Rev Thembelani Nolingo of the Southern Africa Methodist Church said that Satan is behind the growing number of visible LGBTIQ+ people
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) has apologised to the LGBTIQ+ community for queerphobic statements made by one of its pastors in the Eastern Cape.
The disturbing sermon was delivered by the Rev Thembelani Nolingo, a minister in the Mdantsane South Circuit, near East London, on Sunday 8 January.
Speaking to the congregation, the pastor warned that people should be concerned about individuals increasingly “becoming” a different gender, describing this as “alarmingly suspicious”. He argued that “it can’t be that God made so many mistakes in conceiving us all…” and that “the current rate makes me conclude that Satan’s hand is working here among us”.
Rev Nolingo continued: “It’s not just my own view, it really is alarming that this high rate [of LGBTIQ+ people] seems to be happening too much and what’s more concerning is it happens under the influence of alcohol and drugs. So I’m sticking to my point that we are too relaxed about this.”
A video clip of the sermon was shared on social media, sparking anger from LGBTIQ+ members of the church. Zozi Madalambane was one of those who complained to the MCSA about the pastor’s words.
Writing on Facebook, Madalambane said “the pulpit has become a cesspool for self-hating misogynists to spread their gospel of propaganda and hatred”.
In response to the outrage, the MCSA – which still does not allow its ministers to officiate same-sex civil unions and views marriage as only being possible between a man and a woman – issued a statement on Tuesday declaring that it “condemns unreservedly and distances itself” from the pastor’s comments.
“We recognise that these views contribute to the often violent and dehumanising victimisation of members of the LGBTIAQ community and as a Church, we strongly denounce the derogatory and disparaging nature of these sentiments,” read the statement, which was signed by Rev Purity Malinga, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
The dignity and the pastoral concerns of all people including the LGBTIAQ community must be upheld and respected”
“The MCSA apologises to the LGBTIAQ community both within the church and in our nation broadly, especially the Trans and Gender-queer members, for the offence caused by the unfortunate, hurtful, and troubling utterances,” said Rev Malinga.
While she admitted that the church was still in deliberation and dialogue about “the full inclusion of the LGBTIAQ community,” it nevertheless always sought to be “a community of love rather than rejection”.
Rev Malinga asserted that “the MCSA has been clear that the dignity and the pastoral concerns of all people including the LGBTIAQ community must be upheld and respected even while we continue to engage and develop our understanding of marriage as it pertains to civil unions and same-sex marriage”.
The following day, the Mdantsane South Circuit Facebook page published an apology from Rev Nolingo himself.
He expressed “a deep sense of regret and remorse for what I said during my sermon” and offered an “unconditional apology to the LGBTIQA+ Community, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa as a whole and to the general public at large for my hurtful and discriminatory comments”.
Rev Nolingo recognised the “immeasurable pain” he had caused, retracted his statements and asked for forgiveness. “I commit, going forward, that I will preach and spread Christ’s love, hope and healing for everyone,” he said.
While the MCSA should be commended for its prompt and unequivocal condemnation of Rev Nolingo’s sermon, it cannot continue to justify the seemingly never-ending dialogue and deliberation that delay the church fully embracing and celebrating LGBTIQ+ people and their loving relationships.