Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth File picture: Nic Bothma

Cape Town - The Anglican Church of South Africa may be paving the way for Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth to practise as a minister again after she was forced to give up her calling following her same-sex marriage to Marceline van Furth last year.

The Church currently does not recognise same-sex unions despite being accepting of LGBTI individuals. While same-sex marriage was legalised in the country in 2006, the South African Anglican Church law states: "Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman."

This means people in committed same-sex relationships cannot approach the church for a blessing, affirmation or support. No member of a same sex couple can be licensed to serve as an ordained minister in the Anglican Church.

However, the top legislative body of the church is close to deciding on a proposal to formalise the pastoral care to members identifying as members of the LGBTI community. The motion also proposes clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in parishes.

Tutu-Van Furth said she would accept the opportunity to return to her parish. "If licensed (as a minister) I will be delighted to serve again."

She added she welcomed the open conversation the motion has invited.

"There are many people in South Africa who are challenged to choose between their God-given priestly vocation and their God-given love relationship. The choice is a torment that no one should ever have to endure.

"For those who are already ordained and licensed, the opportunity to serve God in the Church and openly and honestly in their love relationships is a freedom that those in heterosexual unions take for granted. Our love relationships are given by God as testament to God's love and as present, temporal examples of the eternal.

"More than a gift to those in same sex unions, the freedom for those in same sex unions to offer their ministry in the church will be a gift to the church; enriching our witness and our worship."

Tutu-Van Furth said the church had blurred lines regarding LGBTI individuals, recognising them as full members, but not recognising their relationships as fully valid.

"This motion brings us closer to the end of the discrimination perpetrated by the church and the prejudice, stigma and violence it has engendered. It brings into the open a conversation that has been characterised by sly jokes, harmful rumour and innuendo. We can only change what we dare to address. My hope is that this conversation leads us to open conversations about human sexuality; an honest assessment of the harm the current stance has done to God's people; and a commitment to fight homophobia with the same energy with which we fought racism."

The proposal is contained in a motion included in the agenda of the church's Provincial Synod, which will take place late next month.

Announcing the proposal, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said: "The motion, tabled by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, proposes that any bishop of the church who wishes to do so may make provision for her or his clergy to provide pastoral care to those who identify as LGBTI.

"This proposal affirms the assurance already given by our bishops that church members who identify as LGBTI are loved by God and share in full membership of our Church as baptised members of the Body of Christ."

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Cape Argus