De Langa (right) and her wife Amanda on their wedding day.
A Cape Town lesbian Methodist minister has taken the Church to court after she was dismissed because she decided to marry her partner.
Ecclesia de Lange (43) was fired by the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA) in 2010 when she announced her intention to marry her partner Amanda.
When she told her Brackenfell and Windsor Park congregation of her plans in December 2009 she received a standing ovation in support.
Despite this, she was charged by her Superintendent Minister with being in breach of the rules of the Church.
In January 2010, a disciplinary hearing found De Lange guilty of “failing to observe the provisions of the Laws and Disciplines and all other policies, decisions, practices and usages of the Church…”
A month later, the MCSA’s Connexional Disciplinary Committee upheld the guilty verdict and sentenced De Lange to be “discontinued” from the ministry of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
An attempt to resolve the dismissal through arbitration also failed.
De Lange has now filed an application in the Western Cape High Court to order the Church to reinstate her on the basis that she was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.
The case could break new ground as it deals with complex issues of constitutional equality, labour law and freedom of religion. Some believe that the matter will ultimately only be resolved by the Constitutional Court.
In a statement, De Lange said: “The Church currently welcomes and affirms gay members and accepts their financial contributions, but it refuses to celebrate and affirm the natural consequence of two people who love each other and wish to commit to each other in a public religious ceremony.”
Acting media liaison for the “Ecclesia De Lange Support Group” on Facebook, Mike Luppnow, asserted that “the decision by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to discontinue Rev de Lange as a minister is unconstitutional and unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation apart from being administratively unjust and irregular as far as it concerns the Church’s own Laws and Disciplines.
“It is only fair that Ecclesia be reimbursed for all station and emoluments to which she would have been entitled had she not been suspended and discontinued,” he said.
De Lange’s case will be heard by the court on Tuesday. Her supporters will hold prayers at the Central Methodist Mission in Greenmarket Square from 7.30am to 9am before proceeding to the court.