA is clearly moving in the same direction as TEC moved not too many years ago. The more I experience and think about life in TEC and Anglicanism, the more "incarnational" I perceive our theology to be. We "live" our theology more than we codify and write about it. ACSA is starting the "live" the reality of LGBT persons in the church, both laity and clergy. If they are really true to their expressed pastoral concerns, then the "example of Cornelius" will surely overtake them in the near future. We should support and encourage the "dissenting" voices there and not be too quick to push them away into a more conservative camp.

Does anybody know if the Church of England in the UK itself is moving away from or toward the position of TEC?

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