Title: Marriage issue creates further Presbyterian splinters Credit: Daily News staff New Zealand Daily News Friday 19th October 2012 - 3:35pm1350614100 Article: 12411 Rights
More cracks of opposition are appearing in the Presbyterian Church, as another minister at an iconic church makes it clear he is firmly opposed to the ruling body’s moves against same-sex marriage. Earlier this month the Presbyterian General Assembly voted to oppose the Marriage Amendment Bill and make a submission against it – although a vote to ban ministers from making their own decisions on who they marry failed, extremely narrowly – by less than half a per cent. Since 2006 the Church has also banned any people in gay or de facto relationships from taking on taking leadership roles, including ministry. Rev Margaret Mayman Long opposed to that rule, Wellington’s St Andrew’s on The Terrace is also strongly against the Assembly’s most recent decision to oppose marriage equality. Its Minister Reverend Dr Margaret Mayman said at the moment the church is forced to treat same-sex couples differently from other couples: “I look forward to the time when we are able to meet same-sex couples’ requests to celebrate their marriage. Because what matters in marriage is love and commitment.” Her position is now publicly backed by the Acting Minister of Auckland’s St Luke’s, Remuera, Reverend Dr Keith Rowe, A Methodist minister who is a 'locum' in the St Luke's position following the death of its ground-breaking gay Presbyterian minister, Reverend David Clark, in March. Rev Keith Rowe While the St Luke’s congregation has not yet discussed the General Assembly’s decision, as the honorary assistant minister, Dr Rowe says: “whatever the decisions of the Assembly, the community of St Luke's is committed to its long standing conviction and practice that the church is to model inclusive love and respect for all people regardless of culture, class, gender, sexual orientation or religion.” He says the St Luke’s congregation has a long-standing and widely accepted disagreement with the Presbyterian Assembly’s "sad refusal" to accept gay and lesbian people into the full life of church and society. “There is no doubt among the members of St Luke’s that GLBT people should be treated in the same manner and with the same respect as heterosexual people in law and in every part of our social life,” he continues. "St Luke’s has in the past and will continue to challenge the discriminatory policies of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand and work for the time when the regulations of the church no longer prohibit the ordination of openly gay or lesbian people. “We were disappointed but not surprised that the recent Assembly refused to move in this direction but pleased that the long- standing policy whereby Ministers decide who they will marry was reaffirmed,” Dr Rowe says. “As a Christian community living and believing within the “liberal-progressive” tradition we are motivated by the way of inclusive love pioneered by Jesus.” The acting minister says since the death of The Reverend Clark St Luke’s has been without a full time Minister: “It is assumed that any new Minister would continue to conduct marriages and civil unions as permitted by the law of the land. “We cannot imagine any reason why our present policy of encouraging our Minister to conduct marriages in places other than the church, if that were the desire of the couple, should change. Those married in the church come from a variety of cultural, religious and social backgrounds.” Rev Anne Thomson Reverend Anne Thomson from Dunedin’s First Church, speaking to Daily News on a purely personal level, says she disagrees with the long-standing ruling on the restrictions on gays in leadership roles and has recorded her own dissent on a number of occasions. Thomson says she has seldom been as thankful as when this month's motion to prohibit Presbyterian ministers from conducting same-sex marriages was lost, albeit by only 0.2 per cent. She will consider the question of who she is willing to marry and where when the situation arises. “I am still working through where I stand on the question of same-sex marriage, because when the Civil Union Bill was going through, I supported that in part on the grounds that marriage has up until this point been defined as between a man and a woman,” she says. “I don’t see marriage as a human right, possibly a human responsibility, but if I consider marriage in terms of relationship and institution rather than definition, then I see it as a public expression of faithful committed lifelong relationship, in which case the gender of the people involved is not essential.”Thomson says she is unable to indicate the views of First Church's congregation. “There will be a range of opinions within the congregation, and I do not know what discussions have gone on at a congregational or Session level in the past.” also approached ministers at a number of other Presbyterian churches throughout the country for comment but they did not respond.    
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