Church fires Groblersdal minister over “gay” Facebook picture


The picture that caused all the trouble. (Olivier is fifth from the left in the back row)

The Afrikaans Protestant Church (APK) has dismissed a minister because he appeared in a photo with a group of LGBT people.

Philip Olivier, 35, of the Groblersdal congregation, posted the picture in which he is seen at a social function hosted by Triarc, an LGBT insurance and medical aid company, on Facebook.

According to Rapport, Olivier indicated in the photo that he was being trained by the company to sell its products.

The church then instituted disciplinary procedures against him because it said he had taken on a second job, which it does not allow. It also claimed that he mismanaged his finances and that he officiated marriages without being registered with the Department of Home Affairs.

Olivier, whose sister is married to one of Triarc’s owners, told Mambaonline that while he did go on an insurance sales course, he didn’t go through with the job and never actually worked for Triarc.

Olivier explained that he needed to bring in more money after he racked up a huge bill to pay for drug rehab for his troubled brother, who later committed suicide.

Perhaps most disturbing, is the charge by the church that Olivier should not have socialised or mixed with gay people. It cited 1 Timothy 6:11 in the Bible, which states that a man of God should “flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

According to Olivier, who is himself gay, all the charges are baseless and are simply an excuse to have him fired because of the church’s homophobia.

“Triarc gave me a letter confirming that I am not employed and that I never earned an income from them but [the church council] refused to even look at the letter. They said that because I posted the picture and ‘liked’ Triarc on Facebook that was grounds for dismissal,” he claimed.

“It boils down to one thing – homophobia toward the gay community. That’s why they dismissed me at the end of the day. The church is not right. They should stop being homophobic and reach and out embrace people with love. At this stage it’s quite the opposite,” Olivier told Mambaonline.

He confirmed that he is now without a livelihood. “I educated myself to be a minister but now all my study years were for nothing. My whole future is in jeopardy. I was planning to be a minister for the next 40 years. I don’t have anything to fall back on,” he said.

He added: “I would like to continue with counselling and helping people – that is my calling in life.” Olivier confirmed that he is considering his legal options and may still challenge the dismissal in court.

In a media statement, Triarc’s Roy Kendall slammed the church’s stance towards Olivier and church homophobia in general.

“Homosexuality is not a choice, it is also not a phase, and is not a ‘mind set’. It is not a disease that can be cured and it certainly isn’t a demonic possession that can be exorcised,” he said.

“Homosexual people study, build careers, fall in love, start families, enjoy the company of friends and many are religious. By discriminating against them, some churches are pushing away the very people that may need their moral and spiritual support the most.

“Philip Olivier had a dream of making a difference in people’s lives through the church but his church wasn’t ready to accept him. We are looking forward to see him realise his dream in the next phase of his life,” said Kendall.

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