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Same-sex advocacy groups have applauded a decision by Anglican bishops from across Southern Africa to welcome gay and lesbian couples into congregations as full church members.

It follows the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, saying that a document outlining how same-sex unions should be treated will appear before the church’s provincial synod, its ruling body, which meets later this year.

“We are of one mind that gay, lesbian and transgendered members of our church share in full membership as baptised members of the Body of Christ.”

The letter went further: “No child brought for baptism should be refused merely because of the sexual orientation of the parents, and particular care should be taken against stigmatising not only parents, but their children, too,” Makgoba added.

The Triangle Project, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people rights (LGBTI) organisation, welcomed the decision.

“While this is a first step, any step which moves towards inclusion and tackling the stigma against LGBTI people should be welcomed, and seen as a message about the role of people of faith throughout the country in opening their hearts and minds,” said Matthew Clayton, the organisation’s research, advocacy and policy manager.

Makgoba continued: “I believe that its adoption by provincial synod would be an important first step in signalling to the LGBTI community that we in the Anglican Church, through our top deliberative and legislative body, see them as welcome members of our body as sisters and brothers in Christ.”

South Africa is one of the most progressive countries in Africa, allowing same-sex marriage and adoption.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa also remains bound to the consensus position of the global Anglican Communion in not performing same-sex marriages or ordaining clergy who are in same-sex relationships.

Archbishop Makgoba’s letter can be read in full here.

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