Gay reverend’s appeal dismissed

Ecclesia de Lange claims she was unfairly dismissed on the basis of her sexual orientation.

Ecclesia de Lange claims she was unfairly dismissed on the basis of her sexual orientation. Picture: Facebook.

CAPE TOWN - Reverend Ecclesia de Lange, who has been in a legal battle against The Methodist Church of Southern Africa for the past few years, has lost her appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

The woman claimed she was unfairly dismissed by the church in 2010 because of her sexual orientation.

In December 2009, de Lange told her Windsor Park congregation she was going to marry her female partner.

She then took the matter to the Western Cape High Court where the judge declared her application 'premature' and dismissed the case.

De Lange then approached the appeals court in Bloemfontein where the matter was also dismissed.

The SCA ruled the determination of who is morally and religiously fit to conduct pastoral duties or who should be excluded for non-conformity with the dictates of religion "fall within the core religious functions."

While reports suggest the Methodist church doesn't have a doctrine on same-sex marriage, the church is claiming that such rules still exist.

De Lange was apparently charged with announcing her intention to enter into same-sex marriage on the basis that this pre-empted the outcome of a continuing debate on the matter inside the church.

Speaking on 567 Cape Talk on Wednesday morning, the woman said she is still studying the judgment and has not specifically thought of her next plan of action.

"The legal documents focus on things in terms of the Arbitration Act of 1996 and the process within the church with regards to that process. The merit of the case is not addressed at all."

De Lange said the SCA's judgment was based on its interpretation of the legal documents.

"That doesn't mean that [the judgment] is correct."

She maintains she went to the high court because she is convinced that the process within the church is unjust.

When asked why she had not started her own church that would welcome same-sex marriages, she said, "It's not about starting your own churches it's about, in Christian terms, the body of Christ."

De Lange says it's about celebrating diversity and not putting people in boxes.

"It's about allowing people to be who they are created to be. Starting a new church misses the point."

De Lange is still in talks with her legal representatives on whether to approach the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.