The Synod of the Cape of Good Hope of the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) suspended a gay dominee (pastor) on Wednesday because of his sexuality, sparking outrage among South Africa’s gay community.

Laurie Gaum has been ordered to live a celibate life and has been suspended following a four month church investigation. Guam has admitted to having a long term relationship with another man, who committed suicide earlier this year.

The suspension comes after 2004’s official apology by the church about its past intolerant behaviour towards homosexuals. Although a synod held last year had taken the position of being “undecided” about homosexuality, the Cape Circuit chose to refer to the church’s 20 year old position that gay relationships are sinful and aberrant.

The Cape synod’s report said that, “since the general synods of 1990, 1994, 1999, 2002 and also 2004 did not issue any clear statement that gay relationships, in love and faithfulness, which included sex, were not acceptable to the church, the 1986 decision is still in force”.

In response to the report, OUT, the Gauteng based LGBT support organisation, issued a statement demanding that the NG Kerk “reach a policy decision on homosexuality, and more specifically on its handling of the many lesbian and gay people – both clergy and laity – within its ranks.”

The statement further said, “We call on the NG Kerk to take note of South Africa’s legal framework, as well as recent statistics with regard to the discrimination of lesbian and gay people and the consequences thereof, in their further deliberations on this matter”.

In a recent study conducted by OUT in Gauteng, 42% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people claimed to have experienced discrimination by religious authorities due to their sexual orientation. In addition, 31% of the sample had experienced ‘thoughts of suicide’ whilst 21% had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Media reports suggest that Gaum might consider legal action.

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