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Progressive Presbyterians Saddened at Prohibition

Media Statement re Presbyterian Church Decision

Progressive Presbyterians Saddened at Prohibition

Progressive Presbyterians at the General Assembly were deeply saddened that the Assembly today rejected partnered gay and lesbian people, and people living in de facto relationships, as ministers and elders. They regard the decision as an affront to the gospel.

Tears of sorrow and hymns of faith intermingled as dissenting commissioners joined a line to register their strong objection to the decision, with many singing “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim.”

The Presbyterian General Assembly, the biennial gathering of the national church, ratified a ruling that had been under consideration for two years and put in place legislation to prohibit the licensing, ordination or induction of gay and lesbian people and people living in de facto relationships.

Rev Dr Margaret Mayman, spokesperson for the Association of Reconciling Christians and Congregations (ARCC) compared the determination of the progressive wing of the Presbyterian Church to that of people involved in past justice struggles. “This issue will one day be seen alongside the debates on topics such as Galileo’s discoveries about the universe, women’s ordination, and the belief that racism and apartheid are contrary to the gospel. In all of these debates, opponents of progress used the Bible to justify their positions. Now we realise how profoundly shameful their conservatism was for the church.”

The decision taken does not affect gay and lesbian people who at the time of the 2004 Assembly were already ministers and elders. Rev David Clark of Auckland, one of a number of gay and lesbian Presbyterian ministers pointed out that because the decision is not retrospective, a number of people who are gay or lesbian can now be ordained and inducted without challenge. However, he remains very concerned about the ministers and elders in de facto relationships who are not protected.

A network of open congregations is being formed to support Presbyterian parishes that cannot conscience this decision. Says Rev Dr Robyn McPhail, minister of a rural Northland parish, “the Progressive Presbyterian network will comprise Presbyterians and members of other traditions who look for ways to sow seeds of hope in their wider communities and be a Christian presence contributing for positive change in the contemporary world.

A number of parishes have declared that they will refuse to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status and will continue to select leaders in their parishes on the basis of their gifts and sense of call to leadership irrespective of the Assembly decision.

“This is a crucial issue for Presbyterians. We believe that the church will never be able to connect with society as long as it discriminates against groups of people”, said Dr. Mayman.


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