All must be welcome
THE furore caused by visiting Ghanaian bishop Dag Heward-Mills at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto on Sunday offers us an opportunity to debate the role of the church in a democracy and to push messages of love, rather than hate.
In any other part of the continent, Bishop Heward-Mills would probably have gotten away with the homophobic parts of his sermon at Grace, which infuriated gay socialite Somizi Mhlongo to the point of staging a dramatic walkout during the sermon.
For many years this church has welcomed all kinds of people and opened its doors to the gay community and Bishop Heward-Mills’s comments came as a shock to many regular visitors, including Mhlongo.
South Africa is a constitutional democracy, the envy of many on the continent. The constitution guarantees us many freedoms, including the freedom to same-sex relationships and marriages.
Our country has come very far in pushing gay and lesbian rights in a society that remains largely intolerant towards this community.
The Bible and the church cannot be used as a weapon to preach hate. The church must be a place of tolerance, where we are all equal before the Lord. Pastors, as leaders of the flock, should make all congregants welcome as we come to seek salvation, worship and fellowship with fellow Christians.
It must be noted that homosexuality is a hot potato for many churches globally, including even in leading democracies such as Britain and the US. It’s a divisive issue. In Africa, many churches are also grappling with the matter and politicians have used platforms to bash gays and lesbians as “worse than animals”.
We argue that churches must be all-embracing and lead the charge to push the message of love and tolerance.
While their sermons must hit to the core of our souls, church leaders must be sensitive to the rights of the minorities and must be there to unite and bring their flock closer to God, rather than divide us and push others out.