Gay former church minister Ecclesia De Lange has expressed deep disappointment at the Constitutional Court’s decision to dismiss her appeal over her axing from the Methodist Church …

“I respectfully accept the ruling of the Constitutional Court, however, I have to admit I am extremely and deeply disappointed in the ruling,” she told News24 on Tuesday.

“My legal team and I we are studying the papers [the ruling] and we will release a fuller statement as soon as possible.”

She said there would possibly be two statements, one dealing with the legal aspects of the ruling and the other of a more personal nature.

“In terms of the next step for me, I still need to come to terms with the judgment. It is not an easy decision to say I am going to do this or do that. We need to regroup.”

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Earlier on Tuesday, the Constitutional Court dismissed her appeal over an arbitration agreement with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

“In terms of the next step for me, I still need to come to terms with the judgment”

Suspended for wanting to marry her partner

She was suspended and discontinued as an active minister in 2010 for breaching church policy after announcing her intended marriage to her same-sex partner.

The two have since divorced.

The matter was referred for internal arbitration and a convener entered into a final agreement on her behalf with the church a year later.

“I am persuaded by the submissions of the church that arbitration would be the ideal forum for Ms De Lange and the church to see where the balance between dogma and tolerance should be struck,” Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said in a unanimous written judgment.

“It is not only appropriate but it would be the best solution in the present circumstances.”

Not shown good cause

De Lange initially attempted to have the agreement set aside in the Western Cape High Court. She contended at the time that she had been unfairly discriminated against.

The Supreme Court of Appeal concurred with the High Court finding, saying she had disavowed the unfair discrimination claim.

According to a Constitutional Court summary on Tuesday, De Lange had conceded before it that she was in breach of the church’s rule barring ministers from entering into same-sex marriages. However, she had argued that the church’s reliance on the rule contravened her right to equality under the Constitution.

The court found she had not shown good cause to set the arbitration agreement aside. It also ruled that she was not free to raise the claim of unfair discrimination for the first time on appeal.

It was of the opinion that she should have first taken her unfair discrimination claim to the Equality Court.

The church welcomed the ruling on Tuesday

“We are relieved that this judgment finally brings this matter to a close. We regret the fact that this matter had to go as far as the Constitutional Court or any court for that matter,” said presiding Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa.

“We note with appreciation that our court and legal processes recognise the ability of the church to self-govern through its biblical beliefs, doctrine and constitution.”

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