Anglican Church resolves to craft ‘special prayers’ for same-sex couples

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Mar 7, 2023


Cape Town - Conservative Christians have rejected an announcement by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town that Anglican bishops in Southern Africa have resolved to craft “special prayers for couples in same-sex relationships”.

On Monday, while releasing statements by the church’s synod of bishops, which met last week for its first in-person meeting in three years, Makgoba said the bishops had agreed to prepare formal prayers suitable for providing pastoral care to couples in same-sex civil unions.

The compromise followed the failure of the synod to agree to a proposal by the archbishop’s commission on human sexuality to allow local churches to conduct formal blessings of same-sex unions.

The proposal was motivated by Bishop Raphael Hess, who chairs the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission.

It would have permitted individual dioceses 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 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.

Following their failure to reach agreement on the proposal, the bishops said in a statement that the divisions within the synod of bishops reflected the divisions in the Church: “We are not at peace with one another on this issue.”

The synod did, however, agree on three issues, including that all Anglicans, of whatever sexual orientation, were equally deserving of their pastoral care. The other issues were the fact that they would not debate any change to their canon on holy matrimony, endorsed in their prayer book.

This declares “that marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union and partnership between one man and one woman”.

They also agreed that whatever their different interpretations of scripture and understandings of where the Holy Spirit was leading them, they fully accepted one another’s integrity in their debates on the matter.

The rainbow flag flies outside St George's Cathedral in December 2022. Picture Supplied

Responding to this statement, Makgoba said the church was already baptising the children of same-sex couples and conducting confirmation services for LGBTQIA+ Anglicans.

He challenged the bishops to “develop prayers of affirmation and acknowledgement for all faithful Anglicans with which all can agree.”

There are deep divisions on this issue among the 42 independent and autonomous churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

ChristianView Network spokesperson Philip Rosenthal said the announcement was “a deceptive, illogical compromise and a rebellion against the Bible’s clear teaching that same-sex sexual relationships are unnatural, sinful and should be ended”.

He said the announcement would not satisfy either side and that “Anglicans would have to choose the Bible or their bishops”.

Rosenthal said the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (Reach), known until 2013 as the Church of England in South Africa, and St John's Parish, a Parish of six Anglican churches in Cape Town, were sticking with the Bible.

He also said that the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Gafcon), a global network of conservative Anglican churches that formed in 2008 in response to ongoing theological disputes in the worldwide Anglican Communion, would also most likely reject Makgoba.

“Those who reject the Bible on homosexuality, reject it on other issues too. I challenge Makgoba to defend this from the Bible in a radio debate. He won’t because he can’t,” Rosenthal said.

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