Mogoeng counsels gays to find ‘cure’

When church services at Johannesburg’s Winners Chapel International (WCI) end, congregants can report to an office where a string of pastors stand ready to rescue souls, drive out illnesses and cure “deviations”.

Among the “deviations” the church can apparently cure through prayer and counselling is homosexuality.

And one of the pastors doing this counselling is Constitutional Court judge Mogoeng Mogoeng, who has just been nominated by President Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s new chief justice for the next 10 years.

If or when Mogoeng leads the judiciary, however, the Constitution demands that he treats everyone as equals before the law, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

Asked about this Nigerian church’s attitude towards gay people, one of WCI’s senior pastors, Samuel Dennar, said homosexuality was an unacceptable deviation condemned by the Bible.

“We transform such behaviour (homosexuality) through prayer and counselling according to the teachings of the Bible.
“We do not condemn anyone and will help anyone,” he said.

One of the pastors who was standing at the ready on Wednesday night to offer counselling and prayer was Mogoeng, clad in a grey suit with a red tie.

The church also prohibits abortion and is widely criticised for its so-called “wealth preaching”.

The head of the church, Bishop David Oyedepo, is Nigeria’s wealthiest evangelist, with a personal fortune estimated at a billion rand.

On Wednesday night, congregants were encouraged to buy Oyedepo’s many books – which describe among other things – how homosexuality can be cured.

Judicial and constitutional experts are now asking questions about Mogoeng’s suitability for the position of chief justice.

He is accused of being inexperienced and of deferring to the executive authority.

During his two years in the Constitutional Court he gave two dissenting judgments – one without providing reasons – which led to speculation that he is extremely conservative and even homophobic.

One of these cases dealt with freedom of speech and sexual orientation. A former deputy principal of a Pretoria school sued three boys because they had pictured him as homo-sexual.

The Constitutional Court rejected his claim because it cannot be considered slanderous to portray someone as homosexual.

Judge Mogoeng dissented from his colleagues – without giving any reasons.

Dennar said there were no contradictions in WCI’s policy on, for instance, homosexuality or abortion.

He said the church was very similar to churches such as Rhema.

“We do what the Bible says we must do,” he says.

“You have the Constitution, we have the church.”

He said Mogoeng was not a full pastor in the church, only a pastoral assistant.

Mogoeng attended the WCI’s Bible school in Johannesburg, after which he was sworn in.

He did not preach, but visited congregants at their homes, undertaking counselling and prayer sessions.

Dennar rejected fears that, should Mogoeng apply in practice what his church preached, he would be in contravention of the Constitution.

“All I can tell you is that he is an honest, sincere and hard-working church man.”

And how does the church expect Mogoeng to act if a case involving homosexuality were to come before the court?

“He is a judge and should take judicial decisions,” was the response.

Mogoeng was not available for comment on Wednesday night. Church officials said he was busy counselling.

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