Several protesters occupied the Grace Bible Church in Soweto on Sunday to protest discrimination against gay people in the church.
The protesters carried rainbow coloured placards quoting Bible verses which preached love, tolerance and acceptance.
— Cam (@CamModisane) January 29, 2017
This comes after visiting Ghanaian-born Bishop Dag Heward-Mills compared homosexuality to nature, saying it was unnatural. The sermon was brought to light after local celebrity Somizi Mhlongo posted a video on his Instagram page the previous Sunday.
Cameron Modisane who is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) activist and one of the leaders of the protest at the church, says they were protesting because they were deeply offended by the utterances made by the bishop comparing LGBTI people to animals.
“We believe that it is hate speech, we believe that it is bigotry and we are totally against that. We wanted him and the church to retract those statements because we felt that they are harmful and they are trampling on our dignity as people,” he said.
Modisane said they can’t tolerate religious bigotry in the 21st Century.
Following the scandal, the church was quick to assure its congregants that they don’t subscribe to the discrimination. In a previous interview with DESTINY, Pastor Ezekiel Mathole from the church said they welcome debate and dialogue in the church and there have been different responses on the matter. Some people were pro the message that was preached while others were against it.
“We are open to discuss contrary views so that they should come to the open, so that we as a society can talk about these things without anybody going into hate speech,” he said.
However, not all were supportive of the church’s message of acceptance. Some felt that the church is obligated to target “sin” and preach about things that are mentioned in the Bible.
Pastor Lesiba Kgwele from Mahikeng Ministers Fellowship on Sunday said the sermon of Bishop Dag Heward-Mills delivered at Grace Bible Church was not targeted at gay communities, but was preached out of love according to a report by News 24 Wire.
“Dag Heward-Mills didn’t cross the line for his sermon to be considered hate speech. It is a pastor’s mandate to preach the word of God and that message was preached out of love. People prefer to hear a Gospel that tickles their ears.”