Church to wrestle over blessing same-sex marriages

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

As pressure mounts, the Methodist Church's leadership will decide at the church's regional conference in September whether to allow same-sex marriages or to continue its policy of disallowing its ministers to bless these unions.

This comes in the wake of 19 Methodist ministers in Cape Town asking if they could marry gay and lesbian couples.

Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Reverend Ivan Abrahams, told Sowetan yesterday that the conference brings together bishops from its 12 synods and is the church's highest decision-making body in the region.

"If there is a proposal from any of the 12 synods, this will go to that decision-making body.

"With regard to same-sex unions, we are still in conversation on this issue," he said.

Abrahams said the church's bishops will have to "take into account" the fact that the Methodist church operates in other countries where same-sex marriages are banned.

South Africa is the only African country to legalise gay and lesbian marriages.

Abrahams confirmed that the Methodist Church does not allow its ministers to follow their conscience and bless same-sex marriages.

"Ministers are guided by the policies and discipline of the church. Our current position is that we are in dialogue on this issue.

"Ministers who follow their conscience stand outside of the family who have taken a covenant on this issue," he said.

The dissident ministers in Cape Town on Friday asked the church leadership at the synod of the Cape of Good Hope district if they would be allowed to conduct same-sex marriages. The synod initially asked the ministers to leave, but later called them back.

It was later agreed that dissident ministers had "no malicious intent" and it was recommended that a "process of mediation" be started to clarify the church's position.

The other large Christian churches in South Africa do not sanctify same-sex marriages.