Different church leaders gathered in Philippi last Friday to better understand why believers were falling victim to what they called “charlatan religious leaders”.
At the dialogue, themed “Being a member of a sensitive church in an abusive world” in Brown’s Farm, Philippi last Friday, the church leaders said they believed it was largely due to a “lack of understanding and knowledge of God’s will”.
During rigorous engagement, the leaders said the aim was to create a space where everyone could speak freely in church. They said they want women and girls, as well as those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transex, Intersex, and Queer (LGTIQ) to talk freely about criminality inside the church.
They said they as leaders needed to contribute to ending crime and discrimination in the church.
Co-ordinator Reverend Mawande Lugogolo warned that abusers to stop using religion to promote social ills.
“We want to be a sensitive church in the sense that we want people to speak about issues that are deemed as sensitive or not allowed in the church. We have challenges in churches and things that are not allowed and yet they are real. With this, we want to be the voice for the voiceless. This gathering was no longer about the talkshop but we wanted action. We want solutions too” said Mr Lugongolo.
He added that everyone and every church was responsible for taking care of its community and that the church needed to be accessible to and part of its community.
His words were echoed by many speakers including representatives of the non-governmental organisations at the gathering.
Cesvi Foundation’s Luvuyo Zahela warned churches and their leaders about what they preached in church and criticised churches which hid behind the Bible to justify its discrimination against gays and lesbians and prostitution.
“We have got to be careful as churches that our preaching does not cause misery. Women in prostitution should find comfort in church. The church is a vehicle of healing and transformation. It should heal the wounds,” he said.
Some young people called for the churches to accept them as they are, accusing the churches of being “too judgemental” of young people.
Ultimately, it was agreed that all must be accepted in the church and that churches needed to be visible and accessible to all.
The men of God also called on the community, women and children, and LGBTI groups to break the silence and speak out to break the cycle of abuse in church and for men to protect children and women everywhere.