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Dunedin Presbyterians voice dissent

Dunedin’s Octagon was once again the scene for public protest last month, when a group of Presbyterians launched a petition drive against their Church’s decision to bar people in sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage from leadership positions.

One of the organizers Rev Susan Jones says the event was a success. Two petitions were available to sign. One allowed Presbyterians to register their dissent from the decision and the other allowed non-Presbyterians to register their dismay.

“We are disappointed in the decision because it excludes two groups of peoples, gays and people in de facto relationships from the call to become a minister or elder. It also cuts across the right of a parish to call its own minister,” Susan says.

“As usual, it focuses only on one kind of so-called sin – sexuality – when there are a number of other sins that can affect leaders, including pride, arrogance, and a lack of integrity. It also leaves the impression that gays and de facto couples are not welcome in church.”

Susan says the group launched its petition in a very public way because it wants the public to hear a different point of view than that which lay behind the decision.

The petition is also being circulated in Auckland, and Susan has received requests for petitions from Wanaka, Queenstown, Alexandra, and Oamaru.

Another organizer of the event, Peter Matheson says Christianity should be a liberating creed that subverts oppression. The rising tide of fundamentalism, on the other hand, is a Simple Simon approach that uses sacred texts to stone opponents into submission and create moral panic.

“We believe we stand for the main-line Presbyterian tradition of civilized, intelligent, theologically based discourse, for a critical engagement with our rich heritage, and for a quiet confidence about the future. Moral panic will get us nowhere,” Peter says.