Lesbian gets OK to be minister
October 21, 2003
Lesbian lay preacher Deborah Gordon is overjoyed at a Presbyterian Church ruling that gives her a chance of becoming a minister.
The church announced that its highest court had overturned a decision last year barring her from training to become a minister.
"I'm overjoyed because I have felt called to the ministry for a very long time," said Ms Gordon, a 40-year-old librarian and lay worker at St Andrews On The Terrace who first applied to be a minister five years ago.
She hopes her application to train will be heard before the end of the year.
Ms Gordon said other gays were in the Presbyterian ministry but they were people who were not identified as homosexuals when they went into the ministry.
A case in point was St Andrew's minister Margaret Mayman, but Ms Gordon said as far as she knew she was the first person known to be a lesbian when applying to train.
The church's highest court, a judicial commission headed by Sir Duncan McMullin, cited a 1994 Assembly decision saying no specific regulations barred the ordination of homosexuals.
The commission said procedures for objection existed before the licensing, ordination or induction of any person but there was no express objection in principle to the induction of homosexuals.
The Rev Dr Mayman said St Andrews was celebrating the Church's decision. Ms Gordon's application for training had been strongly supported by St Andrews and the Wellington Presbytery.
"This is an overwhelming wonderful moment in the life of the Presbyterian Church. For gay and lesbian Presyterians it is a welcome home, an honouring that we are members of the Church with the same right and responsibilities as everyone else."
Many had struggled to remain in a church that had declared them second class Christians, she said.
Parish convenor Douglas Wood said St Andrews had benefited greatly from Ms Gordon's ministry of music, teaching, liturgy, preaching and care.
Acting Presbyterian Moderator Rob Yule tried to dampen protest from those within the church who oppose gays in leadership positions.
"Within the church there will be different reactions," said the Very Rev Yule who called for respect for the way the church conducted its affairs.
A church network opposed to gay preachers and elders last year declared liberalisation on this issue was wrong.