The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa voted in 2015 to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers. The synod also voted to permit same-sex unions to be blessed in Dutch Reformed churches. That decision was then appealed in 2016.
At present the DRC is experiencing huge turmoil as the issue of sexuality continues to be debated.1
Many of those who were pleased with the synod’s original decision to permit same-sex marriage equate discrimination towards those who practice homosexuality as essentially the same as the discrimination towards black people under apartheid.
For them, the 2015 synod’s decision was a great moment of liberation to be celebrated.2
Next month, at its provincial synod, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) is considering a proposal about LGBTI clergy and same-sex civil unions. The proposal states that, “clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes”.
It also suggests that “prayers of blessing” should be able to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions. However, it also specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law.
The proposal, “also accepts that any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so.”
The issue of homosexuality and same-sex partnerships has become an even more urgent issue in South Africa now that the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church has voted to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers. The synod also voted to permit same-sex unions to be blessed in Dutch Reformed churches.
Thankfully the decision won’t be forced on churches. Each individual Dutch Reformed church can decide for themselves their stance towards those who practice homosexuality in same-sex partnerships. Many of those who are pleased with the synod’s decision equate discrimination towards those who practise homosexuality as essentially the same as discrimination towards black people under apartheid. For them the synod’s decision has been a great moment of liberation to be celebrated.
However, homosexuality is not the new black. According to the Bible, differences in culture and ethnicity are part of God’s good creation and are to be celebrated – even as we are united in Christ. Homosexual activity, on the other hand, (like all other sexual immorality) is not part of God’s good creation, but sinful and dishonouring to God. Ministers and denominations that say otherwise are not being loving towards those who practise homosexuality because they are endangering their souls by giving many a false assurance of a lifestyle pleasing God.
Public perceptions of homosexuality have changed over the years. In the Greco-Roman culture during which the New Testament was written, homosexuality was an accepted practice. Over the centuries that changed. By 1800’s in England homosexuality was a crime. The well-known playwright Oscar Wilde was jailed for two years for homosexual practices. Homosexuality was later seen as an evil that needed to be dealt with by exorcism or shock treatment.
Still later, homosexuality was considered not as evil, but as a psychological disorder that needed therapy or sexual experimentation with the opposite sex. Now homosexuality is viewed as a viable, healthy, valid, alternate lifestyle, perceived to be a foundational human right. Public perceptions have radically changed.
Archbishop Tutu recently said that God is for homosexual marriage and would fight for gay rights as much as he fought for an end to apartheid. While I agree with him that all-violence against homosexuals is absolutely wrong and irreconcilable with Christianity, I would differ with him on God’s view on “gay rights” and homosexual marriage.
This is not an anti-sex post. God is very much for sex as evidenced by his creation of us as sexual beings that enjoy sex. God as our Creator also knows how best we can enjoy his good gifts, including the gift of sex. From the very beginning of the Bible we see God’s purpose for sexual unity to take place within the marriage of one woman with one man (Genesis 2:24). God creation purposes are evidenced in the biological differences between men and women.