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01 September 2015

Former Methodist minister fights dismissal in the Constitutional Court

On 28 August, the Constitutional Court heard the case of Ecclesia de Lange vs. the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa.

Ecclesia is appealing her suspension as a minister of the church following her announcement in 2009 of her intention to marry her same-sex partner. The case raises important and complex questions as to where constitutional rights protecting discrimination intersect with rights to religious freedom and to freedom of association. See here for the media summary issued by the court. Judgement is expected in the next few weeks.

Ecclesia De Lange during a break in proceedings at the Constitutional Court

GALA got to know Ecclesia this year as one of the participants in our upcoming exhibition Journeys of Faith, which tells the stories of members of the LGBTI community and their experiences reconciling their religious and spiritual beliefs with their sexual orientation or gender identity. Below is an extract from Ecclesia's section of the exhibition:

Raised in a charismatic church, Ecclesia's journey led her to the Methodist Church, where she trained and was ordained as a minister. Prior to this she had spent time with the Rhema Church, where she was involved with a support group for 'recovering' LGBT people, but realised that her sexuality was not something that could be or needed 'fixing'.

In December 2009, Ecclesia announced to her Windsor Park congregation that she was marrying her female partner. This led to her suspension and later dismissal as a minister; same-sex marriage continues to be a divisive issue within the Methodist Church. Ecclesia has since been fighting her dismissal, culminating with her case being heard by the Constitutional Court.

Ecclesia De Lange as represented in the Journeys of Faith exhibition

'I thought the church would have more grace, that it was serious about journeying with gay people,' Ecclesia says. 'But the way they dealt with me was so quick and punitive.'

Ecclesia now works for the faith-based NGO Affirming and Inclusive Ministries, which is based in Cape Town.

Members of the GALA team and Rev. Nokuthula Dhladhla show their support 





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