The Dutch Reformed Church (NG Kerk) has issued an apology for its past homophobic discrimination and now wants to welcome same-sex unions, after previously overturning it back in 2016.
On October 8, the church’s General Synod met in East Rand of Johannesburg to affirm a position “in which everyone’s human dignity is respected”.
The church’s General Task Team for Learning and Current Affairs has been tasked with developing “a form for confirming civil unions between persons of the same sex”. However, ministers and church councils who are not comfortable to officiate same-sex unions will not be placed in a position where
they are forced to do so.
The General Synod made a similar decision back in 2015, but the decision was overturned after conservative members took issue with it. The case was taken to court, where Rev Laurie Gaum together with eleven other members, argued that the 2016 decision was unprocedural and unconstitutional.
The High Court of Pretoria agreed and ordered the church to stop unconstitutionally discriminating against same-sex couples and queer clergy.
Furthermore, the General Synod also called for the licensing of theological students without regard to their “race, gender, class or sexual orientation and identity,” encouraging church boards to appoint persons to office regardless of their sexual orientation and identity.
The church said it “apologises to gay members and their families, whose dignity has been knowingly and unknowingly denied, for the pain that they have experienced in the church”. Also thanking “gay members who have persisted in bold and constructive conversations in the church”.
Gaum explained to MambaOnline that the move was “positive step forward”. However, he expressed discontent with the church for not acknowledging those ministers who were thrown out of the church and students who were not allowed in because of their sexuality.
“It should create opportunities for them to serve in the church if they still want to do that,” he said.
“There should be real outreach from the church to those who were terribly hurt”.
Gaum expressed wanting the DRC to “journey with those more conservative congregations that are still exclusionary because of homophobia towards greater understanding”.