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Enclave of Exclusion?

Tue 3 Oct 2006 In: Comment

How should LGBT post-Christians or nontheists deal with the Presbyterian Church and its continued discrimination against lesbian and gay candidates for ordination? Unfortunately, the debate shows no sign of abating, and this time, it may be the case that liberal congregations might have finally decided that they have had enough of fundamentalist stacking tactics, and secede from the church, leaving a fundamentalist rump. The culprit is the misnamed "Affirm," the fundamentalist Presbyterian pressure group, who justifies their homophobia through an appeal to 'traditional biblical standards of morality' and similar pious cant. Having had a look at Affirm's webpage, I note that it seems to be its case predominantly on its own fundamentalist sources of interpretation and expertise when it comes to finding antigay proof texts. It does not provide any corroborating references, which is the problem that liberal pro-LGBT Christians and nontheists alike have with such narrowly constituted pressure groups. In response, some LGBT Presbyterians might have left the denomination for Anglicanism or Methodism, both of which harbour a more inclusive ethos, and where fundamentalist elements are far weaker than within the Presbyterian Church. If sufficiently attached to the Presbyterian Church, and oriented toward eventual ordination, they might decide to join the Uniting Church of Australia, which does ordain lesbians and gay men. Why is the Presbyterian Church exempt from the Human Rights Act? It's called church-state separation and religious freedom. In secular circumstances, or in circumstances where activities are not core religious tasks, the churches are obliged to heed New Zealand's anti-discrimination laws. Ordination is reliant on religious definitions of what is or is not permissible sexual activity for potential ministers of a given church though, and this differs. One can only provide personal support and solidarity to LGBT Presbyterians if one is outside this context. Added to which, the Presbyterian Church may have taken the first step in downgrading itself from a broad and complex denomination to an exclusive and decaying insular sect. It proclaims that it is determined to reject a secular ethos of social justice and inclusion insofar as it applies to LGBT Presbyterians, which is all very well. However, take that to its logical conclusion, and ones religious faith ends up isolated and fearful, like the Exclusive Brethren. Presbyterian membership has nosedived as a consequence of its ordination debates. It will probably continue to do so, given the latest fundamentalist debacle at the latest church general assembly. Recommended: Presbyterian Church of New Zealand Presbyterian "Affirm" (sic)- fundamentalist Presbyterian internal pressure group St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Wellington: Rev Dr Margaret Mayman, minister Craig Young - 3rd October 2006    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Tuesday, 3rd October 2006 - 12:00pm

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