Research On The Response Of The Main Line Churches To Homosexuality In South Africa
A number of debates have taken place both within the Church and the media concerning the future direction of the church on homosexuality and same sex marriages in South Africa and the world over. These debates have been triggered in part by differing views on the stance the Church should adopt in relation to issues including the ordination of gay clergy and the recognition of civil partnerships. At international levels questions have been raised about the future of the worldwide Christian Church given the diversity of perspectives on these and other issues in the light of cultural differences based on contexts. This paper is a collection of information on the official position on homosexuality of different denominations, especial mainline churches in South Africa. This paper also records debates and views by the different on what they think about the future direction of the Church. By listening to a wide range of perspectives I hope that this collection of official positions will enable a sharing of ideas leading to a better understanding of how these debates are likely to affect the Church locally and internationally. This paper records the official positions of the following: the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (ELCSA), the Moravian Church of South Africa, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (UELCSA), the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa (DRC), The Anglican Church of South Africa, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Baptist Church, the Catholic church, the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) respectively.
The Response Of The Mainline Churches To Homosexuality In South Africa 2009
Summary of official positions on homosexuality of different denominations
- All denominations agree and confess that is sinful to actively discriminate and persecute homosexual people. Therefore churches are absolutely clear that they reject homophobia and support the protection of the rights of gay and lesbian people in civil law and any bill of human rights.
- Churches define Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. Marriage officers should not be compelled to act against their consciences or the principles of their religious bodies
- The Anglican Church says the Church will not bless same-sex unions, although it would provide loving support and care. However people of homosexual orientation are God’s children. We cannot penalize someone for something not of his or
her own making. Diversity is a creation by the almighty. We need to embrace all of us in our differences and seek to walk together.
- Lutherans and the Moravians on human sexuality say that”… basing her stand on Scripture, deplores same sex marriages and encourages church workers and parishioners not to engage in such relationships; that same sex marriages
are not to be solemnized by our ministers and that such ceremonies are not be allowed to take place in our churches.”
- The Dutch Reformed Church -The position can be classified
as an on-going debate or as “No easy bridge to church’s gay divide, the church decided to further investigate the issue of homosexuality and the possibility that there may be another interpretation of biblical texts regarding the matter
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that Mormon theology stipulates that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.” As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse same-sex marriage.
- The Baptist Church says that “God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman” and that “homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.”
- The Catholic Bishops oppose gay marriage on the ground that “marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman.” The conference stated that “what are called ‘homosexual unions’ [cannot be given the status of marriage] because they do not express full human complementarity and because they are inherently no procreative.
- Seventh-day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, NIV). Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed. The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships. Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden
- Christian marriage is defined within the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa as an ordained covenant that exists between one man and one woman under God for life, and holds this definition to be consistent with the authoritative rule of Scripture as well as the tradition of the one, holy,
catholic and apostolic Church.
- The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is still debating the issue and acknowledges the pain that is a reality for people on all sides of the debate. The church encourages the saints to engage in ongoing biblical and theological reflection in the light of clinical study on the subject. To assist pastors and members to cultivate attitudes and acquire skills that enable them to minister the grace of God to openly homosexual persons; and Revisit with great care its disciplinary codes in the light of the issue of sexuality and sexual orientation. We affirm our tradition that “the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word
- The Deo Gracious Church in Durban, The Saints of Christ in Pinetown and the Living Waters Church in Greenfield Gauteng are churches that were initiated after churches were skeptical about homosexuals. They believe that homosexuals are equally created in the image of God like any other human being. Marriage is not only meant for pro-creation but also for joy and company. Couples can be fruitful in many other ways than pro-creation. The fact that hormonal setups are determined at birth than by individuals shows that homosexuals come from God. If homosexuals are not acceptable then the problem is with God not with homosexual beings. What do you say of Casta Semenya’s condition,
what can she do about it? Churches should be blaming and rejecting God and not the homosexuals who are simply God’s creatures. According to homosexuals everybody is welcome in their churches; they do not care about sexuality. Homosexuals and non-homosexuals, males and females are welcome to be ministers in homosexual churches. However they are yet to get a non-homosexual pastor since their official establishment in the late 1990s.
Summary of areas of difference in approach and understanding
- The fact that homosexuality is open to debate is highly contested. For example to Catholics, Lutherans, SDA, Baptist church and Moravians the issue of same sex marriages is not acceptable and that is a closed debate. On the other hand Methodists, UCCSA and the Dutch Reformed Church are open to debate.
- The use of the authority of Scripture to respond to the challenge of Homosexuality is also a contested area.
Churches that say no to same-sex marriages say such marriages are against the bible. On the other hand those that are open to debate argue that Scripture alone cannot help to solve the problem of homosexuality since every scripture is open to different interpretations; there is no one, monolithic and incontrovertible interpretation of Scripture.
- The use of church ministers as marriage officers or to simply bless same sex marriages is another area of difference as noted in appendix 1 debate. Churches that are still open to debate are also open to blessing same relationships while those that have closed the debate have also closed this aspect of blessing such relationships.
- Churches that are still open to debate do accept applications to ministry by self confessed homosexuals while those that have closed the debate on homosexuality do not accept such applicants. The issue of homosexual oriented applicants and practicing homosexuals is viewed with the same spectacles as the blessing of unions by ministers.
- The use of the term marriage to refer to both same sex unions and heterosexual unions. Some denominations see no problem in using the word marriage for both. However some denominations as noted in the above debate say that the term marriage should only be used for heterosexual unions and the term same sex relationship for homosexual unions.
- I should be honestly noted especial by those churches that have closed the debate that any position taken by the church on the issue of homosexuality has the potential to split the church between conservatives and liberals. Closing the debate from a position of authority does not solve the problem, instead it fuels it. I spoke to several Christians amongst Lutherans and Catholics and the majority say that people are practising homosexuality in private because the church does not want to accept reality.
- Theology from above that is theology by the clergy tends to use scripture to discredit homosexuality among the churches that have closed the debate. However Scripture alone cannot help to solve the problem of homosexuality since every scripture is open to different interpretations; there is no one, monolithic and incontrovertible interpretation of scripture. Surely the voiceless homosexuals in these churches have their own interpretations.
- If homosexuality is a sin then it should be allowed to exist like all other sins that are existing. The church is nursing different types of sinners and it does not reject such sinners, what is so special about homosexuality such that it needs to be judged now, now?
- Churches that are still open to debate have taken a better stand than those that have closed the debate. From a democratic point of view members should be allowed to debate issues as long as they still feel the necessity of the debate.
- KZNCC should create forums where the issue of homosexuality can be debated by both the clergy and laity. There is need to define the phenomenon, its attributes,
causes and the feelings of participants. Such an open debate can enable churches and church leaders to make informed decisions about homosexuality in the church.
The Methodist Church Of Southern Africa
According to Rev Professor Neville Richardson, the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, “The Methodist Church is a community of love not rejection.” This effectively means that the Methodist Church embraces homosexuals despite the fact that the debate on ordination and marriage is still going on. The current official position is as recorded in the 2008 yearbook:
2.5 Policy And Doctrine 2.5.1 Same Sex Debate
The conference of 2007, in considering the ongoing same-sex discussion, declares its determination not to permit different viewpoints among us to further divide our church. In the face of our differences we recall and reaffirm the 1958 conference resolution declaring that “it is the will of God for the Methodist Church that it should be one and undivided.”
In light of that declaration, and informed by the 2001 conference commitment to being “a community of love rather than rejection,” and the 2005 conference inviting Methodists embracing ‘many different and even opposing views on the issue” to “journey together,” this conference seeks a way forward that both respects and holds in tension differing views among our ministers and people.
Conference therefore resolves:
- That the grace, affirmation of diversity, and the commitment
to the unity of the church central to the same-sex resolutions of the 2001 and 2005 conferences be reaffirmed;
- That our ministers and people continue to engage this issue in Christian conversation and respectful listening, so that all of us may more fully understand and articulate the variety of viewpoints held within the church;
- That we will seek to be a Christ-honouring community:
- Celebrating the rich diversity of those called to follow Jesus, honouring the sacred worth of all people and practicing our Wesleyan heritage of warmth, welcome and hospitality;
- Recognizing the authority of scripture, and noting that in our quest for understanding, there is no one, monolithic and incontrovertible interpretation of it;
- Acknowledging that there are therefore some issues upon which there may never be total unanimity within the church and upon which we must “agree to differ” without reducing our respect for, and trust of, one another.
- approves the publican of Bible study material which will assist members of the church to reflect on the issue of Christians and homosexuality and same-sex relationships
- directs that a meeting be convened to consider the wide spectrum of viewpoints on the civil unions of same-sex couples, in order to listen to each other, identify points of agreement and differences and seek a way forward that will enhance the unity of the church. DEWCOM is mandated to convene this engagement
- conference recognizes that any decision and subsequent action on the issue of civil unions between same-sex partners must await the on-going process of engagement as specified by conference 2005 (Yearbook 2006, 8.3, p. 75) and, in the interim, expects Methodists ministers to continue to offer pastoral care to homosexual individuals.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church Of Southern Africa (Elcsa) And The Moravian Church Of South Africa
The ELCSA statement reads as follows: “On human sexuality: that ELCSA, basing her stand on Scripture, deplores same sex marriages and encourages church workers and parishioners not to engage in such relationships; that same sex marriages are not to be solemnized by our ministers and that such ceremonies not be allowed to take place in ourchurches.”The Moravian Church indicated that its position is the same.
ELCSA, according to Bishop Dr Biyela embraces homosexuals and allows them to worship in their churches as full members. Biyela acknowledges that the church is a place for sick people who need healing, “so all people who are in church are sick of one condition or another and the church is a healing community hence the concept of embracing all sorts of people” What is interesting is that all the different versions of Lutheran churches in Southern Africa despite their cultural differences seem to agree on homosexuality. The position of the Lutherans is that:
“The issue of Homosexuality and Same-sex Marriages has
become a matter of major concern. What is the position of our Church in this matter is asked by many members. This controversial topic is discussed throughout the world. It is a very complex and sensitive issue. Although people and churches have tried to formulate their own position in responsibility and obedience to God, these positions are very contradictory. Every position has the potential to cause a split and to separate people, congregations and churches. There are no
easy answers. Whatever position a church takes will most definitely have the consequence that some members will strongly disagree, irrespective of whether it takes a pro, contra or no position. One also cannot just cite biblical texts, because then we could seek and find texts to suit and justify our own position. That is not how we read the Bible as Lutherans. We must seriously contemplate the whole life of Jesus and how he deals with people, also marginalized people. Today science also knows much more about homosexuality than 2,000 years ago – this knowledge needs to be taken cognizance of. We need to continue to talk about this matter. What is more, we need to talk to homosexuals directly and not only about them. When you know a person or when you have a homosexual as family member, acquaintance or as friend one is bound to talk differently about this whole matter. We should not even talk about them and us – in Christ we belong together. We may not deal with this matter in a simplistic or superficial way; we are dealing with our brothers and sisters.
In view of this difficulty and uncertainty, Church Council felt it was necessary to inform our congregations about the present position. The present position of the ELCSA (N-T) is unchanged and is the position formulated in the paper prepared by our Study Commission which tabled a paper to Synod in 1997, which was accepted by Synod. We as Church, together with the ELCSA and ELCSA (Cape) do not understand same sex partnerships as marriage. A marriage is understood as a union only between a man and a woman. Furthermore the valid and unchanged position of our Church is that the blessing of same sex unions is rejected. Consequently the Church can also not give consent to pastors/marriage officers to register for the State examination to be able to perform such “marriages”.
Both the ELCSA (Cape) and the DRC have discussed this issue at their recent Synods. Also the LWF has written a paper on this matter. In all three cases the matter has not been finalized. Also we will have to continue to discuss the many unanswered questions.”7
7Church Council report presented at the 2nd Session of the 5th Church Synod 2007 of ELCSA (N-T) at Kempton Park, 11 -14 Oct. 2007: http://www.elcsant.org.za/synod/reports_07.asp accessed on 18/10/09
The united evangelical lutheran church of southern africa (uelcsa)
Bishop D.R. Lilje, Bischof of UELCSA together with Bishop Bishop N. Rohwer from ELCSA (Cape) in UELCSA -Secular 1/2007 (bulletin 6.3 Same-sex marriages and homosexuality) issued the following statement on homosexuality;
Throughout the world this controversial topic is being discussed. Church Council wants to inform all congregations about the unchanged and present position of our Church in this matter, which was confirmed by the paper of our Study Commission, accepted by our Church Synod 1997. Some time ago the congregations were informed via the Bishop’s Circular that we as Church, together with the ELCSA and ELCSA (Cape), do not understand same-sex partnerships as a marriage and that marriage is only understood as a union between a man and a woman. Furthermore the valid and unchanged position of our Church is that the blessing of same-sex unions is rejected. Consequently the Church can also not give consent to pastors/marriage officers to register for the State examination to be able to perform such marriages. The individual pastor has to abide by this rule.
Within our Church we will, however, continue to discuss this matter. It is a very complex issue. Although people and churches try to formulate their own standpoint in responsibility and in obedience to God, these positions are very contradictory. Every position has the potential to cause a split and to separate people, congregations and churches. There are no easy answers. What are the criteria according to which we can take our decisions? One cannot just cite Biblical texts, because then we could seek and find texts to suit and justify our own opinion. That is not how we as Lutherans read the Bible. We must seriously contemplate the whole life of Jesus and his way of dealing with people. Today we also know very much more about homosexuality than 2,000 years ago – that needs to be taken into
consideration. Can one just take the easy way and dismiss it by saying it is a sin? We need to continue to talk about this respectfully and with love. Yes, we need to talk to such people themselves and not only about them. We may not deal with this matter in a superficial way as we are dealing with people, our brothers and sisters.
The position of UELCSA is similar almost word for with the ELCSA position.
The Dutch Reformed Church Of South Africa (Drc)
The Dutch Reformed church does not have a clear position; the church is at the verge of being divided according to those who are for homosexuality and those against. The position can be classified as an on-going debate or as “No easy bridge to church’s gay divide.”The debate is wild and wide, I have recorded some of the church discussions verbatim so as to portray clearly the intensity of the debates.
The church’s general secretary, Kobus Gerber, expressed regret at the pain being caused by the debate on homosexuality. He says that the DRC has an open door policy and people are allowed to speak out and sees that as positive. “But it is positive in the sense that many people are daring for the first time to make their voices heard.”
In October 2007, the church replaced its 1986 position on homosexuality with one allowing for differing interpretations of the Bible. It undertook to pursue discussion and study on the topic, but said gay people could not be excluded from the church. In 1986, the church described homosexuality as deviant behaviour, and in conflict with the will of God. The church has never had an official position on practising gays gaining membership or holding office.
Gerber said a task team set up to formulate policy on the matter will finish its work as soon as possible. A final policy is likely to be tabled before a general synod. Issues arising in the meantime will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“This is being handled as a matter of urgency,” Gerber said. “We know people are hasty, unhappy and hurting, but we have a responsibility to consider this issue calmly and with integrity. We will not allow any over-hasty shooting from the hip.” Gerber was not overly concerned about a split, saying: “A church doesn’t tear quite that easily.” The church is divided on many other issues, such as the lottery and capital punishment, “but we always accept one another’s theological integrity”.
According to Dr Coenie Burger, moderator of the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa Their discussions on homosexuality come at a time when the Anglican and Methodist churches are also seeking to identify a clear stance on the matter. In this case people have to understand that this is an ongoing discussion. Discussions which are…on the table for the church are its position on homosexuality and the unification process with other reformed churches in South Africa.
In support of Dr Coenje’s position, Dr Kobus Gerber, general secretary of the general synod, says he believes people may have been struggling with the church’s approach to “doctrinal aspects” on homosexuality – which led to unhappiness in the church. This is what is leading to perceived divisions in the DRC then “the church decided to further investigate the issue of homosexuality and the possibility that there may be another interpretation of biblical texts regarding the matter. This, he says, was misconstrued as the Dutch Reformed Church condoning homosexuality.”
The Anglican Church of South Africa
The global Anglican/Episcopal communion has been a touchstone for these debates since the 1998 Lambeth Conference (of worldwide bishops) and the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA). The Communion has been described as “at war” or “in crisis” as a result of divided opinion over homosexuality. What is clear is that the unfolding of this crisis has been, and continues to be, heavily influenced by flows of people, ideas, and capital within a trans-national network that is not easily capturable with traditional notions of bounded space.
The Anglican Church has a challenge especial with its international partners that have ordained gay ministers and embraced same sex marriages. In South Africa the Anglican Church embraces homosexuals as created by God but does not bless same sex marriages. South Africa’s Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, – who heads 24 Anglican bishops in the country – supports the Civil Unions Bill which legalises same-sex partnerships. He says that there should be two separate types of marriage; the existing law which covers heterosexual couples and a new concept which would allow for same- sex unions. Ndungane said that “I have said to my friends who are gay and lesbian that using the word marriage is like a red flag to a bull. They will be wise to use the word partnership or union.”The matter was the subject of a recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa which has decided not to challenge the Civil Unions Bill. Nevertheless Ndungane said that the Church will not bless same-sex unions, although it would provide “loving support and care”. “People of homosexual orientation are God’s children. We cannot penalize someone for something not of his or her own making”, said Ndungane, adding that, “Diversity
is a creation by the almighty. We need to embrace all of us in our differences and seek to walk together.”
The Archbishop’s position is a moderate one among South African religious groups, many of whom do not support any kind of same-sex unions or marriage. Protest marches against same-sex marriage are planned for this weekend around the country. Most gay organizations have rejected the bill as unconstitutional and separatist, calling instead for same-sex marriage to be incorporated within the existing Marriage Act. Tensions within the Anglican Church over the issue of homosexuality have recently reached breaking point, with ultra- conservative branches, such as The Church of Nigeria, threatening to split from the body because other branches have ordained openly-gay clergy. Members of the Joint Working Group (JWG) – a coalition of South African LGBTI activist and support groups are preparing written submissions, a letter writing campaign and even pickets outside parliament to convince government to abandon the Civil Unions Bill and instead adapt the Marriage Act.
Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints
Mormon theology stipulates that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.” As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse same-sex marriage.
The Baptist Church
In 2005, the governing body of the Baptist Church affirmed that “God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman” and that “homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.”
According to Professor Edwina Ward of the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, “The Roman Catholic church accepts that people can be born as homosexuals. They are to be accepted, loved and understood. Not condemned. BUT they cannot practice homosexuality in any way with minors, male or female. They are condoned if they are in a long tern relationship with ONE partner who is a consenting adult. Priests cannot practice homosexuality at all.”15
The Catholic Bishops oppose gay marriage on the ground that “marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman.” The conference stated that “what are called ‘homosexual unions’ [cannot be given the status of marriage] because they do not express full human complementarity and because they are inherently no procreative.”20
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference reiterates the Church’s teaching as laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church through, Wilfred Cardinal Napier, OFM, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.”
It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.
19Interview through email on 20 October 2009. 20http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=426
- Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved’.
To summarize, all homosexual acts are declared to be intrinsically disordered. Therefore they cannot under any circumstance be approved. The reasons why they are said to be intrinsically disordered are:
They are contrary to the natural law,
They close the sexual act to the gift of life and
They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
Scripture passages that the Church uses for its teaching include this passage from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
For this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1: 26)
Among the questions being asked about the Church’s reaction to the Constitutional Court’s ruling are the following:
- Can the Church impose its values on society?
The answer depends on a number of considerations:
- . If human beings do not have a Creator, in other words, if human beings have total knowledge, wisdom and power to create themselves, then the answer is No. The Church cannot impose its values on anyone, because the Church takes its authority from the infinite God.
- . If the Church and Society believe and accept as a given that there is an all holy, all knowing and all powerful God who created everything including human beings, and created them to exist and live according to his Will and Laws, then the Church not only can but also must proclaim and work for the acceptance and submission to the values that God has revealed to us.
b.. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, so how can the Catholic Church take issue with it?
It is true that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, but in order to be binding on the consciences of its citizens it must conform to the Law of God. And in this case it clearly does not. Indeed if the S.A. Constitution is being made to supersede the revealed will of God then South Africa is morally doomed. For no one can go against God’s Will and come away unscathed. The fact that same sex marriages are approved by the Constitutional Court, that does not make them morally right. The Church has the prophetic duty to point out where the Constitution runs counter to the Commandments of God, our Maker’s Instructions which determine how human beings are to live good and moral lives.
- c) What is the Church going to do about this situation?
- . Taking our lead from the Scriptures our first action is Prayer, prayer for a change of heart on the part of all who are responsible for flaunting God’s Law;
- . Second we will continue teaching and preaching the truth revealed by God’s Word about human sexuality and its proper use in marriage.
c.. Thirdly we will mobilize the Faithful and all people of goodwill to work together to save our nation and country from the disasters that
befall any people that turns its back on its God.
The legalizing of same sex marriages is doomed to have a morally deleterious effect on the institution of the family, traditionally defined as the permanent union between husband and wife.
Seventh-Day Adventist Position Statement On Homosexuality*
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus. We also believe that by God’s grace and through the encouragement of the community of faith, an individual may live in harmony with the principles of God’s Word.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, NIV). Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed. The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships. Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev. 20:7- 21; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?” So they are no longer two, but one'” (Matt. 19:4-6, NIV). For these reasons Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships.
Seventh-day Adventists endeavor to follow the instruction and example of Jesus. He affirmed the dignity of all human beings and reached out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin. He offered caring ministry and words of solace to struggling people, while differentiating His love for sinners from His clear teaching about sinful practices.
21The Seventh-day Adventists have an international position on homosexuality, http://www.gladventist.org/faq/ adventist-position.htm
The Uniting Presbyterian Church In Southern Africa
The UPCSA still stands by its submissions to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, Submission on the Civil Union Bill (B26-2006) on issues of homosexuality and same sex marriages. The church was represented by Rev DT Gevers (Convener: Doctrine, Ethics & Discipline Committee), The Rt. Reverend W D Pool: (Moderator of the General Assembly), The Reverend MS Vellem: (General Secretary). The position is argued as follows: The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (Uniting Presbyterian Church) is a union of two Presbyterian denominations, namely the Reformed Presbyterian Church of South Africa and the Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, both of which have existed in South Africa for well over a century. The historic union of the two churches took place in Port Elizabeth in 1999.
By way of background to this submission, it should be noted that in 2005 the church adopted a statement on the definition of marriage, which was confirmed in 2006. The statement reads as follows: The Executive Commission affirms that Christian marriage is defined within the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa as an ordained covenant that exists between one man and one woman under God for life, and holds this definition to be consistent with the authoritative rule of Scripture as well as the tradition of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
The Executive Commission instructs all marriage officers affiliated with the UPCSA to remain faithful to the church’s definition of marriage, and to exercise pastoral compassion and sensitivity in their dealings with all who approach the church for assistance with marriage.
The Executive Commission exhorts all members of the church to uphold the sanctity of Christian marriage, and to acknowledge its role
as the proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman.
The rationale behind this statement is as follows.
In view of the current initiative in our nation to re-define marriage through the law courts to include same-sex couples, it is imperative that our church give a clear and unequivocal signal as to the Christian definition of marriage, both for the guidance of its own members, and also that it may contribute effectively to the debate within wider society.
It should be noted that this matter, although clearly related, is also distinct from the debate surrounding sexuality and homosexuality. It concerns specifically the Christian understanding of marriage in the light of Scripture as our “final rule of faith and life”, as well as of our inherited tradition arising out of the church’s hermeneutic through the ages.
Both of these bear a unified resounding witness:
- Marriage arises out of the order of creation, and is defined in the creation accounts of Genesis as that which exists between a man and a woman.
- The prophetic tradition strongly reinforces this concept of marriage, and extends it to a metaphorical depiction of God and Israel (cf. Hosea, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah).
- Jesus confirms God’s creation of man and woman as the foundation of marriage and upholds marriage as that institution by which a “man shall leave his father and his mother and be made one with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4 ff.; Mark 10:1 ff.). This is central to the Christian view of marriage, encompassing both the physical and the spiritual realities of the marriage act as that which incorporates one man and one woman.
- Both Paul (Ephesians) and John (Revelation) allude to the church as the bride of Christ, reflecting the metaphorical line of the prophets.
- The New Testament consistently exhorts that marriage as a relationship of sexual faithfulness between a man and
a woman be held in honour and that it be undefiled (cf. Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 7: 1-5)
- Whilst not exclusively so, marriage is linked to the procreation and nurture of children in several Biblical passages (Cf. Genesis 1:28, 4:1; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20-21).
- This definition has held sway in the church through the ages, as is evidenced in the writings of the Church Fathers (Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome et.al.) and in marriage service orders of different denominations and eras (cf. the Sarum Liturgy, the Latin Rite, the 1549 Prayer Book right through to our own – remarkably consistent).
The conclusion inescapably to be drawn from this witness is that, according to the Christian understanding, marriage is:
- Ordained by God;
- Covenantal in nature;
- An exclusive relationship involving one man and one woman. The Church has been remarkably consistent in this definition, across the denominations and across the ages, in spite of other serious differences and disputes. This should inform us. It is fallacious to say that our current time is unique and different to all the contexts that have gone before us. Homosexuality has been a reality in all of them, condoned in some of them, but this has never led the Church to review its definition of marriage.
The intention of this statement is to uphold the Christian definition of marriage, not to provide a basis within the church for the exclusion and/or persecution of those who may pursue certain sexual practices, gay or otherwise. These practices must be addressed through the One who is “full of grace and truth”.
It should be noted that our government has given the assurance that, notwithstanding any change to the definition of marriage on
the part of the state, marriage officers will not be compelled to act against their consciences or the principles of their religious bodies. Alarmist reactions to this issue should thus be avoided. Nevertheless our church’s stance must be firm, clear and unequivocal, both for the guidance of its officials and members, and also that it may stand alongside fellow churches in faithfully representing to our lawmakers the Christian view, and that which we believe God requires of us as a nation.
From this foundation we are thankful for the opportunity to make the following submissions to the legislative process on the Civil Union Bill, in particular to that section of it that deals with Civil Partnerships.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church is in full agreement that the rights and civil liberties of all South Africans should be respected and safeguarded by law.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church supports the provisions in the Bill that protect the legal interests and dignity of persons involved in same sex relationships.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church is of the strong conviction that same sex partnerships, however else defined in law, cannot be defined as marriage in any form, as the institution of marriage in the Christian understanding has ever only meant a relationship between one man and one woman, and furthermore marriage has in every culture and religion only ever pertained to a relationship between the male and female sexes.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church supports the enactment of specific legislation, other than the existing Marriage Act, that defines and regulates same sex partnerships. To this extent the Church supports the provisions in the Bill for Civil Partnerships and is of the view that the existing Marriage Act should be left unaltered.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church does not support the recommendation of the S A Law Commission for a new marriage act to be called the Reformed Marriage Act and the reworking of the existing act into a Traditional Marriage Act.
This would have the effect of attributing to heterosexual marriage a minority connotation.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church does not support section 11 of the Bill in that it allows the option of the partnership being referred to as a marriage in the solemnisation thereof.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church, being of the view that the term ‘marriage officer’ should be restricted to those officers appointed in terms of the existing marriage act only, does not support the use of the term in relation to the solemnisation and registration of civil partnerships, primarily in section 5 but also
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church is compelled to draw the attention of Parliament to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 19: 4-5 2, to the truth that marriage as an estate given by God is not ours to redefine, and to the reality that we, as a nation, are accountable to God for the conduct of our affairs.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church exhorts Parliament to take cognisance of the broad consensus amongst all major religious groupings within the country on the subject of the definition of marriage, and of the fact that this constitutes the value base of the overwhelming majority of South Africans. That marriage is held to be sacred within all of these religions must be of importance to any consideration of dignity, freedom, fairness and discrimination in the application of the Bill of Rights to the legislative process. This is foundational to the extent that an amendment to the constitution, protecting the institution of marriage as a union that exists exclusively between male and female, would be warranted.
Thank you for receiving this submission. Please be assured of our prayers and best wishes at all times for the work of parliament and its committees.
The Uccsa And The Issue Of Homosexuality And Homophobia
According to Steve de Gruchy minutes of the general assemblies of the church can best portray the position of the UCCSA on homosexuality. I have included the minutes as they were given to me by Prof Steve de Gruchy.
The AIDS pandemic and the emergence of public debate around pornography and censorship, abortion and homosexual rights in the new South African constitution forced the UCCSA to begin to think theologically about sexuality in the early 1990’s.
At the 1993 UCCSA Assembly meeting in Graaf Reinett, the Theological Commission was tasked with preparing a statement on Sexuality. It worked on this over the next two years and presented its document, Our Faith, Our Sexuality to the 1995 UCCSA Assembly meeting in Bisho, Eastern Cape Province.
This document was adopted unanimously at the Assembly. Section 5 of this document deals specifically with ‘homosexuality and homophobia’.
1995: Our Faith, Our Sexuality
Section 5: Homosexuality And Homophobia
In the realm of sexuality, perhaps no question has been so hotly debated as that to do with homosexuality. Those who are opposed to homosexual behaviour consider this to be a sin. On the other hand, those who are supportive see homosexual orientation as a ‘good gift’, the way God has created some people.
Between these two there is much conflict centred around biblical interpretation and the lives and faith of gay and lesbian Christians. Because of this we are unable to reach consensus on these matters at this time. We commend to you the need for further study, and also the
need to talk with (and not just about) gay and lesbian Christians. At the same time, we are absolutely clear that we reject homophobia – the active discrimination against and persecution of homosexual people. We therefore support the protection of the rights of gay and lesbian people in civil law and any bill of human rights.
BETWEEN 1995 AND 1997.
Then … the issue of UCCSA minister, Rev. Vernon Openshaw presiding at a ‘gay marriage’ became public when it appeared in the press. He was disciplined by the Ministerial Committee of the Central Regional Council, and this created the need to explore his issue further.
Also, UCCSA minister and member of the Theological Commission, Steve de Gruchy was involved in co-editing the book, Aliens in the Household of God. The partner church of the UCCSA in the USA, the United Church of Christ has an ‘open and affirming’ position and welcomes gay and lesbian members and ministers. They provided funding for a copy of the book to be sent to every UCCSA minister as part of the study process mentioned in the statement, ‘Our Faith, Our Sexuality’.
The theological commission was asked to prepare further study materials, and did this in a series of questions which were presented to the UCCSA Assembly in Gaborone. These were adopted and sent down for further discussion at local and regional level. 1997 Assembly In Gaborone: Resolution On Homosexuality
- In an attempt to clarify the UCCSA policy on the matter of Homosexuality, Assembly resolved to remit the following questions to Synods, Regional councils and local churches for discussion and response to the September 1998 meeting of the Executive Committee:
- Can We In The Uccsa Affirm:
- that all people regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God in his image?
- that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are redeemed by Jesus Christ and called into covenant fellowship
in the Church?
- that al people regardless of the sexual orientation are called to the responsible use of God’s gift of sexuality – within the framework of committed and stable covenant relationships?
- that the gift of discernment and insight is given to people through the guidance of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, so that freedom of conscience and the authority of the local church meeting have dignity within the pastoral care of and prophetic witness to the wider community?
- Can We In The Uccsa Therefore Resolve:
- that it its witness for justice and human rights, the Church must be seen to take a clear stand to oppose prejudice towards and discrimination against gay and lesbian people in society?
- that local churches are encouraged to be “welcoming congregations ” in respect of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and afford them full rights and responsibilities of membership?
- that the UCCSA shall consider applications for the ordained ministry from openly gay and lesbian people in the same way that all other applications are considered?
- Assembly resolves that until such time as a policy is adopted, Ministers of the UCCSA are not permitted to participate in blessing of same sex unions.
(The Rev. Dr. S.M. de Gruchy asked that his objection to this resolution be minuted)
1999 Assembly, Tiger Kloof, North West Province.
Between 1997 and 1999. The Theological Commission received very few comments on these questions, and the Executive Committee therefore brought the same questions to the 1999 Assembly meeting in Tiger Kloof, North West Province
There was lengthy debate on these questions, than ran for almost
an entire day. Issues raised were then passed on to the Resolutions Committee who brought the following resolution before the Assembly which was adopted by 111 votes against 43 with 11 abstentions.
99IAI34 Resolution On Homosexuality
The question of homosexuality is a growing concern without our own families, our fellowships and our communities. It is one that we cannot wish away. Our duty is to seek the mind of Christ through continuing openness to the Holy Spirit, dialogue amongst ourselves and with the homosexual community.
What is non-negotiable for us is the conviction that all humanity is made in the image of God, however scarred in many ways that image may be. Despite our fallenness, God does not cease to love us unconditionally. The reality is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
The Thirtieth Assembly of the United Congregational Church, after much prayer and discussion in our local churches, synods and regions, accepts that the denomination is not of a common mind and is unable to formulate a unanimous position with regard to the question of homosexuality at this time. In our debates, we have realised that the question is enormously complicated and diverse, from biblical, cultural and personal perspectives.
Some would have the church condemn homosexual practice as outright sin, and are of the opinion, in varying degrees, that openly homosexual people should not be allowed membership and/or office in the local church. They would also deny ordination to openly homosexual persons.
Others are of the opinion that, while the practice of homosexuality is against scriptural norms, the church has a duty, as the bearer of God’s grace to provide compassionate ministry to people who do not adhere to the perceived biblical standards.
A seeming minority would have local church be openly welcoming and affirming or homosexual person, and would encourage the church to ordain people who feel called by God irrespective of their sexual orientation.
Our belief is that the question should not be dealt with in a purely legalistic manner, but with the pastoral compassion which Christ displayed to all sinners. Assembly therefore feels unable to adopt the notice of motion sent down to synods, regions and local churches by the 1997 Assembly.
We Therefore Call Upon The Church:
To acknowledge the pain that is a reality for people on all sides of the debate;
To engage in ongoing biblical and theological reflection in the light of clinical study on the subject
To assist pastors and members to cultivate attitudes and acquire skills that enable them to minister the grace of God to openly homosexual persons; and
Revisit with great care its disciplinary codes in the light of the issue of sexuality and sexual orientation.
We affirm our tradition that “the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word”.
There is no conclusive position in the majority of denominations. The position is that of on going debates. There, however seem to be unanimity on the question of embracing those with an orientation to homosexuality as children of God. The challenge comes on the question of same-sex marriages, thus where the debate centers.
This on going debate is affected in many ways by public attitudes and legislative frameworks regarding homosexuality, the different denominations have addressed the changing social conditions
differently. Some denominations made strong presentations to government on their displeasure on the legalization of same sex marriages. Through novel methodological and dissemination strategies, there is need for a project that will engage the public and policy-makers when issues of religious freedom and sexual equality are coming into conflict. Furthermore there is need for a forum that will interrogate how local denominational debates and circumstances regarding homosexuality are shaped and constituted by global flows and exchanges of information in the light of growing globalization. South Africa is a democratic state, how far does this democracy influence and affect religious communities?
Debates have raged within Christian churches over the morality of homosexuality, the recognition of same-sex unions, and the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Many Christians who oppose the acceptance of homosexuality see it as undermining traditional values and exposing the bankruptcy of secular humanism. Homosexuality has become for many the key issue distinguishing between orthodoxy and a liberalism that erodes classical doctrine and ethics. In contrast, Christian supporters of gay rights understand their position as consistent with a Christian ethic emphasizing liberation and concern for the marginalized. A range of Christian pressure groups have sought to influence public debates on LGBT rights/protections.
List Of References
Abrahams Ivan Manuel (Presiding Bishop), Nyobole Gladstone Vuyani (Executive Secretary) and Mkwanazi Bakhombisile (Lay President), 2008. 2008 Yearbook The Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Methodist Publishing House, pgs 81-82
Biyela, M., Interview conducted by Rev Herbert Moyo on the 21 October 2009 At The Lutheran Theological Institute.
Richardson, N., Interview on the 20th of October 2009 at Seth Mokotini Methodist Seminary. The interview was done by Rev Herbert Moyo- Religion and governance field officer – University of KwaZulu-Nata
Ward, E., Interview through email on 20 October 2009.
http://www.elcsant.org.za/publ/prn_view.asp?id=9. accessed on 17/10/09
Church Council report presented at the 2nd Session of the 5th Church Synod 2007 of ELCSA (N-T) at Kempton Park, 11 -14 Oct. 2007: http://www.elcsant.org.za/synod/reports_07.asp accessed on 18/10/09
http://www.elcsant.org.za/publ/prn_view.asp?id=9 UELCSA -Secular 1/2007. accessed on 17/10/09
MARIETTE LE ROUX | PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Aug 30 2005 00:00 http://www.mg.co.za/article/2005-08-30-no-easy-bridge-to-churchs- gay-divide. accessed on 18/10/09
DR Church ‘faces some challenges’ http://www.theherald.co.za/ herald/2005/05/26/news/n26_26052005.htm accessed on 16/10/09 Friday, 15 September 2006 http://www.mambaonline.com/article. asp?artid=527. accessed on 17/10/09
http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=426 accessed on 17/10/09
http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=426 accessed on 18/10/09
The Seventh-day Adventists have an international position on homosexuality. http://www.gladventist.org/faq/adventist-position. htm accessed on 18/10/09.
KWAZULU-NATAL CHRISTIAN COUNCIL
50 Langalibalele (longmarket) Street,
those who choose to enter into a same sex partnership, any more than a copyright or patent is an infringement of the
freedoms, rights or dignity of a person who wishes to take his own recipe and market it under the name of Nandos
or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Indeed it could be argued that
to define a same sex partnership as marriage would be
an infringement on the rights of all those who, under our existing marriage act, have entered into marriage on the basis of a clear and specific understanding of the institution as defined in terms of the act, common law and received religious and cultural warrant.
Elsewhere in the Bill another term, such as ‘Civil Partnership Officer or similar, should be created.
- Notwithstanding the reservation concerning terminology expressed in point seven above of this submission, the Uniting Presbyterian Church supports the provision of section 6 of the Bill and considers this to be of cardinal importance.
- The Uniting Presbyterian Church supports the Bill in other respects.
Rev Ezekiel Nfanyana Gumede of the Living Waters Church in Greenfield Gauteng. Gumede is in the national committee of pastors for churches that were formed by homosexuals. He is the current spokesperson for these churches and he says that he is qualified to speak for all of them throughout the country. He speaks even for those that are worshipping illegal in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe homosexuality is an offence against the law.
Professor Richardson has saved as the chairperson of the Doctrinal Committee of the Methodists Church of Southern Africa since 2001 to 2008. His committee was mandated to come up with a sociological and theological sound position on homosexuality.
Abrahams Ivan Manuel (Presiding Bishop), Nyobole Gladstone Vuyani (Executive Secretary) and Mkwanazi Bakhombisile (Lay President), 2008. 2008 Yearbook The Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Methodist
‘MARIFTTE LE ROUX I PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Aug 30 2005 00:00 http://www.mg.co.za/article/2005-08-30- no-easy-bridge-to-churchs-gay-divide
“MARIETTE LE ROUX | PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Aug 30 2005 00:00 http://www.rng.co.za/article/2005-08-30- no-easy-bridge-to-churchs-gay-divide
DR Church ‘faces some challenges’ http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/2005/05/26/news/n26_26052005.htm
 The Uniting Presbyterian Church does not consider this to be an infringement of the freedoms, rights or dignity of