frgavin on April 18th, 2011

Andrew Stone

Daily Despatch East London

A former Grahamstown Anglican Church bishop and a retired archdeacon have called on all Christian churches to bless and endorse gay marriages.

Retired Archdeacon Daes of East London

Retired Archdeacon Deas of East London

In remarks that will most certainly re-ignite the debate on church policy, Bishop David Russell, who now lives in Cape Town, and Graeme Deas, a retired archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese in Grahamstown and former rector of St John’s Church in East London, have come out in support of same-sex marriages taking place in churches.

“This is an issue that all churches are grappling with and we’re trying to encourage dialogue on the issue because it’s not going to go away,” said Russell, speaking to the Dispatch yesterday (March 11).

“Traditionally, the Church has taught that homosexual behaviour is not in keeping with the scriptures.”

But both Russell and Deas believe the issue needs to be revisited as the Church has adapted and changed or relaxed its stance on other contentious issues, such as divorce, in the past.

“The values we place on heterosexual relationships should apply to homosexual relationships, too,”  Russell said.

“We need to recognise the diversity of sexual orientation in people and accept that God made (homosexuals) and accepts them as they are.”

Deas said that while society was becoming more accepting of same-sex relationships, it was often an issue still frowned upon by the Church.

“It is in churches that gays and lesbians often find themselves more discriminated against than ever. Ultimately, we would like to see a situation where all churches in South Africa perform same-sex marriages and offer a place where gays and lesbians can openly go and worship.”

Deas said they wanted to engage with and help people who had a different perspective on the issue. “I personally don’t believe the Bible was cast in stone and it’s a product of its time,” he said. “There are people who believe that if you’re not straight you will go to hell.

“But we’re saying God makes us all, and gays and lesbians should be able to celebrate who they are because God made them that way.”

The majority of churches around East London contacted by the Dispatch said they welcomed gays and lesbians, but said that due to existing policy they could not perform same-sex marriages.

Reverend Larry Dias of the AGS Charisma Church in Southernwood said the church fell under the Apostolic Faith Mission, which dictated policy.

“According to the constitution we are not allowed to marry same-sex couples, but they are welcome to attend church meetings,” he said.

But Pastor Gavin Cox of the Highway Community Church said that pursuing a gay or lesbian lifestyle and a Christian lifestyle would be “contradictory”.

“But if someone approached us for help to break out of that lifestyle we would accept that person,” he said.

Pastor Stephen Dalziel of the Judah Worship Tabernacle said they were “totally committed to the word of God”.

“We don’t believe in (same-sex marriages) and will not perform them. God does not hate gays and lesbians; He hates the sin they commit.”

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