Cape High Court to hear case by Lesbian Reverend against Methodist Church

A modern day David and Goliath | Rev. Ecclesia de Lange, a South African open lesbian will face her once employer and now adversary in the Cape High Court.

By Melanie Nathan, May 19, 2013.

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Rev. Ecclesia de Lange and Melanie Nathan, Cape Town pride 2011

In 2010 when Rev de Lange announced to her congregation that she was going to marry her same-sex partner, her congregants jumped up and applauded, in what she describes in the video below as a joyful moment. But unfortunately the powers that be in the Church where she served, were not willing to share in the jubilation.

Rev. de Lange was found “guilty” – suspended-fired and charged by the Church with being:

“in breach of the Laws and Discipline and/or policies, decisions, practices and usages of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, when she announced to the Brackenfell and Windsor Park Societies her intention to enter into a same-sex civil union with her partner, as it was the Church’s policy, practice and usage to recognize only heterosexual marriage.”

While finally Rev de Lange faces the opportunity to be heard in the courts, hers is a case that exemplifies the notion that  “justice delayed is justice denied.”  After all she has been through and for so long, it is now up to the courts to decide how Eccelesia de Lange will find reparation for what she has been put through over these past years, while the Church subjected her not only to the harsh and emotional realities of discrimination, but also to an array of uncertain rules that served only to exacerbate the prejudice and her personal suffering.

Finally the Western Cape High Court in South Africa will hear the case of Rev Ecclesia de Lange against the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) and it could prove to be landmark.

An icon in her local community north of Cape Town, de Lange has fought a courageous uphill battle against the powers of the huge Church mechanism, which seems to have purposefully placed untenable obstacles in her path to justice.  Forced into an unfair arbitration agreement, de Lange is fighting now to have it set aside; the biased disciplinary hearing verdict to be retracted; and to be reinstated as full member of the Church she loved; and is also taking the unchartered step seeking an end to sexual orientation discrimination within the MCSA.

Now Reverend Ecclesia de Lange, will be entering the trial phase of her case against Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), in a country where discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is outlawed and where same-sex marriage is recognized as a legal right.  Her much-debated decision to not remain silent about her sexual orientation, in a denomination that purports to “recognize” only heterosexual marriage, while same-sex marriage remains a matter of great debate,  was regarded by the church as a “contravention” of its laws and disciplines.

Ecclesia told me that “The Church currently welcomes and affirms gay members and accepts their financial contributions, but it refuses to celebrate and affirm the natural consequence of two people who love each other and wish to commit to each other in a public religious ceremony.”

Presently, ministers within the MCSA are not permitted to conduct same sex marriages and its ‘Laws and Disciplines’ may only recognize marriage between a man and woman, although this is not clear.

Since February 2010, after her announcement, when de Lange was discontinued as a minister with the denomination and banished from serving out her call,  not only did she lose her job, and the life she had created around this all-consuming career, but she also suffered an emotional firestorm, destroying her life’s dream and financial security.

Melanie Nathan, Mike Luppnow, Ecclesia de Lange- 2011 Cape Town Pride Gala- Photo Hettie Zantman

Melanie Nathan, Mike Luppnow, Ecclesia de Lange- 2011 Cape Town Pride Gala- Photo Hettie Zantman

However Rev de Lange chose to fight this principal, so rooted in discrimination, because of her deep conviction that the injury she suffered from the prejudice is about much more than just herself, as in reality it affects so many other members of the Church.

When de Lange tried to defend herself, a lengthy arbitration ensued, marred by purposefully unnecessary delays, attributed to the church and its flawed protocols, with all attempts at trying to negotiate resisted by the Church.  De Lange soon realized that the procedure to which she was bound was severely flawed, as well as the unsurprising final verdict of the Church itself, which all meant simply that the Church had violated her constitutional rights and discriminated against her on the basis of, amongst others things, her sexual orientation.

One of the most important aspects of de Lange’s experience is her contention that the “Laws and Discipline of the MCSA” are so vague and ambiguous, that the lack of certainty as to procedures in and of itself exacerbated the discrimination, thereby jeopardizing the basic human rights of its members.

Pieter van R Coetzee, the attorney for de Lange, who is acting as the instructing attorney to the team of advocates (South Africa has a spli-bar system similar to the United Kingdon – of attorneys and advcates) consisting of a senior and junior advocate, emphasized that the case is now at a point where “there is no turn-around for the Church.”

Acting media liaison for the “Ecclesia De Lange Support Group,” Mike Luppnow, told me that:

“The decision by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to discontinue Rev de Lange as a minister is unconstitutional and unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation apart from being administratively unjust and irregular as far as it concerns the Church’s own Laws and Disciplines. It is only fair that Ecclesia be reimbursed for all station and emoluments to which she would have been entitled had she not been suspended and discontinued.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 6.03.27 PMI met Ecclesia back in 2011. I was invited to South Africa as keynote speaker for Cape Town Pride Gala, and I invited Ecclesia to accompany me and also to ride with me,  in the Cape Town parade.  A warm and deeply caring human being, she was being harangued by a large and powerful mechanism, which it seemed to me, relied on the knowledge that it had such greater resources. It seemed as if the Church relished in its power – delay after delay – it seemed to thwart any fair resolution.  It was indeed a modern day David and Goliath.  What became clear to me was Ecclesia’s unwavering faith in G-d and her strong sense of  justice. Her  determination, despite the huge odds, was clearly fueled by the tens and thousands of others who would benefit from her refusal to give up.

Please stay tuned as we continue to keep you posted as to the Trial and its outcome.

Hear what Ecclesia went through in her own words-

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19 Comments on “Cape High Court to hear case by Lesbian Reverend against Methodist Church”

  1. Dr. Rex May 19, 2013 at 8:50 PM #

    Case typical of the close-mindedness of organized religion. Wish her the best and hope for an outcome where she is vindicated. Re-blogging!!

  2. Dr. Rex May 19, 2013 at 8:51 PM #

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Organized religion … here you have it. The mentality of “my way or the highway”. Need to follow this story!!

  3. Tracy May 20, 2013 at 5:24 AM #

    Dr. Rex- spot-on!

    No one ought to follow another’s beliefs/delusions.

    Being kind requires no religion, btw.

    • Dr. Rex May 21, 2013 at 2:38 PM #

      Thank you, Tracy!! Agree!! Religion is inside of the individual!

  4. Mark Cole May 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM #

    What a one sided article.I believe the author has not read the bible to see what the word of god says.Ecclesia knew what she was taking on.Go against the word and you will pay the price.We love Ecclesia but detest the sin.

    • Melanie Nathan May 21, 2013 at 12:23 PM #

      Mark Cole – what gives you the right to think that your interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. There are many. Show me where is condemns a lesbian loving relationship. AND Eccelsia was fired for announcing her same sex civil marriage in a country where the Constitution provides for equality – and a Country which has signed the Univ Declaration of Human Rights which speaks to equality. What is Ecclesia’s sinful act in terms of the Bible that you allude to when you say love the sin not the sinner. In the LGBT community that has become rhetoric which really shows bigotry – especially when you cannot even assert the so called SIN! Many people interpret the Bible differently in many different ways. It is a living document and your draconian view is suspect.

    • Dr Curt Minnie May 21, 2013 at 1:51 PM #

      Mark, on any given Sunday in certain communities, members and supporters of our previous government quote over a 100 passages in the Bible they say justified Apartheid!! May I invite you to read 1st Corinthians ch 13 and then reread your article

      • Melanie Nathan May 21, 2013 at 2:06 PM #

        They did the same for slavery and discriminating against black people in America.

        • paulakey245562841 May 22, 2013 at 6:43 PM #

          It is unfortunate, Melanie, that the force that should free us(religion) is the force that enslaves us.
          The Law is our only hope…but many Christians and others of good will are starting to see us as loving and wholesome people.
          Love to you and Ecclesia

          • Melanie Nathan May 22, 2013 at 9:57 PM #

            Beautifully said – thank you

    • Dr. Rex May 21, 2013 at 2:34 PM #

      Oh, Mark …. forgot to say, I don’t care if you love me!!!

    • paulakey245562841 May 22, 2013 at 6:37 PM #

      Dear Mark: If you are quoting from Leviticus, you need to see that Christians today keep most of the abominations. If you are quoting St. Paul, you need to distinguish between love and lust (and unnatural). For lesbians, like myself, the love of women in ‘natural’ for me. I was born this way, a fact that you cannot deny me, because you are not in my body, a body created by my God. Please also note that our relationship to one another is similar to heterosexuals, we bond. The bonding is friendship as well as lover. It is God who will look into hearts and decide if our words and actions are ‘sins.’ Jesus told us not to judge one another.
      He made the most outcast of his day, the Samaritan, the hero of the Parable and drank from the cup of a Samaritan woman. This would have shocked the listeners .If even the shadow of a Samaritan passed over the shadow of a Jew, the Jew wen to the Temple to be purified. Mark, do you see a similarity between you and the Jews of Jesus time? You are juding homosexuals as unnatural or unclean, yet if Jesus came today, he would dine with the homosexual and preside or officiate at our weddings. Jesus is love. Mark, please follow Jesus.

  5. Dr. Rex May 21, 2013 at 2:33 PM #

    To Mark … with all due respect, your comment only shows how close minded you are and how you seem to think that your interpretation of the Bible or the interpretation of the organization that you belong to is the correct one. I agree with Ms. Nathan …. Living document and draconian view.

  6. totidave Catchpole May 23, 2013 at 12:36 AM #

    I, too, agree that Ecclesia has been discriminated against. There are a number of male ministers within the MCSA that are openly living with their same-sex partners and nothing gets said or done about it. Timothy Keller said that if we, as ministers are not attracting the “sinners” and offending the “Teachers of the Law”, as Jesus did, then perhaps w are not teaching the same message and thus need to look more closely at what we ARE teaching. There are too many hypocrites in the MCSA, to be doing much good. BTW I met Ecclesia when I was being Ordained into the MCSA.

    • Melanie Nathan May 23, 2013 at 7:17 AM #

      Thank you for your input – just curious – Are you implying with that quote that loving marital relationships between same-sex couples is sin whe you – if we are not attracting “the sinners?”

  7. Cindybrew May 23, 2013 at 1:47 AM #

    Gay or straight we are all created in the image of the almighty so judge none so that you won’t be judge yes in the old testament god destroy Sodom and gomoral coz of homosexsullity but when jesus came he said old things have past away so we are new that is why he died for our sin so there is nothing like sin if there is still sins meaning Jesus died for nothing so we are all human gay, lesbians,straight ,black or white we are created in god image so let us all ways stand by friends in time of need and support so to the rev the almighty will see you trough

    • Melanie Nathan May 23, 2013 at 7:21 AM #

      Cindybrew – while you make some good points here – not ALL people interpret Sodom and Gomorah as an indictment against loving gay and lesbian relationships – nor as saying that homosexuality is a sin. The context is sibject to an entirely different interpretation and to some people’s way of thinking the Bible has been grossly misused in your interpretation. The context in the stpry of Sodom and gem wa sone of WAR – IDOL WORSHIP – RAPE – that is why the cities were destroyed. Nowehere does the Bible condemn loving same-sex relationships

      • Cindybrew May 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM #

        The thing is during the time when the Time when god gave the ten commandment which was the laws there was nothing there like do not commit same sex rather it was no adultery it didn’t specify if straight to gay so all this is not from the bible rather people are just being judgmental over people,s life criticism will never end

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  1. SA Lesbian minister has her day in court | O-blog-dee-o-blog-da - May 22, 2013

    […] Cape High Court to hear case by Lesbian Reverend against Methodist Church […]

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