Southern Africa House of Bishops

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical leaders in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have called upon the church’s Synod of Bishops to clarify their ambiguous statements on human sexuality.

On March 17, the Fellowship of Confession Anglicans (FCA) in South Africa published an open letter on the internet, making a “plea for clarity on the position and teaching of our faith” in light of bishops’ February pastoral letter.

At the close of their Feb 7-12 meeting in Natal, the Southern African bishops deferred taking action on adopting guidelines for the blessing of same-sex unions, citing legal difficulties and theological divisions within their ranks.

A draft document entitled “Pastoral Guidelines in Response to Civil Unions” was reviewed by the bishops at their Sept 2010 meeting and distributed to the dioceses.  The February 2011 meeting, however, stated the bishops were not able to approve the document.  “It is difficult to give blanket guidelines [on same-sex blessings] because the position is starkly at variance in the legal systems of the seven countries where we work.”

“We continue to work on creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty raised by the issue of civil unions,” the bishops said—which are legal in South Africa, but illegal in the six other nations in the province.

The FCA called upon the bishops to be faithful to their mission to “guard the faith.”

By failing to make a clear statement, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa appeared to have aligned itself “with the dying (revisionist and liberal) minority” within the Anglican Communion and failed to heed “seriously the concerns of the orthodox majority.”

“Sexuality is the touchstone in this Anglican fragmentation,” the FCA said.

However, the issue is not “sexuality per se” but a “rebellion against our creator and his ways which he gives to us” as found in Scripture.  Sexuality was not a dividing issue in itself, “but a leadership in the church which chooses to ‘play at being god’ is a much more serious issue,” they said.

Offering encouragement to people to engage in behavior “which is unacceptable to God (which the Bible describes as sin) is not a pastoral role that God can endorse,” the FCA said, adding that they were concerned the Southern African bishops “find it hard to call sin, sin.  We are answerable to God not to a human-centred ideology.”

The February bishops’ statement displayed a failure of “godly pastoral leadership,” the FCA said.

“It matters not what the legal position may be in the seven states in which our Province is represented. God’s standards call all laws into question” that do not conform to his word, the FCA said, urging their bishops to take their place with the majority of the Anglican Communion against unbelief and error.

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