Geno Sisneros

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride nz.com [00:00:05] My name is Gina Cisneros. I'm [00:00:08] an American citizen who's lived in New Zealand for the past 14 years as a permanent residence. I've done a bachelor theology degree which is a three year degree that I took over about five years grew up Pentecostal and a very fundamentalist Pentecostal church for the most part of my life. [00:00:29] I have a partner, we've been together for years over four years. [00:00:36] We sitting in some material your city, what's been your involvement with selected, [00:00:41] I first came to St. Matthew in the city eight years ago, and I had was new to Auckland and I was looking for a job. And at the same time, I was also looking for a church. And, and I came across it at his website. And, and it sounded interesting to me, I was probably still consider myself a fundamentalist driven up to that point. And for a while after that, even when I started coming to St. Matthews, and attended an ATM service one morning and our Vicar, Glenn cardi preached, and I was sort of taken aback by the kind of language he used to describe God and the experience of God, it was something I hadn't heard before. And it obviously must have appealed to me, because it stuck with me and made me curious to know whether or not there was other ways of being Christian. And so that relationship with the congregation developed and I applied for the role that was opened here, which at the time was it was just going to cover marketing communications till someone else's brought on board for that, and then became part of the administration stuff and then eventually became the events manager here. [00:01:56] What kind of language was being used? [00:01:58] It was, it was the general gender neutral language that he talked about garden, he didn't. It actually had nothing to do with gender. In fact, he was advocating for the opposite. And his, what I eventually learned about his theology that appealed to me was that he didn't believe God was, you know, this male being that lived up in heaven, and sort of intervened in the in the affairs of the world whenever it suited him. The God was far more mysterious and bigger. And and so I suppose, with all that I came to realize that it was not possible for me any longer to put God into this little box that was comfortable. For me, it was actually quite liberating, to come to that realization. [00:02:46] Tell me why is religion and spirituality important to you? [00:02:51] Religion, [00:02:53] your rights in this making a distinction between the two because I don't think they're the same. Religion spirituality. From my perspective, spirituality is anything as formal as, as the ritual of the Eucharist coming to church on Sunday mornings, anything is sort of casual is lighting a candle and having a cup of hot KMLT. At night, it's me that's very spiritual as well. I think what spirituality does is it is meant to have from my perspective and a nurturing aspect to it. So in other words, you keep finding ways to keep your spirit nurtured as you're doing work in religion. And for us here, it's an ethics course, that's all largely tied up with social justice issues. And the other part of spirituality as well as that it also part of spirituality is trying to understand what spirituality is. And so I think, for myself on me, that encompasses all of that it's very relational thing, he teaches me how to relate to people. You know, those kinds of skills and dealing with people that don't come natural to some of us, opening our minds to understanding other ways of their opinions. So, you know, they both got they go hand in hand, religion and spirituality, and one should nurture the other, I think, [00:04:21] in terms of religion, what what are your thoughts on religion? [00:04:26] My thoughts on religion are that I have to tell you about the case that were written is I met a priest outside who I know is an acquaintance of mine outside at the other day, and she mentioned to me that people were very angry at me, the Anglican Church, for bringing, you know, the case that we're going to talk about today, to the Human Rights Tribunal. And her position on that was they're angry at you because you were being disloyal to the church. And I didn't respond to her when she said that. But when I went away and thought about it, I thought, well, my loyalty isn't actually to the church, it's to the gospel message. And so religion at its best, organized religion, at its best for me is something that doesn't require a loyalty, it's not a membership. It's not. I mean, you don't have to fill out a membership form and get approved to be a part of Anglicanism, it's just not the way it works. And I think it's ideally, organized religion is more fluid, and it's welcoming, and it allows for a plurality of ways of being Christian. And it doesn't always do that. And I think a lot of the time, it doesn't do that. And I suppose I kind of see a lot of what I do, and a lot of what we do here, st Matthews is kind of sort of being a beacon and and another example of another way of being Christian [00:05:55] summit University has had a strong association with what is being gay, transgender, bisexual community. For DK, yes. How does St. Matthew fit in with the Anglican Church? [00:06:11] We are, we're probably more vocal in terms of our public theology in terms of our sermons, and, you know, the articles we write for publication and our billboards are a big part of our public theology. But there, but there is a place for us in the Anglican Church, and you know, among the spectrum of different ways of being Anglican. And I think, you know, you can get very extreme examples of conservative churches, and there was also a place for them here, and the Anglican Church, so I don't see your question. How do we fit in? Hmm, [00:06:49] how does it relate to the recipient of contrition? Does it look like this? [00:06:53] Yeah, I think it adds to the plurality of voices, it adds to the example that there's different ways of being Christian. Yeah, this one's more socially, justice, focus, we understand maybe our mission differently in terms of the rest of Anglicanism, but there's certainly progressive churches other than St. Matthews, you know, even here in New Zealand, there's a few and overseas as well. [00:07:18] What prompted you to want to become a priest? [00:07:22] I think that [00:07:27] I don't think becoming a priest is something personal wants to do, I kind of think of it as, like, for example, me being a gay man, it's something that is part of my identity. It's not so much what I do, it's who I am. And I think that I experienced what we call the calling, or calling very early on in childhood. My mother reminds me that I was very younger, get home from church and line up all my stuff animals and preach to them from my nursery rhyme books, which is, you know, a sure sign for her that I would something was going on there. And I preached my first sermon in a in a Pentecostal church and I was 12 years olds, Sunday school led Bible studies, I've it's always been there. And so interesting thoughts that I have about being a priest is whether or not you a person gets ordained or not, you don't stop being a priest, because it's part of who you are. The the sort of ordination part of it is, for example, when the same people that same reason people get married it you know, have a church service in front of their family and friends, because it's a public declaration and the public acknowledgment, their relationship to each other. And in the church ordination is similar. It's a declaration that the church is formally recognizing that part of your identity. [00:08:53] What is the status in New Zealand at the moment in terms of ordination of gay priests? [00:09:01] there, there's a bit of history Do you want to know the history? Okay. The policy as it stands within our house of Bishops, and, and that is for the Paki hottie Congress. So in Anglicanism, we have three t Congo church which we're unique and the rest of the world are the we have three Archbishop's that share the same job. One is for two kinds of morality. One is 40 kind of Pacifica. And the other is taking the Apocrypha, which is the stream, I thought the strand that I'm involved with. And about 10 years ago or more our house of Bishops made a decision that they were no longer going to be ordaining any gay people who were not celibate. So that's sort of different. It was a something imposed on, on on gay clergy that wasn't imposed on hypersexual clergy. And that came about because I think in about 2003 2005, somewhere in there. In America, there was an Anglican priest in America recall the Episcopalians named Jean Robinson, and he was openly gay and in relationship with his same sex partner. And he had been elected to be the Bishop of New Hampshire. And what his election to that role did was it started a firestorm of the worldwide Anglican Communion. So much so that now very conservative churches were now calling for a moratorium, which the bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at the time, he and and the committee's basically determined that they were going to ask the rest of the communion not to ordain any more gay bishops, who are not celebrates until the worldwide communion had a chance to work their way through these issues until some consensus was reached. And what's happened in New Zealand is our house of Bishops have taken that a step further. They said, not only will we not allow the election of gay bishops who are not celibate, we are also not going to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian priests or deacons who are not in a celibate relationship. So that was kind of that's how the policy came about. And that's kind of where I think that this is policy. I mean, it can be considered a policy of discrimination. The time before that, it just wasn't asked of potential ordinance whether or not they were gay or straight or [00:11:40] so it wasn't a problem up until that point. [00:11:44] So where does it leave, say, ordaining gay priests and New Zealand now? [00:11:50] Well, we had a new a priest who lives down Otago a, who was ordained by his Bishop amongst some protests. The sort of thing I suppose it's important to know is the reasons why the bishops believed that they had to enact this policy was because after the ordination election of Jean Jean Robinson, they understood their role that they were not they did not have autonomy basically over who they were allowed to ordain. And, and our Bishop of Auckland has set on a number of occasions that he, you know, he is the Bishop of all Anglicans in this diocese and and feels like he can't move forward in ordaining gay people. Because it would be unfair to the parts of the church that haven't [00:12:40] that haven't taken that path yet. [00:12:43] And so they there have been a few ordinations since the time I mean, it really depends on the bishop, this is now a retired Bishop that ordained this person down south. But as it stands now, there are no candidates getting through the ordination process for gay and in same sex relationship. [00:13:04] Can you explain to me why celibacy was picked on as a reason for not ordaining gay people? [00:13:12] Well, it goes back to the very heart of of the controversy is that there's a belief in some parts of the church that that the union God intended, and we hear this quite often in public debate about marriage equality that God defines is given us the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. [00:13:37] I suppose the [00:13:40] part about non celibate, same sex relationships is that there are still very conservative parts of our church who believes that the gay people are defective intrinsically in some way. The love that, you know, a couple who are of the same sex can possibly be an authentic and it can possibly be something that, that God would favor. And so that's kind of how the policies come about is lots of people are using that as an argument to say that gay people cannot possibly express love and a true sense of love as, as do a man and a woman in a relationship. So it's, it goes back to the, you know, to the argument that being gay is sinful, and [00:14:30] and that's where, yeah, that's the origins of it. [00:14:35] So it was happening in the mid 2000s, in terms of the normal ordination of of gay people, why do you continue to want to kind of move forward with us, like in terms of like, become ordained [00:14:51] in this church? And the Well, part of part of the arguments in the Tribunal for us is that we, the section of the Human Rights Act that we are appealing to Section 39. Our interpretation of it is that a church would has to be able to prove to a tribunal that, that this is inherent in their beliefs. And other words, if I was Catholic, I probably could not be doing what I'm doing. Because Catholics have a very, very clear religious belief about who can be priests. They require their priests to be male and celibates. So they make no distinction. They don't say, we'll have a sexual priests don't have to be celibate be gay priests to I mean, it's it's the overall policy and religious belief for them. What we're saying is that in Anglicanism, the same cannot be said to be true. And that goes back to there being a plurality of ways of being Anglican. And there are gay and lesbian priests, now who are in same sex relationships. So we know that that has not always been the case. We know that. This is relatively new way of treating gay and lesbian Anglicans in terms of Anglicanism and New Zealand. So like I said, just the past 10 or so years, as it This has been happening, and before that, people just didn't question it. It didn't ask you when you know, you went to see your Bishop whether or not you were gay or straight? [00:16:27] And is that a kind of conversation in your head with the Bishop of Auckland in terms of I mean, have you ever kind of had a chat with him said all sexuality is common, or [00:16:37] Yes, as you have to keep in mind as well that I've been working on this issue with the bishops office for the past seven years, I made my first contact seven years ago with then Bishop, john Patterson. And again, when I, when I met Bishop Ross, a couple of years ago. So I've been having these conversations with the bishops office for you know, for seven years. And when I went to see Bishop Ross, he, he was a newly elected Bishop hadn't been in office long. And the first thing I asked him was two people have to disclose their sexuality and relationship status to you. And he believed that that was appropriate to do that. And so I did. So I did that for, for a couple of reasons. I wanted to make sure that I was starting off on the right foot with him. The first is because I want to be able to get through the process. Honestly, I don't want to have to hide who I am. I'd already been preaching, you know, from St. Matthews pulpit in the Oakland Community Church for a few years. And so my sexualities, you know, always been very open about it, and there was no secret. And the other part of that is, is that I didn't want him to ordain me and then have a firestorm come upon him. When it came to lights that I was gay and living in a relationship, I didn't think that was fair on him, either. So it was for those two reasons that I asked that question of him. And then made the disclosure that yes, I was gay and in a relationship. [00:18:17] And what was the response? [00:18:20] He we talked a little bit about, [00:18:24] you know, about the current policy in the house of Bishops? And I said, Yes, I'm very aware that that that is the case. And and I know that bishops aren't ordaining any gay people and same sex relationships. For the time being, but what I would be interested in what I would be would like to ask you, is whether or not you will least allow me into the process of discernment. That process of discernment is the process whereby the bishop test your calling, to see if you were being called toward into ministry. And, and I've also made it clear to him that realized that would not necessarily lead to ordination. I mean, even take the sexuality out of the equation, and no person when it goes to the discernment process is guaranteed to be ordained at the end of that process. And so he said, You know, I would be willing to, to wait, so, you know, to do the work that was required to try and help the church get through this. And he said he was not closed off to that, but he wanted to take advice from Archbishop who at the time was Archbishop David Moxon. And, and so I left there, you know, feeling somewhat hopeful, because he wasn't completely closed off to the idea and and so that kind of, you know, I kept in contact with him. And, you know, eventually he did receive a letter from one of the church judges Chancellor's saying that, no, it would be against cannons right now to do that, until decision is made by General Senate, that you can proceed with ordinations? And but even then, that still wasn't No, that was so you know, let's do some more work around it. lets you know, it's been kind of like that for the past seven years. It's been let's do some more work around this. Let's do some more listening some more. Keeping in mind, the church has been dealing with the with the idea of same sex unions for the past 30 years. In the New Zealand church, so it's been a been struggling with the issue for a long time. [00:20:33] So how did we get from there to taking the case to fish and rights? For me what happened? A lot [00:20:40] of frustration, I suppose it was. [00:20:44] It was, you know, that part of [00:20:49] this journey for me, it's been happening in the past two years. So it meant that that was basically there was two years of seeking a lot of advice, a lot of prayerful meditation, a lot of anxiety, a lot of not sleeping at night, to get to the point where I said, Yes, this is something that I think is the right thing for me to do. And, I mean, there was a few issues around that, that I had to get past, but that had worked my way through. But for the most part, once I made the decision to do it, I've never not felt that it was right. I've always felt that it's been right in my spirit to do what I'm doing. [00:21:29] What are some of the issues on hospital consequences that you were thinking of, before you took the [00:21:34] action, and I'm a strong proponent of separation of church and state, and church and state because of my, because of being American, it's a much bigger issue in America than it is here. Church and State is not evolved in the same way in New Zealand as it has in America. But knowing that what I didn't want to happen was literally I came to hope that one outcome of this would not be that the state reaches into the church and says you have to change your beliefs. Because I don't believe that would be a good thing. I suppose I sort of, had to understand understanding this in a different way. And it basically comes down to what I'm asking of the tribunal. And what I'm asking of the tribunal is two things. One, I'm asking them to make a determination as to whether or not I was discriminated against. And the second part of that is, if I was discriminated against, under the human rights legislation, section 39, is it unlawful, because as I said before, if I were Catholic, I probably would not be able to do this, because Catholics can prove that this is a clear belief for them and therefore have an exemption under the Act. Whereas in Anglicanism, it is not like that. [00:22:59] With the other news that you could have followed, rather than going to the tribunal. [00:23:05] The Anglican Church has no formal process to make a complaint about discrimination. When it pertains to ordination, that I know if they had, I would hope that a bishop or someone would have said that to me, sometime over the past seven years. So for me there, there was no other option for me to have a voice. And that's is largely why I chose to take the path I've taken [00:23:33] what you personally taking a case to the tribunal, or was it kind of a large body [00:23:43] we have a society the society is the gay and lesbian clergy anti discrimination society, which is a group of people who were passionate about issues of, you know, justice and equality, and especially passionate about this issue. That society was sort of established for this purpose. And, and they sort of act as a do it in supportive me second as part of my support network. And also the, the Human Rights the director of proceedings wanted, thought it might be too much for one person to try and do this by themselves and was concerned that we had that I had some sort of society to support me through it. And that was the main reason why and and so the complaint is actually in their name. It's the GO cats, versus the Bishop of Auckland. [00:24:43] Other any other reasons why it is better to have a group take a complaint rather than an individual. [00:24:52] It can be. [00:24:55] Luckily for me, because I come from a fundamentalist background and working at St. Matthew and the city. And when you know, the firestorms that help it happens sometimes around our billboards and public theology [00:25:06] was I kind of developed a thick skin. [00:25:10] That kind of I mean, sort of prepared me for something like this. But for other people, I would not recommend going it alone, I think it's a very good idea to have a support network that helps support people who choose to do something like this. So yes, I don't suggest doing it alone. And I don't think as a as a rule, I don't think the Human Rights Commission suggests people go it alone. [00:25:38] So take me through the process what what actually happens with with a complaint? I mean, first of all, do you call it a complaint? Or is that it's more of a case? or? [00:25:46] Yeah, it's, yeah, you hear different words. It's not a trial, it was a hearing, it's not a criminal charge. It's a it's a complaint. The first part of it, because I already had before I heard the Human Rights Commission, I already had a lawyer. That is David breaking from breaking and associates who he's a human rights lawyer who specializes in refugee and asylum seeker cases. And so basically, the first step for us was to approach the commission with our complaints. And they make a determination, they don't say whether discrimination has happened or not what they say is yes or no, that you have an arguable case, from that. So I think a large part of what the Commission does is they see their work is also a reconciling work. So they have various processes for mediations and things like that. If those other processes are not successful, you know where the to where the complaints into the point of come to any sort of agreement, then your next step is to submit it to the office of the human rights proceedings director, whose then determines whether or not he or she are willing to take on your case and have case taking to the tribunal in their name. And then, once that happens, then my lawyer becomes counsel instructed, because he then becomes instructed by the Office of the human rights proceedings Commissioner. And if it gets kind of complicated, because then it's the society, our society, the GO Kansas, the plaintiffs, and then I'm the completed. So there's quite a number of people involved, from our perspective, and bringing this case, [00:27:34] in, where are we now in the process? I want to kind of skip ahead, but just will, from what you've described, where are we now and [00:27:43] where we at now is we've completed the hearing. And we are now waiting for the tribunal to do its work, which we understand it can be as soon as July or August or can even be a year or so. So we're basically waiting for them to come back with their decision is where we're at right now. Now, okay. [00:28:02] What was the reaction of the church, to having this complaint laid [00:28:08] out of about 60 or 70 emails and messages that I perceived, and, you know, say the majority of those were from inside the church from inside Anglicanism? were very supportive. I've had one email that could possibly be considered hate mail. And I'm also some, I mean, I know that there's a lot of people in the Anglican Church in New Zealand that are not happy about what I'm doing. And they don't have to be happy about it. This is a path of chosen for myself. But for the most part, I mean, our congregation here at St. Matthews have been wonderful and supportive. And and they are part of the reason why my partner and I never sort of felt we were doing this alone, we always felt that we had the support we needed such I can't over overstate how important that is. But for the most part, I mean, some people sort of sit in the middle, they you know, sort of understand this case has arisen out of frustration and, and are trying to understand what, what if any good can come from it? Or what are the possible implications of if it doesn't go [00:29:19] one way or the other. [00:29:22] And it's those people that I have spent a good deal of time communicating with. And it's important for them to understand I mean, there's, there is misinformation happening at the moment that the tribunals being asked to force the Anglican Church to change its beliefs. And it's clearly not what we're asking. And that's not part of the scope of their power, or what they do in returns in terms of the Human Rights Act. So it is largely those people that I've taken more time to have the discussion with. But I think the, you know, the other wonderful thing that's kind of happened is it spurred off lots of conversations right now in the Anglican Church in a way that I think has not happened for some time. And I think it's really important for us to be having those conversations. And I think that when we sort of try to sweep it under the door pretends that gay people and lesbian people are not in the church, or that we I mean, we're not a new phenomenon. We have always been part of the church. We've always been part of Christianity of Anglicanism. And so I think it's, I mean, I don't I don't try to say that I'm speaking for all gay people. I'm not even speaking for all gay Anglicans. I'm only speaking for myself. But that's my observation that there's a lot of helpful conversation that are coming out of what's going on. [00:30:51] Can you summarize the case? Both your case and also the the churches case that was presented to the tribunal? [00:31:00] Yes, my case is, [00:31:05] I mean, the kind of stay away from the complex legal arguments, but from my perspective, we're arguing that the Anglican Church, the Diocese of Auckland, [00:31:17] and the Anglican Church as a whole does not have [00:31:20] a belief that gay and lesbian people who are not celibate cannot become [00:31:25] ordained. [00:31:28] And as far as the bishops legal team are arguing that he does not have the authority or the autonomy to ordain whoever he pleases. And he is basically saying that there would have to be a change, the general Senate would have to vote make a conscious votes for that to happen, and they have not done that. So it's sort of I mean, it comes down to basically the way that the bishops understand their role in the Zealand. And we're saying, well, this is sort of a this is a new understanding of the way that they understand the role. Because why before? Was that not a big issue? Why, just up until, you know, the election of Gene Robinson, did it become an issue? So those are the the tribunal has to determine whether this is religious belief or doctrine. So the sort of questions that they were asking were around that, they because unfortunately, they have the task to try and make a determination as to whether or not the church has an exemption, like the Catholic Church might. [00:32:35] And so who was sitting on the tribunal. [00:32:39] The trade, you know, has three members. It has a chairperson, [00:32:43] who in our case, is Roger Haynes QC, and two members that sit alongside the chairperson, and that was Doctor Who won a hickey. And Gavin cook, a gentleman by the name of Kevin cook. And that's what the tribunal is, that's how the tribunal was made up. [00:33:04] What was like, during the hearing presenting presenting to [00:33:09] it was I [00:33:11] was the first person being called to the witness stand. And I, the tribunal, and the defense lawyers all had already had a hard copy of my statement. And I basically read out my statement, in basically talking about my journey and how long I've been dealing with this and, and also about the sort of emotional costs of it, I mean, [00:33:38] discrimination, [00:33:40] you know, tightly related to hurts and humiliation, I mean, there's all kinds of emotions that come out. For a while there as well, I was trying to give some sort of voice to the pain that discrimination causes. And, and for me, part of that pain is not just being sort of feeling like it isolated. But it also started bringing up these old feelings of shame about my sexuality, that that I felt like I had dealt with a long time ago. And I was quite angry that, you know, that that was happening. Discrimination from, you know, from my experience has also caused strengthen relationships, personal relationships. What happened for me is when I was doing my bachelor theology degree, and dealing with all this, as many of my friends and colleagues were all also doing the same thing. They were also. But their experience was different, because many of them are not gay. And they were allowed to go through the process, some were turned away, because the bishops obviously didn't feel they were being called or for whatever reason, but many of them went through the process and were ordained and many are ordained today and and clergy, you know, their Vickers, their deacons, working all over the church. So it caused I sort of withdrew from them during that time, and a lot of my friendships suffered, because of it, friendships that I'm trying to now. reconcile now that I have some distance from all of that. And so, I found, actually, that the whole experience of going through a tribunal hearing was very healing to me. And, and part of that healing was sort of looking back and, and, and thinking, you know, how it did affect relationships and what I can do to actually bring healing to those relationships between me and people that I withdrew from? [00:35:47] What was it like, being on the stand and talking about such personal things? [00:35:53] Yeah, it's, it's funny, I think I wrote a Facebook post that talked about how can we get the news that reported tonight before if news spoke that it was happening was all over the news and, and then the media, by the, by the day, by Monday morning, by the time the tribunals started to hearing, it seemed like everybody knew about it. And I suppose what I felt what was strange to me is that it's kind of like my sex life had become part of the public debate, I thought, you know, now people are going to look at me like, now he's not selling. So I thought it was, it was a strange thing, because I hadn't experienced something like that before. So it was just, it was people talking specifically, I mean, my partner is very private person. And he's kind of had to, to come to terms, I mean, I would never have done this if he hadn't been on board with it. But I don't think he realized it was going to be as big. as big an issue. As it is, he comes from a non religious background, he comes from as a rural community in New Zealand, where this just sexual interest isn't an issue. And he can't understand what all the fuss is about. So when we arrived, you know, the hearing on Monday morning, and, you know, their recorders, and video cameras, and people taking our photos, it was all, like we had been immersed into this squirrel that was very felt very alien to us. And so that was sort of I mean, that's when your support system really comes in handy. Because you have to, sort of stay grounded in, you know, not get too upset about what people are writing, or what people are saying. And they kind of help you to, to process all of that if you've got a good support system. And so yeah, I think out of all of that, it was the sort of, and in the tried to emulate it wasn't that I sort of had to when I was on the witness stand, I didn't feel like I was having to justify myself or argue about who I was, or I was basically being offered the opportunity by the tribunal to have a voice and to give language to these things that I felt and to what my experience was. And then it was up to the lawyers basically to argue, you know, to argue the legalities of it, but I don't feel like ever had to ever had to make an argument that it was okay to be gay, or, you know, there was none of that. [00:38:22] And all in from the other side was Did anyone question your relationship? Or was it the more that actually wasn't necessarily about you, but it was about a wider issue. [00:38:36] This, this is about a wider issue. No, I was only asked one question by by the defense lawyer, which was just about a question about how I understood the process. I wasn't asked any questions about my relationship. And not even as I've been going through this, no Bishop has ever asked me [00:38:59] about the sort of [00:39:01] state or the [00:39:05] than anything about my relationship. They haven't said, you know, were you in a in a monogamous relationship is that a loving faithful, we never made it to that point, eventually, I would understand, I understand that we would have gotten to that point with a bishop wants to make sure that if you were in a relationship, that it is a loving, nurturing relationship, and that it's respectful, and that it's in line with what what the church causes right ordering of sexual relationships. So no, there wouldn't any questions about, about my relationship with my partner? I suppose I over prepared, I was sort of expecting, you know, I imagined this very dramatic court case, you know, where, you know, the defense attorney slams his hand down onto the witness stand and tries to force me to tell the truth and interrogate me. But that's not what happened. It was all very civilized and respectful. And but I wouldn't have minded that enough minded questions about my relationship. [00:40:03] You briefly mentioned the media, and I'm wondering, what has the reaction been from from the media? [00:40:10] I think, [00:40:12] my opinion is, is I think, I mean, I don't I for the first couple of days of the hearing, I was reading conservative media, and I was reading conservative blogs, but I realized none of that is going to be helpful for me, because I find it very disconcerting. You know, when you're being when they're ad hominem attacks, basically when they're attacking you as a person, and, and not really wanting to see what the what the arguments are not wanting to understand anything about it. For the most part, I think the mainstream media who attended the hearing, you know, that whole week, I thought that they did a great job reporting, what was happening fairly, I mean, there's always misunderstandings in the way that the media understand legal arguments. And I think one, one journalist sem my way on the last day of the hearing, on my way out of the courthouse asked me if I would ever reapply to become a priest. And I think I said something like, it's possible. But I probably meant to say what's nothing's impossible. And, and then that night, there was the headline where gay priests still clings to dream of being a priest, which is a little different to what I said, I mean, I wasn't bothered by it. But it's, it just reminds you that you have to be very careful that how you work things in the public eye and in the media, and and so I think for the most part, I think they were very fair and the way they reported it. And I think and the public has been, and their response to it have been, like I said, I've had a lot of support outside of the church as well, from just ordinary New Zealanders who [00:41:55] think nice Zealanders as a whole don't like to see [00:41:59] anybody getting shut down by an institution or by the Corporation. And I think that's part of what it means to be QE and learning is that you're always advocating for the little guy or, you know, people that are marginalized. So I think that's kept me very hopeful. You mentioned before we started recording [00:42:18] that you're also working with a number of kind of current affairs media programs on stories. How do you think and these haven't been two years? And I'm wondering, how do you think that will affect you being kind of like on a large congregation? [00:42:39] I'm not completely comfortable with all of that. I don't, I don't feel comfortable on TV. I don't. And it's, and it's just, I mean, these are skills that we have to develop any way, you know, I sort of I mean, I'm fine preaching from a pulpit, I'm preaching from a script. And, and there's a big difference to that to being having an interview on life TV. But I don't see that I have any other choice. I think, I think the public, I think people inside the church, they want to know what the story is behind this. And my personal stance has always been that I have always wanted this to become about the issue. But I realized that it has such big implications that either that's not enough, it's not enough just to have the legal arguments out in the public domain. People want to put a voice and a face to the story. And if that's what I have to do to bring understanding about, I mean, I'm just going to have to, you know, overcome my fear of interviews, and so yes, I'm not entirely comfortable doing that. But I, but I will do it, because I think it's, it's necessary. [00:43:58] What about the the rambling media guy media were how they treated you? [00:44:05] The game media haven't written much about it or reported much about it. I think there was some gay media in the UK, that came out about it, and I think gay and said, calm. Somebody told me they posted a story a couple of times about the hearing. [00:44:26] They were sort of [00:44:29] I think they were kind of neutral stories. I mean, I think the game media wasn't taking one side or the other, they were just reporting to this is what was happening. So which I think is fair reporting that jumps expect to have lots of support. And it might be because I'm not aware of how people outside of the church in the gay community are feeling about the church right now. I mean, the church has done some horrible things, to gay people into minorities. And it doesn't surprise me that they there might be a segment of the gay population out there that they don't have any time for the church. Or, you know, they might be asking, Why the hell are you doing this? You know, these people have been terrible to gay people. Why are you trying to be part of this heterosexual club? I mean, and this is an that comes from comments that I've had with, with friends of mine, who were, who were gay and lesbian, so. So I haven't seen a lot of gay media on it. Maybe when all is said and done, I might sit down and see if anybody was saying anything about it. And but at this point, I probably, probably part of me doesn't want to at this point, but it wouldn't surprise me. And it I don't think it'd be hurtful to me, I think if I was doing this five years ago, might have been hurtful to me. If that was opinions that were coming out of the game media. But I think I've come to understand a lot of why there is some hostility that it comes out against the church [00:46:03] have things like the recent passing of the marriage equality bill, had any effect on what on your journey? [00:46:11] I found? The marriage equality legislation, I thought was interesting one, because I think it showed a definite turning of the tide. [00:46:19] In terms of New Zealand, I mean, [00:46:23] this was big stuff. And, you know, and, and there again, you know, there's some churches that were doing making submission saying, marriages between one man and one woman, and then you have some, you know, some of the more liberal progressive churches saying, Well, you know, we believe that gay people should be allowed to get married, it's part of equality. And what I found especially probably interesting and maybe inspirational about it was I know that people like Winston Peters, MP, we're calling for a referendum to take place. And I understand it's a Labour Party and other parts of Parliament's were not keen on that idea. And I did some thinking about that afterwards, in relation to my own situation with a human rights review tribunal, because a lot of people have said, you know, why don't you wait for the churches, internal processes to happen? And what I sort of realized from the marriage equality debate is, is I was sort of wondering what, why there, they were not keen to allow it to go for referendum. Because it might not have pass, but it might have, but I sort of came to believe that you can't always rely on a majority of people to do what is right. And in the interests of minorities, and, you know, especially sexual minorities. And so I kind of am still internalizing that and trying to figure out what that means in relation to what I'm doing. I mean, is it ever I mean, because basically, I think of homophobia, I think of it as a kind of slavery. I think what people are doing when they're homophobic when they're questioning, you know, asking the question, whether you're sinful or not, because of your sexuality, is they are imposing a slavery on either they're questioning your humanity. And I don't know if it's ever a good idea for our humanity, humanity to be up for a public vote. And so as I said, I'm still doing more work around the thinking of that. But I thought it was. The other thing, too is I started this this case two years ago, and marriage equality was a year to get from beginning to end of the process. Because the one conservative media that I did read said that see, we were rights, they they said that gay, the churches weren't going to be gay people weren't going to be forced on them, you know, that we weren't gonna have to marry them. Look, this is for Cincy Anglicans, and now. So there's a lot of scaremongering going on about the but I think, you know, it was minimal. And I think that marriage equality has been a remarkable thing as thinking it's exciting time to be a gay and lesbian or transgender person in New Zealand. And that was one more reason why thoughts. It's good to be here. [00:49:22] What was the feeling at the end of the tribunal hearing? [00:49:27] I was relieved it was over. [00:49:30] But that was, you know, the last day of the hearing that one of the bishops public relations, people came to us and, and said, Well, you know, he's he wants to make a statement, and do you want to make a statement as well, and maybe we could work it so that, you know, we go down one right after another. And, and so we were we've sort of in communications with his public relations people, because the thing we don't want to do is during a hearing is to be commenting to the media and trying to argue up the case, in the media. And so he came down and made a statement, and then I came down, and I made a very brief statement. And, and that was the first time I had used my Western public like facts, to talk about the hearing. And I suppose I was relieved that that was over, I was relieved that the hearing was over. [00:50:24] And I sort of expected, [00:50:27] I don't know, I didn't know what to expect. After that, I thought, well, this could go one of two ways to ship could hit the fan. Or it could be very civil, and people could be having discussions and debates about it without, you know, attacking one another. And, and so far, it's been calm. I mean, I don't know what will happen when the decision comes. But the decision itself, I don't necessarily know how controversial whatever way it goes, might be I don't, there's no activism for dummies, one one that teaches you how to do this kind of stuff, though. I wish there wasn't, I might have to write the book about it someday. But but for the most part, I felt that feeling of relief, I felt I was proud of the work we had done, I felt we were really advocating for quality on a different scale, and in our own way. So and I was and I was grateful as well, I thought, you know that I was lucky to live in a country that actually does have a forum for marginalized people to have a voice and, and, and not just to have a voice but to be heard. [00:51:36] Well, speaking of activism, one on one, looking back, are there things you would have done differently? [00:51:44] Not differently. I mean, I over prepared for everything, and which I think was good. I think I you know, you sort of prepare for the, for the worst, but hope for the best. And so no, in terms of that. I mean, and that's the other wonderful thing about having a great support system, is that you're getting different perspectives. And you know, and we've got a very big support system, we've got, you know, close circle of friends, and [00:52:12] that we constantly were getting feedback, you know, I [00:52:17] voice my anxieties about what's going on or, and my support, people would feed that back to me. And so it's very helpful to have that there's nothing I would have done different. [00:52:30] Now, overall, I can't say that there is anything I would have done differently. [00:52:33] What about relations with other anything? [00:52:36] I think? [00:52:38] I think those aren't those aren't all apparent yet. I think that there's still learning that's going to come out of all this, I think [00:52:46] I think what I did learn is that [00:52:51] is that when you feel right in your spirits that you were working towards justice and equality, I think you can be stronger than you think you are. I think. So I realized I was a much stronger person than I thought I was. That's been the main lesson for me is that I sort of underestimate, I guess how, how, as gay people, gay and lesbian people how thicker skin actually gets, you know, from dealing with homophobia. And I hope that that's listening, you know, on a worldwide scale, and I think we're strong people, I think we, we've been through a lot and and that doesn't ever that doesn't keep us down as a community. And, and I see part of what I did is working towards that equality. And even if some gay media don't see that or understand it, I know that it's an important thing to do. Because I think sometimes the church and an organized religion in general is the last safe haven for bigotry and for homophobia and being able to claim it religious belief, I think it's not acceptable. And I don't think it's acceptable in New Zealand. [00:54:06] Have you thought about the the outcome from the tribunal? Like, I mean, what, whether it goes your way or the church's way? What What will it mean for you? [00:54:18] Yes, I've thought about [00:54:21] what, what the implications might be one way or another, I think, I mean, there's a number of ways that it can go. I suppose. I mean, the other part of that is, I feel like I've, I've gained a lot of what I started this process for already. I mean, both the bishop and the Archbishop and the witness stand admitted that this is a policy of discrimination. They're saying they're exempt because of Section 39 of the Human Rights Act. But nevertheless, they are saying it is discrimination. And and that is as the as the domestic law. New Zealand understands discrimination. I mean, it can go on few ways, the outcome could be a mixed outcome. One of those I mean, if the tribunal does not find it in my favor? I mean, I don't actually know what that would mean, for me. I don't know what that means for Anglicanism. I think if they do find in my favor, that that basically says that they're saying, Yes, discrimination happened, yes, it was unlawful. And, and then the church and the bishops have to then justify to the New Zealand public, why they're above the law. So and I don't know if that puts any more pressure. I mean, there is a process that is happening in the Anglican church that's been happening for the past year. As I said, I've been you know, we've been working on our case for the past two years. So for the past year, a commission has been established in the Anglican Church. And I understand their role is to, to gather all the information that the Anglican Church has to hear as many stories coming out of LGBT Anglicans, to hear what theology you know, the conversations about movies about theology and hermeneutics have had to say about sexuality in relation to Scripture and tradition. And I have, I still have a lot of hope that even that that process will be successful in some way, I don't think the commission is meant to make recommendation, I think that they are going to present to the church a list of possible ways forward. And then our general Senate has to has to vote on on whichever ways that they think are feasible. So I still have a lot of hope for that. I don't think I never thought this hit the case that I've pursued, I've never thought that that was going to be the answer. And, and like making a lot of people like me have [00:56:57] still have hope in the church processes that [00:57:01] that it will eventually, you know, reverse these kinds of [00:57:05] policies of discrimination. And the other part of that is, you know, I don't think it's a it's a church and state argument, because we're not asking for that sort of action from the tribunal. But it does ask the question of who is the church in relation to the society in which it exists? Should the church also fall into the domestic law? Are they exempt from the domestic law? I mean, there's a whole there's a hell of a whole lot of things that religious people might like to claim that they can do as part of their religious beliefs, things like the New Zealand law doesn't currently allow, like polygamy or animal sacrifice. I mean, those are the extremes. But I suppose All I'm saying is there are things in under the domestic law that people in religious institutions are not allowed to claim as a justification by the religious belief. And so I think that this case asks those kinds of questions, well, is sexuality also one of those things that falls under the domestic law, that it cannot be claimed, you know, to be okay to speak, because somebody says it's a religious belief. So it's an interesting place we find ourselves in and I think the conversation over the next few months will be will be very interesting to watch and see how that develops site. I don't know what that means, specifically for me as an individual. But I think it's an interesting conversation for the wider society to have

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