The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), or NG Kerk, has lifted the suspension of its own decision to accept same-sex unions after it was threatened with legal action.
Mambaonline has been told by the group of LGBT members who called on the church to reverse its action that the suspension was removed on Wednesday.
“It is clearly a victory and an acknowledgement that [the suspension] was wrongly executed,” activist and gay minister Laurie Gaum told Mambaonline.”It’s sad that it took legal action to bring them to this realisation.”
In October 2015, the General Synod of the DRC voted to let individual church councils recognise and bless same-sex relationships, and to drop the prohibition on non-celibate gay clergy.
The groundbreaking move was met with outrage by conservative members of the church who submitted 21 appeals against the decision. The church responded by suspending the decision until it could be addressed again at the next General Synod in 2017.
Earlier this month, 10 LGBT or LGBT-affirming theologians and a former human rights commissioner demanded that the suspension be withdrawn by today or it would be challenged in court.
They argued that the church did not have any legal mechanism to suspend decisions taken by the General Synod, which is its highest decision-making body.
“We are awaiting the immediate implementation of the decision,” said Gaum. “It needs to be realised sooner than later. And if we need to go the legal route we will. We just want the church to stand by its word.”
Gaum and the others in the group have also called for the DRC to apologise. “They should say they are sorry, especially for the last ten months’ inaction and for the fact that it caused further harm to already vulnerable people who were subjected to lot of negativity over the ages.”
“The church previously acknowledged that it caused hurt. And if you acknowledge that, then you need redress for past wrongs,” he said.
While the October 2015 decision will allow individual church councils to accept and bless same-sex unions, the DRC still does not recognise these unions as marriages, which, it says, are only possible between a man and woman.
“We are moving towards full liberation,” said Gaum. “So we don’t think we have arrived, but it is a major breakthrough. A lot of homophobia and transphobia still exists in the church and this needs to be constructively addressed.”
Gaum said he was still awaiting written communication from DRC formally confirming its decision.