Anybody who has had the pleasure of being in the presence of Reverend Louis Laurens Botha (Laurie) Gaum can attest to his gentle demeanour, inviting nature, and unwavering pursuit for justice. It comes as no surprise then, that Laurie was recently awarded this year’s Jaap Durand-Denise Ackermann Award for Unity, Reconciliation and Justice for ‘embodying the values of the Belhar Confession’.
Laurie is no stranger to IAM, having been a part of our team between 2008 and 2010, and remaining a friend of the organisation to date. Long before LGBTIQ+ activism was as celebrated, affirmed and encouraged as it is today, Laurie was outed as a gay man and because of the societal positions he held, this was initially met with antagonism and a defrocking of his ministerial office. But it was this turning point that motivated him to reclaim power over his life, ministry and activism; and share that offering with the communities he found himself in. The will to triumph this adversity Laurie says, was restored by the support of his parents, family, comrades, and colleagues who understood his need to reconcile his embodied personhood with his greater existence.
Laurie was later reinstated as a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, a milestone that encouraged him and others to forge ahead and take up space, in spite of what resistance lay ahead. It was this resilience that would lead to a cardinal ruling of The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria which found that the Dutch Reformed Church’s policy against solemnising same-sex marriages diminished the integrity of gay congregants. Laurie notes this action as having been taken with the aim of building an inclusive church, and also set a legal precedent for other churches who may grapple with the same set of issues. Although great strides have been made, he acknowledges that the journey to complete liberation will be a long and ongoing one.
This of course cannot be done without maintaining mutually beneficial relations between the LGBTIQ+ community and its allies. Speaking on allyship, Laurie asserts that “the church needs to be in solidarity with the pain and suffering of the people. It should be aware of its own vulnerabilities, as well as the vulnerabilities of its membership; all the while working to allay people’s deepest anxieties and fears”. He concludes that “if this is how the church could begin to reimagine and present itself, then it could be a better place for all who find themselves there.”
Laurie describes receiving this award as an acknowledgement and recognition of his being – an acknowledgement of being seen. This experience has also been testament to the values of the Gospel to which he has devoted his life and work. It is through this being that he hopes to remain a continuum of connection between people; between body and spirit; and between the sexual and spiritual. It is through and by this communion that Laurie would like to be known and remembered. GL
About Inclusive and Affirming Ministries:
IAM works towards the full recognition, celebration and participation of LGBTIQ+ people in faith communities across Africa.
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