The provincial synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has voted against the introduction of blessing services for same-sex marriages. The motion, from the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, required a simple majority in all three houses of the synod (laity, clergy and bishops) along with an overall two-thirds majority of the whole synod. But it was rejected in all three houses and failed to get anywhere near the two-thirds overall majority.
“From those figures you will see the strongest support, albeit a minority, came from the clergy, and the least strong from the bishops,” the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said afterwards “We live in a democracy, our Church has strongly advocated democracy, and people on all sides of the debate have to accept the result.
“At the same time, the debate is not over. Without trying to predict its ultimate outcome, or to suggest what that should be, it was notable that a number of opponents of the motion did not reject it out of hand, but suggested instead that opinion in our Church was not yet ready for such a move.”
Archbishop Makgoba, the Primate of Southern Africa, said that support for the motion was “quite substantial” when compared with other African Anglican provinces “most of which are vigorously opposed to same-sex unions in any form.”
He said that the debate at last week’s Synod was “the first time this issue has been seriously debated by our Church” and stressed that it wasn’t necessarily the end of the debate, because “representatives are free to raise it again at future synods.”
In his comments, Archbishop Makgoba recognised the pain that such debates cause people on both sides of the debate and said that it was “palpable”, and said: “no one celebrated or applauded the outcome,” he said. “There are no winners or losers in the Kingdom of God, and we recognised that whichever way the vote went, there was going to be pain.”
He said that he was “deeply pained” by the outcome, adding: “If one of you, my church members, is in pain, then I am in pain too.”
Archbishop Makgoba said: “Our Church, like South Africa as a nation, has previously provided an example to the world over how we can overcome differences over issues that people feel strongly about, such as sanctions against apartheid and the ordination of women as priests.
“It remains my hope that those on both sides of this debate can overcome their differences in a way that will be an example to the rest of the Anglican Communion, which is as divided over the issue as we are.”
And he concluded his statement with “a word to our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers” by saying that “Nothing that I heard in the last two days takes away from what the bishops have already said to people of LGBTI orientation:
“‘You are loved by God, and all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. We recognise that many of you are baptised and confirmed members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of your lives and the ordering of your relationships. We urge you to stick with us to play your full part in the deliberations to come.'”
- This article was amended on 3 October 2016. In the original, we quoted Archbishop Makgoba saying that the strongest support for the motion came from the laity. He had intended to say the clergy.