A ruling by the Gauteng High Court, ordering the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) to allow clergy in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers, seriously overstepped the court’s authority, which is an infringement of the Constitution, says Philip Rosenthal of ChristianView Network.
He told Jacaranda FM that the judgment in Pretoria last Friday was an infringement on the church’s right to make its own decisions and was based on an argument that could be used to incrementally take away more and more freedoms.
“It is a completely unsound argument and interpretation of the constitution,” he says.
In its judgment, the court reversed a decision by the DRC’s general synod in November 2016, not t0 recognise same-sex marriage in the church.
The general synod’s 2016 decision came after the Dutch Reformed Church resolved in 2015 to allow individual church councils to recognise same-sex marriages. The decision was reversed a year later after immense pressure from church members.
Along with not allowing same-sex marriage, the church required lesbian and gay people to remain celibate if they chose to serve as clergy.
The synod’s 2016 decision was challenged by the Rev Laurie Gaum, his father, Frits Gaum, and eight other members of the Dutch Reformed Church, all of whom advocate for LGBT issues and launched litigation in an attempt to have the synod’s decision ruled unconstitutional.
They claimed that the church’s position violated section 9 of the South African Constitution that deals with equality and discrimination, according to SABC News.
The judgment has been lauded by gay-rights groups but Rosenthal says he hopes the church will lodge an appeal.
“The Christian church, over the broad sweep of history since the beginning, has always taken this policy of opposing same-sex marriage and homosexuality both in terms of ceremony and in terms of clergy. The fact that they have previously compromised and allowed certain other practices has been used by the court as an argument as to why they have a right to interfere in these processes,” says Rosenthal.
The DRC, which has 15 court days from the March 8 ruling, to decide whether it will appeal, said it will first have to study the judgment in humility.