The synod of the Dutch Reformed Church decided, at its annual general meeting this week in Boksburg, to not recognise or officiate same-sex marriages.
The church says that it considers marriage to only be between a man and a woman, and rejects any kind of sexual relationship outside of heterosexual marriage.
While the church will not allow actively gay people to be appointed ministers, individual congregations could appoint gays as elders or deacons.
There was hope preceding the meeting that the Dutch Reformed Church might take a more liberated view on gay and lesbian relationships following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in South Africa in December last year.
A petition signed by over 500 prominent South African Christians, urging the synod to end its discriminatory stance against gays and lesbians, was presented to the church before the meeting.
The petition read: “We request of you to set in motion a structured process of reconciliation between heterosexual and gay members of the church,” and went on to ask the church to allow openly gay clerics on the same basis as heterosexual clerics.
Notable signatories included singer Steve Hofmeyr, Deputy Justice Minister Johnny de Lange, Allan Boesak and Stellenbosch University Chancellor Elise Botha.