The Listening Process

Reports from the Provinces - The Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The official process of listening began with a resolution of the Provincial Synod of 1989. Resolution 39 of the Synod noted the statements of Lambeth 1978 and 1988 which called for study and reflection of Scripture and biological, psychological and sociological studies of human sexuality and secondly for respect for the human rights and pastoral care of those of homosexual orientation. The resolution passed asked the Synod of Bishops to “address this issue and take whatever action they deem necessary in order to enable this Province to deal caringly with the rights, needs, and special concerns of those with this sexual orientation.”

This resolution was further developed in 2002. It acknowledged and gave thanks to God for the role played by gay and lesbian members and encouraged the welcoming and affirmation of all members, regardless of sexual orientation, in all churches of the CPSA. In addition dioceses were asked to designate a group to “resolve practical pastoral issues”  and each diocese was asked to pass on their decisions to the Provincial Executive Officer in order to achieve a provincial consensus on policy. Importantly  the resolution requested that “gay or lesbian members of the CPSA participate in the proceedings of such Diocesan bodies or task groups.”

Documents have been made available which respect a variety of views, but which give an openness to change as a response to the love of God in Jesus Christ. So, for example, the Provincial Standing Committee of 2003 passed a resolution which states “We believe that, as we seek further understanding, we need to listen to people of all orientations to discover the heart and mind of Jesus in this and all things.”

The need to place the listening process in the context of the wider Church has also been clear. Consultations have been made ecumenically within South Africa and an all-Africa consultation was proposed.

The listening process is not over. At the Provincial Synod of July of last year time was given to listen to the voices of a gay and a lesbian person and the parents of gay/lesbian young adults.

It is clear that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa does not feel Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the last word on the Anglican understanding of homosexuality and hopes for further development. However, The Anglican Church of Southern African is living within the boundaries of the resolution. This is exampled in the response to the secular legalisation of same sex marriages in South Africa, where the church has distanced itself. Such “marriages” will not occur in Anglican churches.

Key features of a successful and continuing listening process emerge. The listening process is guided by Synod, is not set in its outcomes, involves gay and lesbian people, allows for a diversity of response, is mindful of the crucial need to keep the conversation going, and sees itself within a wider context. The personal backing of the Primate and his leading by example in listening, has also been important.