Teboho Klaas (Pic: Facebook)
Teboho Klaas, a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church who was fired for supporting the LGBTI community, has been reinstated.
Klaas, who also works for LGBTI organisation The Other Foundation, was charged with heresy and suspended in October 2018 before being expelled in August.
He took the church and Bishop Paul Mulenga Kawimbe, who headed up the Church’s 19th Episcopal district in South Africa, to court over his firing. Klaas accused Kawimbe of being homophobic and targeting him because of his affirming stance towards LGBTI people.
The matter, however, has now taken a dramatic turn after Bishop Kawimbe was himself removed from his position last month by AME’s judicial council in the US. This was over allegations of financial impropriety and for firing pastors without proper procedure.
Bishop Kawimbe’s removal paved the path to Klaas’ reinstatement at the church’s East Annual Conference earlier this month in Katlehong in Gauteng.
According to Klaas, the conference, led by Bishop E Earl McCloud Jr from the US, rescinded the decisions made by Bishop Kawimbe, including Klaas’ expulsion from the church.
At the gathering, Klaas was also assigned to the pastorate of Robinson Temple, in Vosloorus and elected to be a delegate to the church’s General Conference in Orlando, Florida, next year.
Klaas told MambaOnline that he was “very excited” by the latest development, not only for himself but for all LGBTI members after they were told at the conference that they too are welcome in the denomination.
“The vindication has come out of the pronouncement by Bishop E Earl McCloud Jr about opening the doors of the church to LGBTI people so that they can use the church as a sanctuary and safe space,” said Klaas
Klaas has now withdrawn his legal action against AME. “This doesn’t mean that there are no challenges but there is at least space for engagement and for people to stop making LGBTI people unwelcome in the church.”
Klaas added on Facebook: “Be assured, this is a matter I am not likely to put aside as I pursue the future in the church. It is a future and a ministry which puts at the centre the LGBTI Christians.”
The AME Church is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination based in Nashville in the US, with a global membership of around 2,5 million people. It’s 19th Episcopal District covers large portions of South Africa, such as parts of Gauteng, The Free State, Limpopo, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the North-West province.