The Bishop of Grahamstown, the Rt Rev Ebenezer Ntlali, met with members of the Cathedral Chapter on 7 April 2011 to discuss and respond to an article which appeared in the Daily Dispatch of 12 March 2011, featuring the opinions of two retired clergy, Bishop David Russell and Canon Graeme Deas, on the subject of same sex marriages taking place in church. The Bishop and Chapter acknowledged that the matter was of some sensitivity, and had broader implications for how the work and ministry of the Diocese of Grahamstown was perceived in the wider community. Whilst recognising the rights of members of the clergy to hold independent views, Chapter thought it regrettable that an important newspaper could treat the personal beliefs of two retired clergy as an authoritative statement of the Church’s position on same sex marriage. As recently as September 2010, the Synod of the Diocese of Grahamstown had reaffirmed (in line with Canon 34 of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, which, in turn, reflects the current position of the worldwide Anglican Communion) that “Marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union and partnership between one man and one woman”. However, the same session of Synod committed the Diocese to an active process of exploring current understandings (both theological and psychological) of human sexuality, with particular emphasis on same sex orientation. The latter resolution recognised that an individual’s sexual orientation may be a source of pain and marginalisation. In passing that resolution, the church is seeking to maintain dialogue with and exercise pastoral care to those who are gay or lesbian.
As the Diocese of Grahamstown we are grateful for the “Proposed Pastoral Guidelines for Civil Unions” recently issued by the Synod of Bishops. We uphold our unity and decision in line with the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and the Anglican Communion, as stated above.
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