By Karen Breytenbach

Laurie Gaum, the Cape Town dominee fired for allegedly having a gay sexual relationship, has submitted a letter of appeal to the Dutch Reformed Church, arguing that it cannot be proved that he had sex with his partner.

In the letter, which to his dismay was leaked to the press, Gaum said he had been prejudiced during an investigation by a local presbytery because - before its probe into his suspected promiscuity had begun - some of its members had expressed their belief that homosexuality was a sin.

Gaum also objected to a bar on his being represented by his lawyer. Francois Wessels, a member of the presbytery, said the church did not allow any subject of a disciplinary hearing to be represented by a lawyer, although a lawyer could assist - and had done so in Gaum's case.

Wessels said the presbytery recommended that Gaum be dismissed because it had "enough evidence to reasonably conclude that Gaum did have a sexual relationship with his partner". The investigation was launched after Gaum's partner of four years, Douw Wessels, a psychologist, committed suicide six months ago.

"The same principle (of abstinence) would have applied if his partner were Douwlina," Wessels explained.

"It's still sex out of wedlock."

Gaum was a dominee at St Stephen's in Riebeeck Square, Cape Town, when he was relieved of his duties a month ago by his congregation, at the presbytery's recommendation.

When it announced its findings, the presbytery told Gaum he could return to the ministry if he swore to lead a celibate life.

He was given 30 days to appeal to the synod of the Western and Southern Cape, which he did on Tuesday.

Gaum said he had "great faith in the church and how they would rule" .

He believed justice would prevail, because "that is what the gospel is about".

Since his dismissal Gaum has been on the lecture circuit and has presented a module on sexual ethics at the University of the Western Cape.

"While I'm awaiting the synod's response, I am considering a few options ... in the ministry," he said.

He said he could not comment on the contents of his letter of appeal, because the process was "confidential".