Queer Christians: SA churches must stop firing LGBTI people


Ecclesia de Lange

As an openly lesbian former minister takes the Methodist Church to the Constitutional Court this week, a group of queer Christians has urged churches to address LGBTI exclusion in the same way they were called to challenge Apartheid.

On Friday, the court will hear the potentially ground-breaking discrimination case of Ecclesia de Lange, who was dismissed by the Methodist Church of South Africa in January 2010 after she announced her same-sex marriage.

Now, the Queer Christian Leaders Front (QCLF), an interdenominational group of LGBTI clergy and Christian leaders, has spoken out in support of de Lange and her efforts to be treated equally by the church, citing last week’s 30th anniversary of the Kairos Document.

Issued in 1985, the theological statement condemned the Apartheid state and its policies and called out Christian churches for their lack of action against the system’s inequalities and injustices.

In a media release addressing the de Lange case, QCLF said that “it is ironic” that 30 years after the Kairos Document was issued, “we should… during Women’s Month again be forced to confront the churches’ gender insensitivity and complicity with injustice towards LGBTI Christian leaders.”

“Fired for marrying her partner and enjoying rights upheld by the SA Constitution, [de Lange’s case] is but one of many cases where the LGBTI community has been discriminated against by churches supposedly committed to the gospel imperative of the creation of a just society, the same just society embedded in the principles of the Constitution.”

The group called for churches to commit to a moratorium on the dismissal of LGBTI clergy and to embrace and accept their LGBTI members and “stop excluding them”.

Arguing that a process of “decades of studies, commissions and reports” is unacceptable, QCLF said that churches must embark on a “dialogue process” on the issue, one that is completed within a year.

The group’s Media Spokesperson, Michelle Boonzaaier, told Mambaonline that QCLF was formed in May this year as a movement to address the reality that “so many churches across denominations are struggling with issues of gay clergy.”

She said that members of QCLF will attend de Lange’s hearing on Friday. “It’s really to apply pressure from within the church and outside of the church to say, ‘enough is enough’. We need some answers around inclusion of LGBTI clergy.”

Asked to respond to claims by conservative Christians and churches that being pressured to accept LGBTI clergy and equality infringes their right to freedom of religion, Boonzaaier replied: “The church is saying this, that it’s being threatened, from a position of power. The church should be taking care of people on the fringes and margins – and the LGBTI community is a very vulnerable group. It’s difficult for us to take this seriously when it speaks from a position of power.”

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