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Presbyterian Church policy on homosexual ministers

21 October 2003

Press Release for Immediate Issue

Ruling on Presbyterian Church policy on homosexual ministers

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand today announced a decision clarifying Church policies regarding homosexual ministers.

A Church Judicial Commission headed by Sir Duncan McMullin, heard an appeal by Ms Deborah Gordon, an applicant for ministry, and the Wellington Presbytery. The appeal was against a 2002 decision not to assess Ms Gordon, who is a lesbian woman, as an applicant.

The Commission allowed the appeal. Their ruling states that a 1994 Assembly decision is the Church’s position. The decision says “ there are currently no specific regulations barring the ordination of homosexuals.”

The decision also states that: “to date no Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has specifically endorsed the ordination of practicing homosexuals” and that “there are procedures for objection prior to the licensing, ordination or induction of any person.”

The Commission found on the basis of the 1994 decision “This seems to us an indication that there was no expressed objection in principle to the licensing, ordination or induction of homosexuals as a class.”

Assembly Executive Secretary, Kerry Enright, said “ a Judicial Commission has the status of the highest court of the Church and there is no further right of appeal from its decisions.” Mr Enright said that decisions on these matters could only be made at the Church’s General Assemblies. The next Assembly will be held in Christchurch in 2004.”

Acting Moderator, the Very Rev Rob Yule, said the Presbyterian Church had well-established procedures that allowed all people the right of appeal from committee decisions.

“ This decision exemplifies the Church’s use of judicial and open processes.”

“Within the Church there will be different reactions to the Commission’s decision”, he said. Mr Yule called on people in the Church to continue to respect the way the Church conducts its affairs.

The Commission has directed that Ms Gordon’s application to train for ministry be heard in the very near future.

Ends

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