By Staff Reporter
The Anglican Church in the southern part of Africa has taken a small step towards accepting gay people in "faithful, committed relationships" - although civil marriage between same sexes is not legal in any of these countries other than South Africa.
The Anglican Diocese of Cape Town, which includes Anglican bishops from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Namibia, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Angola, passed a resolution at the weekend asking the church's bishops to provide pastoral guidelines for gay parishioners living in "covenanted partnerships".
The resolution was proposed by St George's Cathedral clergy, as they said the parish had come to be seen as a "safe space" for gay Christians in Cape Town.
The Cathedral needed guidelines to help it provide pastoral care to gay parishioners in same-sex relationships.
Globally, the Anglican Church does not accept same-sex marriages. The Anglican Consultative Council, which represents Anglican Churches around the world, has put a moratorium on the "authorisation of public rites of blessing for same-sex unions".
On Sunday, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said the synod's resolution might be seen as tame, but he saw it as "an important first step to saying: 'Lord, how do we do ministry in this context?'"
"I'm a developmental person. I don't believe in big bangs. If you throw a little pebble into water, it sends out concentric circles and hopefully that way change comes from that," he said.
He said the issue of same-sex partnerships has led to a schism in the Anglican Church in the United States. He wanted to avoid the issue becoming a source of division in the Anglican Church in southern Africa.
"In South Africa we have laws that approve a civil union in this context, but not in the other countries within our province. In central Africa and north Africa, both the Anglican Church and the state say 'no'.
"The reason for this resolution was because we have these parishioners, and the law provides for them to be in that state, so how do we pastorally respond to that?" Makgoba said.
Asked how close the voting was, Makgoba replied: "I am not one for numbers, but for the quality of the debate."