- Advocacy matters.
TEASA exists – among other things – to advocate evangelical concerns in the public space. Currently there are two matters of concern: one is before the courts, the other before parliament. The first is a legal challenge to the autonomy of Churches to decide on matters of doctrine. The other is a matter of the public good, and calls on churches to contribute to land justice, which is important to remedy historic injustices.
A matter before the Courts.
GAUM and others vs DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH and others
On 21 August 2018, the Pretoria High Court will hear arguments in an important case that could potentially have dire implications for the autonomy of the Church – and indeed the broader religious community – in South Africa.
The issue before the Court is the 2016 decision by the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) pertaining to the authority of their congregations to make independent decisions relating to same-sex marriages / civil unions. However, it has morphed into a case which potentially challenges the ability of each denomination, church or religious grouping to set their own doctrine and to be entitled to govern their internal affairs according to their interpretation of their religious doctrine.
The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has made an application to intervene as a “Friend of the Court” (Amicus Curiae) in the case. The CGE are asking the Court to find that, from a constitutional point of view, religious organisations / groupings should not have a discretion to decide whether or not they recognise same-sex civil unions / marriages / relationships.
TEASA believes this would be a severe infringement of religious freedom and the autonomy of the religious community as a whole.
For this reason, it is very important that churches in South Africa – irrespective of their own doctrinal views on the issue of same-sex relationships within the Church – intervene and make their voices heard .
For this reason TEASA will act as Amicus Curiae, with assistance from Christian Lawyers who came together as The Alliance Defending the Autonomy of churches in South Africa (ADACSA) to help the court find in favour of the right of churches to determine their own doctrinal position regarding this matter, which has significant bearing on the family. (See attached Briefing Note and how your Church can participate.)
2. A matter before Parliament: The Land Question.
Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee looking into amending Section 25 of the Constitution which deals with expropriation of land without compensation – will embark on a provincial tour to hold public hearings on the subject from next month. From June 26 to August 4, the committee will travel to the nine provinces, where they will hold at least three meetings per province in different venues.
The idea is to listen to a broad section of the South African society about how best to remedy historic injustices in respect of land. Current constitutional arrangements relating to Land reform and Land Expropriation have not delivered on the promise of land justice. There is criticism that the process has been unbearably slow, and that the act appears to be weighted in favour of owners rather than claimants.
It stands to reason that the Church should advocate for land justice. There is adequate biblical warrant for restitution as a way to remedy past wrongs. Justice, however, is not always adequate to win sustainability and the flourishing of the common good. It is for this reason that, in the search for solutions, consideration must be given to:
1) The cries of the poor with legitimate claims for land.
2) The history of land reform to date, and why it has not often produced the desired results.
3) The empirical evidence of land justice elsewhere in the world.
4) The views of experts in the field.
With all these considered, to enquire of the Lord, and ask for wisdom in finding the path forward. TEASA encourages Christians to take their civic responsibility seriously and participate in the hearings and make submissions.