SOUTHERN AFRICA: Bishops acknowledge 'deep desire' for unity, commitment to covenant

September 11, 2009

The bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa issued a statement saying that "there is still a deep desire among the bishops throughout the world to maintain the bonds of unity" and expressing their commitment to the Anglican Communion's exploration of a covenant.

The bishops' statement was released at the conclusion of their September 7-9 meeting. The full statement follows.



The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) met in Midrand, Gauteng, from 7 to 9 September 2009, to share in prayer, fellowship and breaking bread together. We reflected on passages from the Gospel according to St Luke, guided by homilies from His Grace, the Archbishop of Cape Town. Conscious of the call to uphold our faith with justice and mercy, and in dependence upon Christ’s example, his leading, and his sustaining, we discussed a breadth of issues currently before our Church.

The Synod was disturbed by various recent reports in the media to the effect that the world-wide Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church in Southern Africa are on the brink of schism. We want to assure the faithful that these reports are grossly exaggerated and, in some cases, a misrepresentation.

Our worldwide Anglican Communion has for a number of years been struggling with the issue of human sexuality without, as yet, having reached any significant consensus. There are, indeed, broken and damaged relationships within the Communion, but there is still a deep desire among the bishops throughout the world to maintain the bonds of unity in obedience to the High Priestly prayer of our Lord that "they may be one as we are one" (Jn 17:21).

To this end ACSA is committed to the Communion’s exploration of an Anglican Covenant, as a means of providing a basic statement of the common faith and mission that holds the Anglican Churches together in visible community. It is hoped this will make explicit what it means to live in interdependence, and will articulate more clearly the basis of the "bonds of affection" between us that we now enjoy.

We, the Bishops and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have, on a number of occasions, spelt out our common mind at this stage of our journey with the world-wide Communion. We believe that we are called to love others with God’s unconditional, sacrificial love and do not believe sexual orientation is a barrier to leadership within the church. However, maintaining as we do, that Christian marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, we hold that clergy unable to commit to another in a Christian marriage partnership are called to a life of celibacy.

We have also received the resolution of the Diocese of Cape Town requesting us to provide guidelines for the pastoral care of those in committed same sex relationships. Despite the misconceptions created by media reports that Cape Town Diocese is intending to proceed with the blessing of same sex unions, we recognise the request to be pastoral in nature (reflecting the new situation created by the South African Government’s legislation allowing for civil unions between same sex couples) and not in any way in conflict with Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The task of responding to this request has been referred to a task team, which will prepare a preliminary paper building upon the resolutions and statements made thus far by ACSA.

We remain committed to upholding the bonds of unity with one another, as we journey together through the difficult questions that confront the worldwide Anglican Communion. Differences of opinion are inevitable, schism is not.

Alongside our consideration of matters of human sexuality and the life of the Anglican Communion, we were also mindful of the many urgent socio-political and economic needs that face the countries and people of our Province. It is these that are paramount in our hearts and minds, as we strive to fulfil our calling to mission and ministry, as God’s faithful people in this time and place.

Now to him, who by the power at work within us
is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen

(Ephesians 3:20-21)