Supporters of de Lange protest during the meeting. (Pic: Facebook)
An attempt to resolve the dismissal of a South African lesbian Methodist minister through arbitration has stalled and the matter may be taken to court.
Ecclesia de Lange was fired because she married her female partner in January 2010 by the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA) which does not recognise same-sex marriages; a position in conflict with the Constitution.
De Lange attended a three hour pre-arbitration meeting on Saturday at the premises of the MCSA District Office in Cape Town.
According to statement from De Lange’s spokesperson, Mike Luppnow, the meeting initially proceeded well with agreement on minor issues and dates being set down for arbitration.
However, according to Luppnow, it then came to light that the Agreement Document, which is prepared for the parties by the Convener in advance of the arbitration, had been changed by the Church without De Lange’s knowledge.
“This gross misrepresentation lead to deadlock; the arbitrator was compromised in that he had to refer the matter back to the convener,” said Luppnow.
De Lange particularly objected to the MCSA’s insistence that only the MCSA Laws and Discipline be included in the document for reference during arbitration, whereas she insists on the inclusion of the country’s Arbitration Act.
While the MCSA allegedly signed a document agreeing to this, the version presented at the meeting apparently omitted this as well as a clause which would have allowed the parties to take the matter further in the courts.
“The three hour meeting seemed like a defeat of justice yet again, but served to expose the MCSA’s vulnerability in this case,” said Luppnow, who added that legal advice was being sought on the matter and that “all possible avenues of donor funding will be explored to further the cause of justice”.
Around 20 supporters of de Lange stood in protest on the street outside of the premises of the MCSA office during the meeting. They were not allowed to conduct prayer liturgy in the chapel.