Churches and gay marriage in East Auckland

Auckland Now 14 Sep 2012
They say homosexuals are welcome but many East Auckland church leaders are sticking to their traditional stance by opposing gay marriage and adoption.

The East & Bays Courier contacted 15 church leaders from St Heliers to Panmure to gauge reaction after Labour MP Louisa Wall’s Marriage Equality Bill passed its first reading on August 29.

Seven of the church leaders contacted are against the bill, three support it and five declined to comment.

The bill, if passed, will legalise gay marriage and therefore enable gay adoption. Married same-sex couples would be included in the definition of a spouse (or marital partner) who is legally entitled to apply for adoption under the Adoption Act 1955.

Remuera Baptist Church pastor Warren Prestidge is against same-sex marriage.

“I believe the reason societies for generations have created a marriage law is to defend, affirm and protect the natural family unit.

“I’m not in favour of homosexual couples adopting children either.

“I think children have a right, where possible, to be brought up by a parent of each gender. I don’t think a law that promotes homosexual couples adopting children is appropriate.”

Mount Wellington Community Church pastor Russell Grainger agrees.

“We are opposed to homosexuality in the same way we’re opposed to people stealing from their work. “But we recognise that everyone falls short of perfection and that’s why the church and God are here. We don’t exclude people.”

On the topic of gay adoption he says the ideal situation is for children “to be brought up in a stable loving home with good male and female role models”.

Saint Heliers Presbyterian Church minister Pauline Stewart thinks differently.

“To me commitment in love is about the most beautiful thing that two people, whatever sex they are, could find. Woe betide anyone who would stand in the way of that.

“I think God said ‘I am love’. That’s the most freeing, amazing concept and sometimes the church hasn’t got it.”

She says the Bible is not meant to be taken literally.

“Love lasts forever, love never fails. That’s a higher order to follow than being someone who has to keep going back to rules to see what’s right.”

Mrs Stewart sees nothing wrong with gay adoption and is a pastor to a lesbian couple who adopted a daughter overseas.

 “I call them my friends and I think their little girl is excelling and happy.”

Newmarket’s Spiritual Alliance president Elizabeth Pretty is also in support.

“We base the philosophy of spiritualism on the power of love. On that basis we couldn’t possibly be against the bill.”

She sees no reason why gay people adopting children should not be possible.

“In cases of adoption, couples are well and truly vetted and I would imagine same-sex marriages would be subject to the same rules.”

Vicar Di Woods of Saint Aidan’s Anglican Church in Remuera says their stance is the traditional one but they recognise that times are changing and are considering their future position.

The bill was discussed at a  gathering of Auckland’s Anglican church leaders  on September 8 and 9.

“As Anglicans we are agreed that the topic is highly relevant. It is one we want to be able to talk through carefully. That’s going to be a process that will take a year or two but we are certainly sympathetic towards people who would like us to rethink our definition of marriage.”

Reverend Elder Leiite Setefano from Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church Tamaki is against the bill.

“In our culture we will never condone this sort of union and we will never see gay marriage happen in Samoa. We accept gay people in our churches but for them to get married is another thing altogether.

“I would not accept gay adoption either. A child should have a father and a mother.”

The bill is being considered by a select committee and must pass two further votes before becoming law.

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