The bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have declined the request of the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality to permit clergy to bless same-sex civil unions. The proposal put forward by the Bishop of Saldanha Bay, the Rt. Rev. Raphael Hess, the head of the ACSA Theological Commission, would have given a “local option” to dioceses to allow same-sex blessings in congregations where the clergy and parish council supported the innovation.

After extensive debate in closed session the bishops declined to adopt the proposal, with the majority stating they were unable to accept the non-Biblical innovation. The bishops’ communique stated those opposed to revising the church’s teaching on marriage and sex “believe that our calling is not to conform to the world, but to be salt and light to the world.”

“At the end of the debate, we accepted that we are not of one mind on this matter. The divisions within the Synod of Bishops reflect the divisions in the Church as a whole, and we are not at peace with one another on this issue,” the statement said.

The Primate of Southern Africa, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, asked that a compromise be offered. He proposed a commission to prepare prayers and guidelines “for providing pastoral ministry to those in same-sex relationships” be formed, and their report be something “with which all of us can agree”.

The subgroup studying the prayers consists of Bishop Raphael Hess of Saldanha Bay, Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe of Natal, Bishop Moses Madywabe of Khahlamba and Bishop Luke Pretorius of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist.