Presbyterian Cleric Calls for Resignation
Release - St Andrew's Trust for the Study of Religion and Society
A Presbyterian clergyman, the Rev Rhys Pearson of Wanganui, last week called for the resignation of church elders and ministers who hold that "Jesus Christ is nothing more than a symbol of our evolutionary development".
On the Presbyterian website Mr Pearson made known his objections to St Andrew's on The Terrace in Wellington being used for the lectures of Polish eco-philosopher and evolutionist, Henryk Skolimowski. Professor Skolimowski is the year 2000 Geering Lecturer brought here by the St Andrew's Trust for the Study of Religion & Society. In some promotion material Mr Pearson had seen the quotation from one of Professor Skolimowski books which said, "There is a way of incorporating the Christo-Genesis into the evolutionary design, namely by treating Jesus not as God, . . . . but as a symbol, as an inspiration . . ."
When another clerical contributor to the website, the Rev Alistair McBride of Hamilton, pointed out that St Andrew's Trust is an independent body and not under the jurisdiction of any presbytery, a distressed Rev Pearson maintained that a church could not be used for activities which deny the existence of God.
"It is long past the time when those who cannot accept the standards of the PCANZ [Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand] had the personal integrity to resign and promote their beliefs from a different platform", said Mr Pearson. He also commented that he knew heresy trials were out of fashion and wasn't suggesting anything like that, but felt that Regulation 474 of the Book of Order recommended the disciplining of any parish council which allowed a church to be used to promote anti-Christian beliefs.
Dr James Stuart, of St Andrew's Trust and the minister at St Andrew's on The Terrace is not worried by a heresy trial. "The threat of heresy has too often been used to silence the search for truth and understanding."
Dr Stuart, who has faced criticism in the past for his openness to the ordination of gay clerics, says he agrees with the 1997 Geering Lecturer, Bishop John Spong, who believes it is time for the "church to get out of the behaviour control business. Stuart says, "We have entered a new millennium and I am quite confident that within the Christian faith there is more than ample room for the views of an internationally recognised ecological scholar such as Professor Skolimowski."