Southern African churches to consider blessing gay unions

Southern African churches may begin blessing same-sex unions after the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) announced it would consider the move in its upcoming synod next month.

South African churches are considered more liberal than their neighboursReuters

The motion, proposed by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, rules out permitting same-sex marriages but says "prayers of blessing" should be offered to those in gay unions. And although it calls for clergy to be "especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI" it also makes clear that "any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so".

The motion also calls for those in same-sex unions to be licensed "for ministry of clergy" and to "lay ministries on Parochial, Archidiaconal and Diocesan levels".

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, announced the proposal on Wednesday and said it "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".

He admitted the suggestion of licensing clergy in gay civil unions and a prayer of blessing for people in same-sex partnerships was controversial.

But he added: "Without anticipating what Synod will decide, this debate is overdue in the top councils of our Church, and I welcome it."

Members of the synod will debate and vote on the motion in its meeting next month.

Although South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2006, many Anglicans are strictly opposed to the idea. And while South African Anglicans are perceived as more liberal than their neighbours, the synod governs church law in other states including Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Angola, which may prove more reluctant.

Recently Desmond Tutu's daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, was forced to resign from her ministry after she married her female partner.