Sexuality no barrier says Church
21st October 2003
Deborah Gordon, a lesbian woman who wishes to become a Presbyterian minister, can now apply for ministry following her appeal.
Last year she was refused an interview by the National Assessment Workgroup based on a a 1999 legal opinion that no "practising homosexual" should be licenced or ordained, except for existing ministers.
Ms Gordon appealed the decision to the Church Judicial Commission, which has the status of the highest court of the Church.
The Commission concluded that the legal opinion that the Church had decided not to allow gays and lesbians in leadership roles was wrong.
The Commission's decision states that "there are currently no specific regulations barring the ordination of homosexuals" and 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 Judicial Commission confirmed the Church's 1994 decision that there are currently no specific regulations barring the ordination of gay and lesbian people.
St Andrew's on The Terrace, Ms Gordon's home parish, celebrated the decision.
"This is an overwhelmingly wonderful moment in the life of the Presbyterian Church," said Rev Dr Margaret Mayman, the minister of St Andrew's on The Terrace.
"For gay and lesbian Presbyterians it is a welcome home, an honouring that we are members of the church with the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. We have come to this day through the commitment of many gay and lesbian people who have struggled to remain in a church that had declared us second class Christians. I am thankful for Deborah's courage and for the dedication of all the gay and straight Presbyterians who have struggled to see our church become whole again," Dr Mayman said.
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."