The Presbyterian Church in New Zealand voted to ban the ordination of active homosexuals in all its leadership positions during the Church’s general assembly, Sept 24, 2004.
The ruling, which will be enforced immediately, is not retrospective, and will not affect the current leadership. Specifically the new regulation states that “anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of a faithful marriage between a man and a woman” are excluded from leadership; 63 percent of the 400 delegates ruled in favor of the ban.
The issue of gay clergy divided the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand for decades. Similar to its counterpart in the US, the Presbyterian Church USA, the New Zealand church suffered membership losses because of its “midway” stance on the issue.
"We realize it's not comfortable for those of an opposite view but this is really where the church has always stood and it's consistent with a mainline understanding," said the Rev. Stuart Lange, a spokesman for the conservative Presbyterian Affirm movement.
Individual congregations will now be asked to vote on the issue; a decision may not come for another two years.
Meanwhile, within the Presbyterian Church USA, several delegates have been assigned with the task of discovering and assessing the church’s stance on homosexuality and on how unity may be maintained despite severe differences in opinions. The task force will be preparing its report through 2005, and is expected to present its findings during the denomination’s General meeting in 2006.
In New Zealand, the Presbyterian Church is ranked as the third largest religioun with 431,547 members; in the U.S., the Presbyterian Church USA is ranked 9th among the Northern American denominations.