St Andrew’s on The Terrace Presbyterian Church (Wellington) is deeply disappointed but defiant in the face of the news today that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has voted to ban Ministers from performing marriages between same-sex couples.
“This decision is deeply disturbing and we strongly dissent from it” says St Andrew’s Parish Convenor, Sonia Groes-Petrie. “The Presbyterian tradition is for ministers to have freedom to make decisions about whom they will marry. There is a range of opinions on same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and today’s decision does not reflect that diversity.”
Interim Minister Jim Cunningham says “I’m appalled at the decision that has been made. We see sexual orientation and gender identity as irrelevant in the celebration of a couple’s union. It is the quality of the relationship, the love and commitment that matters. St Andrew’s has been blessing the relationships of same sex couples for over twenty years, celebrating civil unions since 2005 and marriages since August last year.”
The national church has been debating the implications of same-sex marriages now being legal.
“It seems incredible that the church is legislating against love. It’s embarrassing that religious organisations are the only stumbling block to full equality for same-sex couples” says St Andrew’s Parish Councillor and General Assembly representative Paul Barber.
Ministers and celebrants of many denominations – including Presbyterian – have signed up to love and marriage equality.
The Yes to Love website ‘is a celebration of faith that is accepting and welcoming. It profiles leaders of religious and spiritual communities in Aotearoa who are saying “yes” to love and marriage equality. These are people of faith who are willing to conduct weddings for same-sex couples.’
Progressive Christianity in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of elimination: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, sexism and homophobia and have rejected them.
The other process has been one of refocusing. Here the question isn’t “What is extraneous to our faith?” but “Where is its centre?” Our answers take different forms, but, eventually, they come back to the way Jesus united, in both his life and teaching, the two commandments to love God and to love neighbour.
The two processes may produce related results, but they are not identical. One prunes the excess at the peripheries; the other is looking for the ground of our faith. Many of us who claim the name of progressive Christians are probably more comfortable with the elimination than the search for the centre, clearer about what we don’t believe than about what we do.
We have seen how the powers-that-be have repeatedly invoked Christianity to justify their sins. We are clear that we need to reject this entanglement of Christian faith with the status quo. But simply to reject is not enough. Rejection does not inspire hope or love or delight or even intellectual coherence.
The real reason why progressive Christianity exists is not to prune away archaisms and false accretions. It exists to be an authentic gospel voice, to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life and teaching: a vision of humanity united to the sacred and to one another in love and justice.
—Rev Dr Margaret Mayman (extract from sermon, “postmodern prayer?” July 2004)
At the age of 66, when most people are thinking of retiring, Sir Lloyd Geering began a ministry to Wellington and the modern world, as principal lecturer for St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.
Now 96, he delivered his valedictory lecture this month to a crowded church and a standing ovation.
His topic was ”The Evolving City”, tracing the evolution of the city from the earliest settled population clusters and the biblical city of Cain, in Genesis, to the megacities of a globalising world and the biblical vision of the City of God in Revelation. Continue reading Ian Harris on Sir Lloyd Geering’s themes on religion
Belonging here was a gradual process for me. Becoming more involved meant taking the risk of openness and trust. Fiona McDougal, St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Glimmers of the sacred in the form of individual conversations, moments of connection in worship and shared meals drew me on.
In particular being at the series of services over Easter offered a way to integrate the psychological abuse I had endured at work in Scotland within a larger story. Holding that painful period of my life alongside the story of Jesus’ death, the losses of others in the community, and the pain of the world, on Good Friday has been very healing. Continue reading progressive faith stories: Fiona’s story
Whether it’s protesting for the rights of women or trying to stop the liberalisation of gambling, Presbyterians don’t just sit down on a Sunday and sing. We get involved! Presbyterian Support is the largest provider of Church-based social services in New Zealand—Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand website
For Progressive Presbyterians, this includes speaking truth to power, within and beyond our church organisation.
Read how one progressive faith community supports the Living Wage campaign, lobbied for marriage equality, buys Fair Trade coffee and tea for sharing after Sunday services and supports Ethical Investment… as well as making submissions on a range of issues including the Care of Children (2003) and the Green Paper on Vulnerable Children (2012).
Share your stories, submissions and social justice initiatives: firstname.lastname@example.org
“For progressive Christians, the future lies with our willingness to own up to the depth of our own convictions, to proclaim the good news without fear, to live as people deeply touched by the Spirit’s power.” – Rev Dr Margaret Mayman Continue reading Progressive Christianity – “a new kind of community”