Landmark case for Church as lesbian minister refers case to Constitutional Court

Ecclesia de Lange,
Ecclesia de Lange,

It has just come to our attention that Ecclesia de Lange (“De Lange”), the lesbian minister who was discontinued from the Ministry of the  [Methodist] Church [of South Africa] following her announcement that she intended to marry her same-sex partner (as she later did) in 2010, has referred her case to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa with the final say on matters of constitutional importance.

This will be a landmark case that could potentially have very serious and far-reaching consequences for the Church in South Africa. Up to now, our Courts have recognised the autonomy of the Church to govern her internal affairs and have followed a “hands-off” approach to matters of religious doctrine. It will now be up to the Constitutional Court to say whether this still applies, or whether the Court can interfere in matters of religious doctrine and potentially find biblical doctrines, beliefs and practices to be unconstitutional (on the basis that, for e.g. they violate the right not to be unfairly discriminated against on the ground of sexual orientation).

Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) has been in contact with the attorneys for the Methodist Church this morning, who confirmed that the Methodist Church has now filed its papers (in opposition to De Lange’s appeal) with the Constitutional Court and that they are now awaiting the enrolment of the case by the Chief Justice on the roll of the Constitutional Court or such other directive as the learned Justice may deem fit to issue.

FOR SA is also in the process of obtaining copies of the court papers filed to date, and will inform the public of the issues on appeal and the developments in the case as soon as it is in a position to do so. It may very well be necessary for the Church in South Africa to rally behind the Methodist Church to protect the principle of religious freedom and the autonomy of the church in South Africa to govern her own affairs. To this end, we call upon churches who have not yet signed up as members of FOR SA (as an organisation that actively works to protect and promote religious rights and the autonomy of the Church in SA), to do so without delay!

De Lange’s appeal to the Constitutional Court follows the decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in September last year, that “… a proper respect for freedom of religion precludes our courts from pronouncing on matters of religious doctrine, which fall within the exclusive realm of the Church”. According to the SCA, the determination of who is morally and religiously fit to conduct pastoral duties or who should be excluded for non-conformity with the dictates of the religion, fall within the core of religious functions. As such, the matter should be left for determination by the church domestically and without interference by a court. (For more information about the facts of the case and the SCA’s decision, see FOR SA’s earlier article in Gateway News – https://gatewaynews.co.za/sca-rules-in-favour-of-religious-rights-church-autonomy-in-gay-minister-ousting-appeal/)

For more information about FOR SA, to join the organisation and/or to sign up to its newsletter, visit www.forsa.org.za For updates on freedom of religion and related issues, follow our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FreedomOfReligionSA

11 Comments

  1. She shows she does not belong to the Lord because she has taken this to a secular court to try to impose her will on the church. Jesus prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.” Too many people want their will, their way, and in this case want to impose it on the church.

  2. Mrs. Poulter why does it bother you so much what other people do in their bedroom? You say ‘too many people want their will’ – you mean like the homophobic church leaders who wants to condemn, isoloate and chase away us Christians who love the Lord but who where created by Him as gay? Are we not allowed to serve the Lord? Your will, not God’s will, gets imposed on people like Ecclesia.

    • Steven, there is nothing homophobic about it.It’s quite simple really: If you purport to be a Christian then you may not practice homosexuality because God, in the Christian Bible says that you may not.
      If you are homosexual, then remain celibate and remain a Christian. This isn’t a matter of what people do in their bedroom, it’s a matter of what God says in the Bible…

  3. Steven, the thing is, if you want to be part of a church that affirms the gay lifestyle, then go to one that does. By forcing churches that don’t to do so, you aren’t creating the kind of environment you actually want. If the courts force church leaders to do something that goes against their conscience, don’t be surprised when you’re a church leader at some later stage and the state wants you to do something that goes against your conscience. What Ecclesia is doing is she isn’t thinking beyond her own issue. If the Con Court rules in her favour, she celebrates the imposing of state onto church today, and tomorrow that same state wants to insist that she preach a pro-government or something or other message, and it goes against her conscience. Suddenly she’ll play the victim?

  4. Steven de Huysen,
    How do you know whether I am “Mrs Poulter” or not? Or are you trying to guess?
    You are an LGBT troll on this website.
    You and your fellow LGBTs are the ones FORCING YOUR SEXUAL PERVERSIONS ON THE CHURCH.
    Taking a stand for traditional marriage is not “homophobic”. That is a misnomer and an emotive epithet to try to denigrate those who adhere to Christian values. Jesus Christ affirmed marriage as being between a man and a woman.
    I believe in Jesus’s preaching, “Repent and believe in me”, not “Believe in me and carry on in your sin”. I was a sinner who repented of my sin when I trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation and asked him to be Lord of my life.
    You want “greasy grace” that (you think) will allow you to continue to sin. For a Christian, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and those who sin sexually sin against their own body, and against the Living God.
    Jesus Christ is not Lord of Ms de Lange’s life. Her homosexual compulsion is her idol that she serves (as it is yours), because it is more important to her than the Lordship of Jesus Christ in her life.
    I also believe in a God who is able not only to save us from our sin and judgement, but to set us free from our innate proclivity to depravity – if we let him. You have chosen to reject him, his standards of righteousness, and prefer to indulge your perversion. That is your choice, but that gives you no right to dictate to Christians and churches what their values should be. Only the Lord Almighty has that right.

  5. Watch this space. If South Africa follows the American precedents then it won’t be long before the courts will be prescribing church doctrine…

  6. Steven
    We do not dictate to God. I think if you are a Christian, you will understand that. What this woman is doing is attempting to dictate to God. We cannot rewrite Scripture or interpret to suit our own lifestyles and desires. If we are truly filled by the Holy Spirit and have succumbed to the Holy Spirit, we will have the power to resist our sinful desires and want to please God. A true relationship wit Jesus Christ, our Saviour is one of love but also one of obedience to His will. This is where “not my will but Yours” comes into play. Lastly, as a Christian, you should know that Christians do not stand in judgement of others but do in fact stand against sin as instructed by Gods word. I think you need to look deep into your heart, where God looks, before you challenge anyone on who disagrees with homosexuality. We all have sinful desires….and that is why we need Jesus. Blessings

  7. We surely are in the last days,who ever long that still may be? Because God wants not a single soul lost, rather that they repent from their wicked ways of self destruction,lust and sin…The “Minister” surely ” should now the Old Testament “story” of Gen.19:4-9 and further..And dear Steven,GOD did not” created”people to be gay,why would a “loving GOD than want to destroy SODOM …we all have sinned and fall short,JESUS paid the highest price for us,to become free if we want, give HIM your hearth ,today! stop fighting,HE LOVES YOU TO..and so the real church .

  8. FRom Gen 1:27,28 God set out what HE intended for the relation ship between a man(male) and a woman(female)and what the purpose is. Right through the BIBLE until REV. 22:11,15. this relationship is maintained.To emphasis this are a few verses which strongly speak against same sex relationships.The words HUSBAND and WIFE appear overwhelmingly many times throughout the Bible.
    Let us as the Body of Christ strongly support the Methodist Church.I don’t know of any other major religion that supports same sex relationships.

  9. I stand on the Word of God which clearly pronounces the practice of same sex involvement as an abomination to Him. The church must at all times avoid apostasy and compromise.

  10. 1. No-one is born gay!
    2. ‘Observer’has it right in that Christians are instructed not to take other Christians to secular court. Go figure …