As popular singer Zahara wades into the row over the Grace Bible Church’s stance on homosexuality, a minister has called for an end to the use of “apartheid” strategies against LGBTI people.
On Wednesday, Zahara (Bulelwa Mkutukana) appeared to come out in support of the Grace Bible Church and its guest evangelist who recently preached that homosexuality is unnatural.
The hit maker took to social media to state: “Guys you go to church and read the same Bible you brought yourself. So don’t be choosy when in comes to your sins. Go write your own Bible.”
Teboho Klaas, an ordained minister who is the Religion Programme Officer at The Other Foundation, responded with sadness to the singer’s comment and to those who have defended the church as simply expressing what is in the Bible.
“PW Botha and those who justified apartheid spoke something to that same effect,” said Klaas. “People who use a few verses in the Bible to justify their homophobic stance are using the same approach that apartheid used and it is sad that it is now used by those who were oppressed.
“They have appropriated the same strategies and the same mentality of their former oppressors. The struggle for the liberty of LGBTI people is as divine and as biblical as the struggle against apartheid. People must not forget where they are coming from and marginalise [others] because of their gender identity and sexual orientation.”
He asked: “If you do not understand, why don’t you come closer to people to learn? It is in us not being talkative but in listening that we are able to discern the will of God.”
The controversy was sparked on Sunday when Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo walked out of a sermon at the Grace Bible Church given by Ghanaian evangelist Dag Heward-Mills after he said that homosexuality was not something found in nature.
The Soweto church went on to clarify that while it welcomes lesbian and gay people in its congregation, it will not accept same-sex relationships.
Klaas, however, believes that it is inappropriate for churches to only accept some aspects of homosexual people. “It’s either you accept people or not at all. If you accept people then so should you accept their orientation,” he insisted.
“There is no way that you would want to say that gay people can be social and spiritual but not be sexual. [One should] accept and welcome people in their totality, rather than through reservations.
“That is how the church is being challenged. I feel very strongly that God is manifesting among people of faith in an area that we are unfamiliar with. We may reject that area, but in doing so we may be rejecting God. The church risks rejecting the revelation,” continued Klaas.
His comments come in the wake of the timely release this week of a report by The Other Foundation that examines the relationship between churches and LGBTI people in southern Africa, titled Silent No Longer!
The report looks at arguments made by religious leaders against homosexuality in terms of biblical scripture and African culture and proposes counter arguments and recommendations on how to work with churches on the subject.
The Grace Bible Church
Klaas expressed the hope that it will “encourage engagement that advances social justice and the human dignity of all people”. He said the document also aims to show LGBTI people who work with churches “that there are opportunities of engagement”.
Klaas further urged people in general to think beyond the often cited references in the Bible that are claimed to condemn same-sex love.
“Those Bible verses that are being used to justify homophobia are in fact smaller in number than the verses that wage us into the struggle of being open and of relating with LGBTI people, of solidarity and the equality of all people.”
He added: “There are so many verses in the Bible that should be inspiring us in this moment…”
Activist Virginia Magwaza has called for those in the LGBTI community and their allies who would like to initiate some kind of protest or action against the Grace Bible Church’s homophobia to meet at the Johannesburg office of The Other Foundation (37 Bath Street, Rosebank) at 17.30 on Friday, 27 January to discuss possible strategies.