Anglican church to craft prayers for same-sex couples

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 6, 2023


Cape Town - Anglican bishops in southern Africa have resolved to craft special prayers for couples in same-sex relationships, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town announced on Monday.

Releasing statements by the church’s Synod of Bishops, Makgoba said the bishops had agreed at a meeting last week to prepare formal prayers suitable for providing pastoral care to couples in same-sex civil unions.

However, he noted that the bishops were unable to reach consensus on blessing same-sex unions during church services and ruled out church marriages for same-sex couples.

The Synod met last week for its first in-person meeting in three years, and published the results of its deliberations to church members on Sunday.

“The Synod of Bishops of Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) had extensive discussions on a proposal by the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality that our clergy should be permitted to bless couples in same-sex civil unions,” read a Synod of Bishops statement to church members.

The proposal, motivated by Bishop Raphael Hess, who chairs the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission, would have permitted individual dioceses of the Church which chose to do so, to allow same-sex blessings to be performed in parishes in those dioceses where both the priest and the congregation agreed.

“The proposal thus provided in effect for a ‘conscience clause’ which would have exempted any diocese, parish and priest from having to perform such blessings if they did not wish to do so.”

The commission's proposal was made in response to a request made to the bishops for pastoral guidelines for ministry to couples in South Africa and other countries who are in same-sex civil unions provided for under national law.

“At this synod, we engaged over four sessions in quietly impassioned but respectful debate with one another over the commission’s proposal.”

They agreed on three issues, that, as was previously declared: “We are of one mind that gay, lesbian and transgendered members of our church share in full membership as baptised members of the Body of Christ … All Anglicans, of whatever sexual orientation, are equally deserving of our pastoral care; that whatever their views on the sacrament of marriage under church law for LGBTQI persons, they accepted that they were not debating any change to the Canon on Holy Matrimony, endorsed in the Prayer Book, which declares ‘that marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union and partnership between one man and one woman’; and that whatever their different interpretations of Scripture and understandings of where the Holy Spirit is leading them, they fully accept one another’s integrity in debates on the matter.

“On one side of the debate were those of us who are deeply unhappy that faithful Anglicans, who are members of our parishes, are denied the church’s blessing of their loving, faithful, monogamous, committed same-sex partnerships, when such recognition in the face of societal prejudice would give them the assurance that they are truly part of the Body of Christ.

“On the other side of the debate were those of us who believe that all, irrespective of sexual orientation, are made in the image of God and that we are called to extend God’s love and grace to all, but who nevertheless also believe that we must hold true to Scripture and uphold tradition as it has been received down the ages,” the statement read.

At the end of the debate, it was accepted that the bishops were not of one mind on the matter.

“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.”

Responding to the debate, Makgoba returned to the task to spell out guidelines for providing pastoral ministry to those in same-sex relationships.

Noting that they are baptising the children of same-sex couples and confirming LGBTQI Anglicans, he appealed for guidelines on the form of prayers they are to use when ministering to them, for example, when they bless their houses or meals in their homes.

He challenged them to develop prayers of affirmation and acknowledgement for all faithful Anglicans with which all can agree, and to present such prayers to the Provincial Standing Committee (PSC) and Provincial Synod.

“Synod agreed to his proposal and resolved to appoint a sub-group of bishops to draw up proposed prayers for submission to, and decision by, the bishops before tabling them at PSC.”

The sub-group comprises Bishop Raphael Hess of Saldanha Bay, Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe of Natal, Bishop Moses Madywabe of Khahlamba, and Bishop Luke Pretorius of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist.

Cape Times