For many years, the conversation around the acceptance and inclusion of members of the LGBTQI community within spaces of worship has raised numerous questions and opinions. According to the Head of programming at the Thani Dish Foundation, Jay Judah Matlou, unfortunately some of the challenges in places of worship still include rejection and discrimination.
The Thani Dish foundation seeks to support young, LGBTI individuals from disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Their core objective is to encourage and motivate young LGBTI members to dream beyond their current circumstances and moreover and to equip them with the necessary tools. In addition, the organization also provides bursaries to LGBTI individuals who are based in Gauteng.
“One of the challenges members of the LGBTQI community go through is that there is still some rejection from the religious sector, and that rejection has disastrous effects. The after-effects of the internalised hate can be quite damaging. I am not saying that all members of the LGBTQI community are or must be religious. But just like everybody else, I believe they should be afforded the opportunity to strengthen the spiritual or religious side of themselves should we desire to do so,” said Matlou.
“The law of the country says you are protected regardless of your race, gender and sexual orientation. The highest law of the country protects the rights of LGBTQI people. But when powerful structures and people abuse their positions to humiliate people based on their sexual orientation and their identity, it gives rise to many problems,” noted Matlou.
According to Reverend Gcebile Gina, a priest in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and a systematic theology lecturer at the College of the Transfiguration, the conversation around the acceptance of members of the LGBTQI community is misplaced and should not be happening within the church.
“In my view, the church shouldn’t even be talking about whether to accept people or not. The church should be accepting people the way they are. My view, of course, respects and acknowledges the fact that there are other views out there. I believe we are not made righteous before God by our own doings, we are made righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith,” she said.
Despite the challenges currently faced by members of the LGBTQI community in places of worship, progress is being made and more people are beginning to accept the LGBTQI community. “At the Thami Dish Foundation, we are getting amazing requests from different kinds of churches who write to us and ask us to please come in, train them and give them information that will allow them to sensitise the pastors and members of the congregation,” said Matlou