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Anglican Church in Southern Africa to consider blessing same-sex unions

by Antony Bushfield

The motion, proposed by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, South Africa, would allow clergy to give a blessing for civil partnerships but it would not support same sex marriage.

But "any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so," the motion says.

It will go before hundreds of people at the Church's synod, which covers canon law in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola and the British Overseas Territories of St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba announced the motion: "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.

"More controversially, the motion also proposes that clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes."

This could pave the way for a return to ministry by Archbishop Desmond Tutu's daughter Mpho Tutu van Furth, who was forced to leave after she married her lesbian partner.

Archbishop Makgoba added the motion "specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law".

He said the debate was "overdue" but he would not anticipate the outcome.

South Africa legalised same sex marriage in 2006, becoming one of the first countries in the world to do so.

The Anglican Church in South Africa is perceived as being more liberal than its neighbours but the motion will face opposition from clergy in all countries.

The Church in other parts of Africa has historically taken a stronger line on the issue of sexuality.

At a recent meeting of worldwide bishops on the issue of sexuality the Archbishop of Uganda walked out after calling for harsher sanctions on parts of the Church who are looking to promote same sex marriage.

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