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. 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.

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