Nazareth Baptist Church introduces homophobic new rules

Members of the Shembe church. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
Controversial new homophobic rules have been adopted during February by the continent’s second largest African-initiated church. 

The news broke via Herald Live after it was revealed that 14 senior pastors of the Nazareth Baptist Church (also known as the Shembe Church) have released a list of homophobic new rules, including one that stipulates that lesbian members of the church, who married men will be “permanently stripped” of their “right to be a wife.”

Among the other declarations made by leaders belonging to the Ebuhleni faction – regarded as the largest among the Church’s 4.5-million members – are that, should a woman leave or divorce her husband, she will be subjected to a hearing. If found “guilty”, she will not be allowed to marry again. 

Furthermore, when it is found that a female member of the church is married to a gay man, she has to return to her home “to be cleansed by her father through the slaughter of a goat.”

Gender Links CEO Colleen Lowe Morna has since spoken out against these rules and described them as unconstitutional. In a statement released to Herald Live, she said that South Africa is the only country in the world whose constitution recognises the right to same-sex relationships. 

“The Shembe Church, whatever its beliefs, cannot violate the constitution. Therefore, it would be well advised to recant its position immediately,” she added. 

Javu Baloyi, the spokesperson for the Commission for Gender Equality, has also criticised the rules by referring to them as “discriminatory on the basis of gender and sexual orientation”.