A forum hosted by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, and the University of Otago Queer Support office.  One year after New Zealand amended the marriage act to allow gay marriage, well, what has happened in the response of the churches in New Zealand, and what’s changed?

How many Anglicans does it take to change a light-bulb?  Answer: Change?! CHANGE?!

The Anglican sect is united as a community of shared doctrine which they can mostly agree on, the enduring legacy of one of the earliest Supreme Governors of the church, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Until recently the policy towards gay priests has been to pretend that they don’t exist while recognising that they are present.  The church cannot lead while maintaining its broad base.  It recognises that the differences over sexuality are irreconcilable while still seeking a way to stay together.  The next project is to work out how to co-exist.

The Methodist sect has worked through opposing opinions that has led the most conservative members to withdraw from the church to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church which affirms that opposition to homosexuality is the biblical standard.  In 2003 the Methodist Church signed a Memorandum of Understanding  that those who hold opposing opinions will stand together with integrity.  It allows gay marriage.  The blog Yes to Love lists churches, ministers and religious groups who will perform gay marriages.

The Roman Catholic sect have a mind for Christ.  Each human being is created in god’s image.  Sexuality is an expression of human tenderness, affection and love, a gift.  Catholic tradition remains that marriage is between a man and a woman.  The Church in the world must be immersed in the world and culture while offering another perspective.  It can’t be guided by culture and public opinion.  Marriage has something to say to culture.

Thank you for bringing theology out of the closet…

The Presbyterian sect (my own) through the General Assembly reaffirmed the traditional definition in opposition to the Marriage Amendment Act.  The next prediction is that the next General Assembly will reject conscientious objection.  The Christ story still influences culture, but the church doesn’t take moral leadership on culture.  So who is going in the right direction?  What are the limits of the traditional definition of marriage on a reforming church.

The speaker, Rev. Bruce Hamil, put out four points in support of re-thinking a reformed position.  I leave them outside this summary while noting they are well worth considering.  I asked if I could have a copy of his paper.

[Update: you can read the transcript of Bruce’s response on Jason Goroncy’s blog here]

The queer Christian is silenced by the church.  Conservative leaders were sought out to address the forum.  They were reluctant, fearful of getting a fair hearing.  Society has become more tolerant than the church.  There is still a way to go.  Gay people are five times more likely to attempt suicide.  Society is schooling the church in morality.  The church should be leading in the inclusive kingdom of god, instead it has become pharisaical gatekeepers making converts who are ten times worse than they are.  In a society we are currently living the church needs to become more inclusive to survive.

Final thoughts from the floor: watching a 6 foot tall cross-dressed Catholic with waist-length hair test Father Mark on whether the Catholic church can change its position.  Considering that in my life-time the Roman Catholic church has reformed the sacrament of reconciliation, seen the decline of monastic orders for both men and women in New Zealand, and reformed the dispensation of eucharist and baptism for practical reasons, including the limited involvement of woman, I felt that there is an argument there to answer.

The New Testament writes about homosexuality from a position that it is immoral.  The Letter to the Romans Chapter One describes heterosexuals practicing depraved acts.  It does not speak of a homosexual orientation.  We live in a society where inclusivity is considered moral.

The church has a way to go.  The end is still uncertain.  It is not the only hetero-normative homophobic institution in our society.