The beginning of the year has seen some important moves, both forward and backward, for the Anglican Church. On January the 15th, 2016 the global Anglican communion was brought together by the leader of their faith, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, so that the church might prevent further fracturing. The threat of a schism which would carve a deep fissure in the Anglican community stems from U.S. province’s decision to support same-sex marriage.
Over the past few years there has been mounting pressure on church organisations the world over to rethink the official stance that marriage is only between a man and a woman, in addition to pleas for the church to simply welcome LGBTQIA+ communities into the church at all. While the latter has gained a lot more traction, with various NGOs working with churches and communities to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders. However, marriage remains a contentious issue.
So contentious, in fact, that the U.S. Episcopal Church is now subject to heavy sanctions. While it has not been banned from the Anglican Church, they have been banned from representation on key decision making bodies and cannot vote on issues relating either to doctrine or strategy for three years.
The American branch represents one side of the coin: progressive and liberal. It’s obverse finds strong support coming largely from African sectors, where many LGBTQIA+ communities receive brutal and discriminatory treatment. According to The Guardian, the communion acknowledges that these divisions are a source of great pain; however, the church is committed to unity.
It is somewhat confusing that unity is the concept conjured up to describe the frail façade of an agreement where the closed-minded are pandered to, and the progressive punished. This is to be branded a success for Justin Welby. What this amounts to, then, is a privileging of the organisation over the individuals and communities they are supposed to be helping. The agreement disregards the intensity of the pain experienced by people who believe in God, but are also born with a sexuality deemed abhorrent by the far right.
Furthermore, the argument is that the bible explicitly rejects the notion of same-sex marriage, and this the injunction unearthed to deny LGBTQIA+ people entry into the church. However, this is representative of a trend where negative injunctions are privileged over contradictory positive ones, such as ‘love thy neighbour’.
Unfortunately, the South African Anglican Church is governed by the same system, where the decision was recently made to reject gay marriage while simultaneously welcoming LGBTQIA+ people into the church.
It seems that there is still work to be done to ensure that religion is not a barrier, but rather the promise of inclusivity and acceptance, of family, under God and Jesus Christ. However, the year ahead may yet see change with the agreement of the Anglican communion sitting on a knife’s edge; for the the moment, we remain at stale-mate.