Church to ex­plain U-turn on same sex unions

Cape Times - - NEWS - Zelda Venter

THE Dutch Re­formed Church will have to ex­plain to the Pre­to­ria High Court why it re­canted on an ear­lier rul­ing re­gard­ing ap­proved same-sex unions.

The church changed its stance a year later, say­ing th­ese re­la­tion­ships did not meet Chris­tian guide­lines.

Rev­erend Lau­rie Gaum, with the sup­port of his fa­ther Frits Gaum, who is a lead­ing fig­ure in the church, are ask­ing the court to over­turn the 2016 de­ci­sion in which same-sex re­la­tion­ships were de­nounced by the church coun­cil.

The mat­ter is set down for August 21, when the court must de­cide whether the church’s change of heart, barely a year af­ter its ground­break­ing res­o­lu­tion to ac­knowl­edge same­sex unions, is con­sis­tent with its con­sti­tu­tion as well as the Con­sti­tu­tion of South Africa.

Same- sex mar­riage has been le­gal in South Africa since the Civil Union Act came into force in Novem­ber 2006.

In 2015, the church gave its bless­ing in this re­gard in line with the con­sti­tu­tion and the de­ci­sion of many other churches.

It con­cluded at the time that “the best ap­pli­ca­tion of the Bi­b­li­cal mes­sage as we un­der­stand it, ac­cepts same­sex re­la­tion­ships”.

It also per­mit­ted pas­tors to solem­nise same-sex unions and it al­lowed for ho­mo­sex­ual per­sons to par­tic­i­pate fully in all the ac­tiv­i­ties and priv­i­leges of the church.

The fol­low­ing year, dur­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing, the Gen­eral Synod of the church made a U-turn and went back to its orig­i­nal stance of not recog­nis­ing same-sex re­la­tion­ships and unions.

This de­ci­sion was bind­ing on ev­ery mem­ber of the church.

Gaum, in pa­pers filed at court, said this was done de­spite ac­cept­ing that a sub­stan­tial part of the Dutch Re­formed Church’s mem­ber- ship holds the un­shak­able re­li­gious con­vic­tion that same-sex re­la­tions are per­mit­ted by the Bible and that God did not dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

It will be ar­gued on Gaum’s be­half that through this “flawed” de­ci­sion- mak­ing process and its out­come, the church and the synod have in­fringed the right to re­li­gion it­self and they have im­posed their re­li­gious be­liefs on oth­ers.

The re­sult, Gaum said, was se­vere emo­tional and spir­i­tual harm, cul­mi­nat­ing in deep hu­man suf­fer­ing.

It will be ar­gued that the ef­fect of the 2016 de­ci­sion is to pre­clude mem­bers of the gay and les­bian com­mu­nity from con­clud­ing civil part­ner­ships – which Par­lia­ment has pro­vided by law for all South Africans – in their own church.

Gaum said that in the church’s own words, the ef­fect of the 2016 de­ci­sions is that “a gay or les­bian per­son can only be a min­is­ter if he or she is celi­bate and min­is­ters are not per­mit­ted to solem­nise same­sex civil unions”.

This is the po­si­tion, even if ev­ery church mem­ber or pas­tor in a par­tic­u­lar con­gre­ga­tion, held a dif­fer­ent re­li­gious con­vic­tion.

He said there has been no change in bi­b­li­cal text or its in­ter­pre­ta­tion, or sci­en­tific find­ings since 2015 which jus­ti­fied the church change of heart a year later.

Gaum said that while the 2015 de­ci­sion was cel­e­brated by some, it was seen by oth­ers to be sin­ful be­hav­iour.

The church, on the other hand, said the 2016 de­ci­sion (ban­ning same-sex re­la­tion­ships and unions) con­sti­tuted the sin­cerely held re­li­gious be­liefs of the ma­jor­ity of the del­e­gates to the Gen­eral Synod, and thus of the church as a re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion.

It said that the new de­ci­sion was the re­sult of days of in­tro­spec­tion and de­bate, with the floor be­ing given to both sides.

Ac­cord­ing to the church,

THE Dutch Re­formed Church changed its stance on same-sex unions, say­ing th­ese re­la­tion­ships did not meet Chris­tian guide­lines.

the 2016 de­ci­sion re­flects its best un­der­stand­ing at the time of what the Bible re­quires.

“This goes to the core of the

re­li­gious be­lief sys­tem of the church and it is not a mat­ter with which a court should get en­tan­gled,” it said.

Pic­ture: EPA

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