Two Port Elizabeth Anglican priests have written a letter to the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, protesting an invitation to an openly lesbian seminary professor from the US Episcopal Church to preach and minister at the College of Transfiguration in Grahamstown, a provincial training centre for Anglican clergy.
In the letter which is published on the ‘Othodox Anglicanism’ website, Virtueonline (VOL), Rev Dave Doveton and the Very Rev Dudley Greenshields say that the invitation of Rev Prof Ruthanna Hooke, Homiletics Professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, based in Alexandria, Virginia, to preach and celebrate the Eucharist at the college’s annual diocesan convocation on August 8, 2014, amounts to permitting blasphemy in the sanctuary of the college and violates the discipline of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
“It is our understanding that according to our canons and constitution, no clergy person in an active same-sex relationship would be permitted to perform sacramental duties. Why is this particular person given exemption from our discipline ? Why is she given the exalted status of guest teacher and celebrant at such an important occasion at the flagship Provincial institution of learning ? Surely this carries with it official approval by the Bishops of our church, validating the integrity and soundness of this particular ‘teacher’. What message is being conveyed to our leaders-in-training at the college?” say the priests.
Doveton, who is Rector, Parishes of St Barnabas and St Philip and Greenshields, who is Dean of St Saviours, say that they, together with ‘many of our parishes’, are signatories of the Jerusalem Declaration which includes a solemn commitment to reject the authority of churches and leaders “who have denied the orthodox faith in word and deed”. They say the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are among churches which have denied core Christian doctrine – for example the uniqueness of Christ, Christ as the only way of salvation, denial of the clear teaching of scripture that marriage is the only place for sexual intimacy, and denial that those who disobey scriptural injunctions (eg Ephesians 5:5) will not be saved.
Will no longer support college
They say that “as long as persons from jurisdictions such as The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are allowed to speak and exercise teaching ministries at our provincial college we will no longer extend any support to the college, especially financial. We will in addition advocate for the Diocese of Port Elizabeth to withhold that part of our provincial assessment that is apportioned to the college”.
VOL also quotes an unnamed former priest as saying he is shocked that the Rector of the College of Transfiguration Rev Canon N Barney Pityana invited Hooke to speak there.
“This invitation goes against the canons and constitution of this province and violates the clear teaching of Scripture that God created male and female and then closed the sexual matrix,” the priest told VOL.
“Now the only college in the province invites this woman to give ‘master classes’ in preaching and to preach and CELEBRATE the Eucharist at the annual shindig for the feast of Transfiguration. Here is a ‘Global South’ province prepared to allow her to teach while “standing firm with the South on matters of doctrine.
“I am appalled that the Rev Pityana can get away with this. Neither her bishop nor the archbishop of the Province Thabo Makgoba have tried to stop this.” The Primate [Makgoba]is on record as saying that while he is sensitive both to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian couples at the same time he affirmed the stance of the wider Anglican Communion, by “not charging ahead and doing our own thing but rather committing ourselves to a process of listening and dialogue on how to move forward.”