Anglican revolt on same-sex blessing
‘I won’t abide by decision’ Arrests as campus chaos continues across the country
PRIESTS of the diocese of Saldanha Bay, which stretches as close to Cape Town as Pinelands, have declared they will not abide by a decision by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa not to allow “prayers of blessing” for people in same-sex civil unions.
The vote was taken by the church’s provincial synod, its top legislative body, on a proposal by the diocese of Saldanha Bay, which stretches from the northern suburbs of Cape Town to the Namibian border.
The initial motion before the synod also proposed clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions be licensed to minister in parishes. But the proposers withdrew this section before yesterday’s debate began.
Opposition to the proposal was strongest among bishops, with 16 voting against and six in favour. Sixtytwo percent of lay representatives to the synod voted against the proposal (41-25), along with 55 percent of clergy (42-34).
Debate over same-sex marriage has divided the Anglican Church around the world and in South Africa the high-profile union of Rev Canon Mpho Tutu and Marceline van Furth brought matters to a head.
In May, Tutu-Van Furth, daughter of Leah and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, revealed her licence to preach was being revoked because she married a woman, so she had instead decided to quit rather than force Bishop Raphael Hess, bishop of the diocese of Saldanha Bay, to revoke her licence. While same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa in 2006, the South African Anglican law on marriage states: “Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman.”
When news of the decision broke yesterday, a disappointed Rev Canon Chris Ahrends, rector of the parish of St Margaret in Parow, declared “the church has let Cape Town and the world down”.
“I’m gutted,” he said, adding that while he accepted the church’s decision, he would not abide by it. “If a married couple, who happen to be the same sex, come to me and ask me to bless their marriage, I will do so,” Ahrends said.
“So if that means going against the church’s rules, then that is exactly what I am prepared to do because this is a matter of justice.”
When Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba announced the results, according to a statement issued by the Anglican media office, he said: “The pain on both sides is palpable and tangible and the image of a double-edged sword pierces me.”
He said “all is not lost”, saying the issue would hopefully be raised again at the next provincial synod in 2019. The church could also consider raising it at the next worldwide meeting of Anglican bishops in 2020.
Ahrends said: “The church missed a great opportunity here.”
Bishop Hess could not be contacted for comment at the time of publication.
email@example.com AS HUNDREDS of UCT staff and students gathered in a peaceful silent protest to push for classes to resume on Monday while there were several arrests at the Westville campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where rubber bullets were fired in renewed violence.
There were mixed messages from Cape Peninsula University of Technology students at the District Six campus, who said while they wanted to avoid violence, their response would “depend on management”.
At Wits University in Gauteng, 77 percent of students indicated they would like to return to class on Monday, while 23 percent voted against this in a poll whose results were announced yesterday.
University lectures and activities at UCT have been halted for the past two weeks over concern for the safety of students and staff, but on Wednesday Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price called for lectures to resume next week.
Yesterday students and staff on the steps of Jameson Hall held aloft placards bearing messages including “Keep the doors of learning OPEN” and “More graduates = less poverty”.
“There is a side of the protest concerned with free education,” said Fillip Stoliarov, a fourth-year UCT student. “But there is also a side of the protest concerned where students need to finish their degree in order to build a living for themselves and families.”
Sipho Pityana, chairman of the UCT Council, urged students in a statement yesterday not to sacrifice their academic careers and to allow the year to resume.
“Unlike in the past, no one should risk not completing their education in order to be heard or realise a just and noble cause, as we are talking about,” Pityana said.
“The institutions of higher learning are our institutions, they are our inheritance, they are our assets as a nation and not those of the apartheid system and not those of the colonisers. They are ours – we should protect them, defend them and jealously guard them in every legal way we can.”
# FeesMustFall supporters interjected during the silent protest, saying they would not condone the reopening until their demands, which included that expelled students be reinstated, were met.
“Our first demand in terms of restorative justice is that these people must be brought back into the institution and open up a broader conversation on protests on campus and violence that impli- cates the institution itself,” said Sinowa Thambo, media liaison for UCT #FeesMustFall campaign.
One of the expelled students, who did not wish to be named, said the #FeesMustFall campaign was not against opening the university. “It’s not that protesters are saying don’t open the university, but open the university to all so that everyone has an opportunity to be at the university,” she said.
While Pityana approved of management’s decision to suspend academic activities for two weeks, he said it was not a sustainable solution and called for the co-operation of all parties.
Meanwhile, Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib last night pleaded with students who still plan to protest on Monday to listen to the poor black students they say they represent. “These poor black students are saying that they understand the fight but they are not prepared to sacrifice the 2016 academic year. The majority of students at Wits are black. The argument of white privilege and that it’s the white students who want to get back to their studies just doesn’t fly any more,” he said.
UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said last night that while lectures continued as normal at the Howard College, Edgewood, Pietermaritzburg and Medical School campuses yesterday, sporadic protest action continued throughout the day at the Westville campus.
Some lectures were disrupted and three scheduled tests cancelled.
By yesterday evening SAPS, Public Order Police and security guards had dispersed the protesters but remained to monitor activity on the campus. – Additional reporting by Tanya Waterworth, Duncan Guy and Yazeed Kamaldien
Hundreds of UCT students and staff hold aloft banners declaring the doors of learning should be kept open, as they participate in a silent protest on the steps of Jameson Hall yesterday.