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Rev. Margaret Mayman speaks out against hate stickers

Fri 15 Sep 2006 In: Features

'GAYS ARE A CANCER IN OUR CHURCH', said bumper stickers sent out to the Presbyterian Assembly's 500 NZ members. Rev. Mayman tells she's appalled, shocked and ashamed for the church. "I'm ashamed for the Presbyterian Church, and really concerned about the impact that hate speech like this has on vulnerable and isolated gay and lesbian people." - Rev. Mayman. Later this month, the Presbyterian Church will vote on a ruling which will exclude homosexuals from becoming ministers or Church elders. The Rev. Margaret Mayman, minister at Wellington's St Andrew's on The Terrace, says she was "appalled and shocked" when she saw the stickers sent anonymously by those in support of the ruling. Q: Were the stickers a complete surprise, or had there been a homophobic undercurrent you knew about? The homophobia has always been there but it is often masked by theological language. The debates at Assembly were very hostile and openly homophobic in the nineties. Lately they have been more polite, more couched in biblical language, though not really less damaging to gay and lesbian people because they have focused on excluding us from leadership roles and effectively making gay and lesbian people second class members of the church. Q: Often when people 'come out', they find themselves cast adrift, feeling like their Church no longer accepts them. Do you find many people in that situation come to your Church? I meet people like this all the time. It saddens me that so many people are put in a position where they have to choose between being true to their sexuality and remaining in their faith community. I stay in the church because St Andrew's is a fabulous community of faith and I love the people there. I also stay so that gay and lesbian people know that there are places they can go where they don't have to choose between faith and love. Q: When did you get involved with the Church? I was raised Presbyterian in Timaru. I was ordained in 1982 aged 24 after completing a BA in political science and religious studies at Vic and a BTheol at Otago. I worked in a Dunedin parish for nine months before moving to the US where I studied (eventually getting a PhD in Christian ethics) and taught for 12 years. I returned to NZ to a parish in Christchurch in 1995. I came out as a lesbian in that parish. I was called to St Andrew's on The Terrace in 2002. The church has 150 members, 70 or so on any given Sunday. See for more about our church. My partner Clare Brockett is also a Presbyterian minister, though she is not currently working in a ministry position. Q: When exactly is the vote, and if the result means homosexuals can no longer become ministers, where does that leave you? Would your role end? The vote will take place on September 29. The Assembly meets at St Kentigerns from Sept 28 to October 2. The vote includes a "not retrospective" clause so people like me will not be forced out of ministry. It also excludes people in de facto relationships. It will affect elders (lay leaders) as well as ministers. The text is: 'That General Assembly now rule in accordance with the Supreme and Subordinate Standards of the Church and with previous Assembly decisions that this Church may not accept for training, license, ordain or induct anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman. In relation to homosexuality, in the interests of natural justice, this ruling shall not prejudice anyone, who as at the date of this meeting, has been accepted for training, licensed, ordained or inducted.' Q: Do you think it's likely the vote will go through? How much support do you feel you have within the Church? The vote requires a 60% majority. This is the second of two votes. At the 2004 Assembly it got 63%. There is a network of progressive Presbyterians who are actively involved in opposing this legislation. We have a wonderful support group and many people in the wider Church are also very loving. We've had lovely messages of support (and even wine and flowers) from people at St Andrew's and across the country after the bumper stickers. I know that some in the gay community would like to organise a demonstration at the Assembly. Could I take this opportunity to say that though we gay Presbyterian appreciate the offer of support, it wouldn't help us strategically. The vote may be down to 10 or 12 people. They will probably be people who are not (yet) comfortable with homosexuality but who we hope to convince that legislating exclusion is not the right course for our church. However, knowing we are part of a wider movement for justice for gay and lesbian people in NZ society is really important to us.   Matt Akersten - 15th September 2006    

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Friday, 15th September 2006 - 12:00pm

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