Commentary on the Proposed Pastoral Guidelines for Civil Unions in ACSA

It is very difficult to pin the Anglican Church in Southern Africa down to giving a clear answer to the question of civil unions or Gay Marriage.  While there are guidelines that have been proposed and discussed it is not clear what the conclusions are.  See the announcement prior to a Synod of Bishops:

The ACSA’s discussion of gay civil unions was not a move to affirm the innovation but a pastoral response that needed to be seen in the “context that we are currently exploring appropriate Guidelines to respond to the changing pastoral realities that have followed the Government of South Africa’s introduction of Civil Unions between people of the same gender.”

In his 30 August pastoral letter to the province, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba stated the forthcoming provincial standing committee and Synod of Bishops meetings would address the Pastoral Guidelines question. “Let me underline that this document is not directly about the continuing debate around human sexuality,” the Archbishop said. It sought to affirm the Anglican moratoria on gay bishops and blessings as well as focus “on the human and pastoral realities that we inevitably face in parishes following South Africa’s new legislation.”

He also noted that an advocate and opponent of changing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality would be present at these meetings. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the United States and Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean would join the bishops’ meeting and share their views on these issues.

It is unlikely however that the South African bishops will be able to move forward on the pastoral guidelines, one bishop — who asked not to be named — told CEN.

The outcome remains unclear.  However a very useful commentary on the issue has been written by Dr George N Malek which is well worth the read and is relevant to the wider issue across the Communion.

Response to the

Proposed pastoral guidelines for same-sex unions

in the statement of the synod of bishops of the anglican church (church of the province of southern africa)

By Dr. George N. Malek

 

It is Christianly heartening that the resolutions of the Provincial Synod and the Provincial Standing Committee are committed to working together; but the document gives a mixed and conflicting signal in its entirety as to whether the Guidelines themselves, as presented, have been drafted by a group that is “particularly determined“, as the document states, to ensure that, though the Scripture is acknowledged as the authoritative text of faith, there is a predetermined mindset that pushes for the acceptance of certain human behaviour as acceptable in the faith  and practice of the Church, attempting to possibly give us a new common foundation of faith. So while we note that the statements of the Synod of Bishops are committed to the Scriptural authoritativeness of faith (paragraph 2, page 2), their commitment is equally committed to dividing faith from the practice and behaviour of the “faithful” as prescribed in the Book that they categorically state is the authoritative text of faith (paragraph 5, page 2).

Hence, the above suggests a commitment that is ultimately the outcome of a predetermined mindset (paragraph 3, page 2) of those whose behaviour and practice may not be in line with Scriptural moral and behavioral guidelines. And since the statements of the Synod themselves express submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are left wondering as to whether the Spirit that guided the Church in historical times, when this behaviour and practice was immoral and sinful, is the same Spirit that is allowing the drafters now, because of the change of human temper and discussions, to give us new guidelines that are what the Spirit then did not guide. We are left asking whether this Spirit is reliable for all times and seasons, making the sacrifice of those who have died for the faith to be the result of simply misguided  interpretation of the times, making demands on us now to re-examin  the foundations themselves.

It would seem that the Church today is grappling anew with what it is that holds her and sustains her, forgetting (or knowing full well) that grace will make us endure, and that the person who wrote that doctrine of grace in the Scripture that holds our foundation, is also the same person who wrote the guidelines for the practice and behaviour of that same Scripture that the Synod of Bishops holds as the authoritative text of faith. It is this general trend, that seems to be dribbling in by bits and pieces in order for the Church to slowly accept some new, modern, trends that deal with the Scripture as an unreliable text of faith, unreliable in the prescription of the life of faith. This trend is advanced by what the document acknowledges as the guidance of “recent scholarship,” which the Synod suggests is the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s leading (paragraph 5, page 4).

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