South African bishops want more discussion on gay blessings

The South African House of Bishops has for the moment prohibited the blessing of same-sex unions until it has had time for further discussion and study. In a pastoral letter prepared at a meeting of the Church’s House of Bishops and distributed to the clergy in June, the bishops said that the Church of the Province of South Africa was “committed” to Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They also referred to the Primates’ call “not to solemnise same-sex marriages but to continue in dialogue on this and related issues.”

As a matter of doctrine, the bishops stated that they were uncertain as to how such a rite would work. “The blessing of a union or partnership is regarded as the equivalent as solemnising a marriage. A blessing serves to underline the fact that that which has already been done by God is good. When we bless, we therefore acknowledge through an act of thanksgiving what already exists in God. In this regard we are as yet uncertain as to the application of this understanding to same-sex partnerships.” Clergy were not free to bless same-sex unions on their own volition as they held “the bishop’s licence to minister in the name of Christ’s Church and under its authority. Your blessing is therefore not yours to give personally or privately.”

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