Ecclesia (right) and her wife Amanda

Ecclesia de Lange, the lesbian minster ousted from the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA), has demanded that the Church take her case to arbitration.

De Lange, who was fired after she married her female partner in January, said that the MCSA has refused to reply to or acknowledge any correspondence sent to it by her advocate about her case.

As result of this, de Lange has given instructions to her attorney, Pieter van R Coetzee, for continued action. However, the courts are unlikely to hear the matter unless she has exhausted all procedures to resolve the matter within the Church.

According to the MCSA’s rules the last step in the process would be arbitration, but Coetzee has pointed out that that the MCSA’s Laws & Discipline also state that if she agrees to arbitration this would be “final” and no other legal action would be available to her thereafter.

Coetzee said that the effect of these laws, if taken literally, “compromises her constitutional rights as a citizen of the country.”

He revealed that de Lange has nevertheless served an official referral notice for arbitration within 14 days on the Presiding Bishop and other executives of the MCSA at the end of March.

“In the referral notice de Lange has made it absolutely clear that she would be committing herself to the arbitration process in so far as her constitutional and other rights are not prejudiced or put in jeopardy in anyway whatsoever,” said Coetzee.

In the same document de Lange also made it clear that she will protect her rights, including approaching the High Court, and that she regards any provision in the Laws & Discipline of the MCSA which purports to “block” her quest in this regard as unconstitutional and null and void.

In February, De Lange lost her appeal against an earlier guilty verdict by the District Disciplinary Committee which sentenced her to being “discontinued” from the ministry. The decision was later ratified by Presiding Bishop Abrahams.

As a result, De Lange was stripped of her ministerial rights and duties and is not permitted to continue her work as a minister of the Church. The Methodist Church of Southern Africa does not recognise same-sex marriages.

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