The Beachhead expands – False Bay Diocesan Synod 2009.

The recent Synod of the Diocese of False Bay South Africa has shown that, the foothold being sought in Southern Africa by the revisionist ideas of TEC is still expanding.

Two motions before that synod seem to illustrate this point clearly.  The first was a motion, proposed by myself.  It brought into question the relationship of the diocese with TEC, especially since the recent pronouncements about basic faith by the presiding bishop and the decisions of the 2009 General convention.  The Motion in part stated:

This Synod notes:

7.1                   the repeated non-compliance of the Episcopal Church (of America) with the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Primates of the Communion and fraternal requests of the Global South………. “


7.4                It is now proposed that this Diocese:

7.4.1   enters into no new ties with The Episcopal Church;

7.4.2  Suspends all ties with The Episcopal Church until there is some clarity about the damning statements about basic faith delivered by Presiding Bishop Schori, ………….

7.4.3   recognizes the Anglican Church of North America as an Anglican Church, in line with many of our African brothers and sisters;……..”

In the proposal the facts leading up to the present situation in the Anglican Communion were briefly outlined and the content of some of the relevant statements and actions expanded.  Most of the clergy speakers responded against the motion, with a heavy emphasis on the inclusive nature of our Anglican Church and the need for unity.  It seems from that debate, unity at any cost, even the cost of truth.  There was also an admitted ignorance of the issues from many of the laity, who did express concern in the main for the crisis situation.  Some even asked the bishop directly for some explanation of the “crisis” and the response of the leadership.

The Bishop responded with the implication that the crisis is exaggerated by the media and that the process of listening would be harmed by the suspending of relations with TEC.  He has also reported in CPSA chat, that the motion was soundly defeated.  Unlike most of the motions at this synod, there were both yes and no votes. As much as one can say about a voice vote, I would guess 80-85% No and 15-20% Yes.

However the next day was interesting in that the “sexuality” motion came to synod.  The morning was dedicated to “conference of Synod”, when normal rules are suspended.  The discussion was introduced by the full time “Gender Desk” coordinator for the diocese, who has submitted a discussion paper for the synod.  This introduction and the paper indicate a clear leaning:

“. The situation is analogous to the debate that went on around the ordination of female clergy, and while there was initially widespread discontent, there is now to a large extent an acceptance that e are all one in Christ through our baptism.”

The paper also presented some dubious statistics:

In the middle of it all are our gay and lesbian Christian brothers and sisters- at least 10 % in any community, some priests, some bishops, some our children, our brothers, our neighbours, people in our congregations, whom we talk about and continue to reject and ridicule and fail to offer a safe space to talk to find out what its like to be patronized and ,demonised- Bishop Merwyn Castle, Bishops Charge, False Bay Diocesan Synod, 2007″

The synod was introduced to a Lesbian minister from Inclusive and Affriming Ministries. The speaker was given unlimited time to tell a very emotional story about her rejection first as a woman minister and then once discovered and accepted, as a lesbian in the ministry of the Dutch Reformed Church.  This was an extremely coercive and manipulative technique on the part of the Synod Advisory Committe.  I was not going to be the “oppressive male dinosaur” who stood up following that session to argue against the two motions that were presented to the synod.

Following this presentation two motions, one to kick start the “Listening Process” and one identical to the motion on same sex relationships passed in Cape Town, and I believe Saldanha Bay Synods were presented.  The Listening motion passed smoothly without dissent.

The “same-sex partnership motion” Agendum 17 (2), illicited short discussion exclusively in favour of the motion.  I then asked the chairman if this motion should still be on our agenda, since the identical motion had already been passed in Cape Town and the actions requested have already been taken to the Synod of Bishops.  They have already taken the steps to “develop a pastoral directive” at the recent Synod of Bishops.  The Bishop’s response was interesting, in that he stated that he felt the motion was worthwhile in that it would “indicate the feeling and sentiment” of the Diocese.  Can one say that the was a purpose to “add weight” to the Cape Town motion?

When the motion was “put” again by voice vote, the motion won.  However, and this is personal observation, I felt that the “yes” votes were perhaps around 75%.  From conversations that day, I felt that there was and is, a lot dis-ease around  the direction that the synod is clearly being encouraged to take among many of the delegates.  This was expressed by members saying that they felt that they did not have enough information to make decisons, particularly on these two motions mentioned above.

Please keep the dioceses of ACSA in your prayers as we enter what feels like a Synod Season.

Gavin Mitchell.


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