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Rosemary McLeod: Gay men and Presbyterians a marriage made in hell

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    Rosemary McLeod: Gay men and Presbyterians a marriage made in hell - 17-Sep-2006
    The big mystery of the week is, why do gays want the Presbyterians?

    I can see why Presbyterians don't want gays - that's not mysterious at all. Gay men have style, wit and a sense of fun, and Presbyterians are noted for none of these. They also have fashion sense, which is not a specialty in the Calvinist flock, and go in for lavish aftershave, a distraction in a church which centuries ago repudiated all Papist practices, like the whiff of incense at devotions.

    I'm less sure what Presbyterians would have against gay women, who ought to be just their type. Gay women, when politicised, tend toward self-righteousness and bad hair, which by rights ought to count as sober and virtuous points in their favour. Neither are they noted for boisterous fun and unseemly theatrics - they are natural Calvinists.

    Maybe it's about women outnumbering men in the church already, and a fear of being over-run in the future by belligerent old ladies terrifying the few tremulous old men at church socials. It's probably gone that way already, and not all of the church's belligerent old ladies would be female.

    No, the mystery is why gay people would want to be Presbyterians when year after year the Presbyterians ban having gays - and anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage -from being ministers or church elders.

    A vote on this is again imminent, and attracting feverish excitement - the only time when anyone, other than malaria victims, gets feverish around Presbyterians.

    A slur campaign emerged last week with bumper stickers claiming that "gays are a cancer", and declaring "Gays aren't welcome in our church," in anticipation of the vote. I couldn't find the internet site printed on the notice, which made me wonder if it was a hoax designed to generate attention for what would otherwise be a dull event - the gathering of the Presbyterian Assembly's 500 worthy members later this month.

    More than 430,000 people identified as Presbyterians in the 2001 census, but the telling detail is that only 40,000 of them go to church every week. Maybe they fear that even fewer would go if gays moved in on the action. But why do gays want to?

    It can't be for the architecture and interior decoration. Presbyterian churches are not things of great beauty. And it can't be for the music. Maybe it's to take over the flower arrangements, in which case I'd fully understand the ladies in charge of the vases who'd rise in revolt. Maybe gays want to update Presbyterian wardrobes, but they're a long-lost cause. And why would gays want to get up on a Sunday morning to attend services when they could lie in with a hangover, then rise late in search of eggs benedict and soy lattes? It goes against all common sense.

    Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan joined indignant commentators within the church in condemning the anti-gay mail-out. But it did not appear to break the law, she said. And there this exciting matter rests until the conference, when once again there will be tears, thinly veiled hysteria, soul-searching and prayers, and a good time will be had by all.

    Maybe the best time will be had by the gays who so earnestly wish to become ministers and elders in a church which doesn't want them. Their campaign highlights the kind of straitlaced conservatism gays naturally deplore - yet mysteriously, in this case, want to be included in.

    If it wasn't for this annual agony, nobody would care a lot about what Presbyterians think about anything - so gays have achieved something significant already. They've drawn attention to the church, but mainly to themselves. In that sense, they've practically taken over.

    My indignation was reserved for something far more offensive last week than daft bumper stickers. I was angered by Phillip Peacock, the Hawke's Bay farm manager whose ill-treatment and active neglect of stock led to the deaths of dozens of cows. For this he was sentenced to a mere 300 hours' community service, disqualified from being in charge of farm animals for five years, and ordered to pay $750 costs. I'd have locked him up for years.

    OK, animal cruelty is hardly a centre-stage issue, and cows aren't sexy, but wanton cruelty rates higher in my table of offending than ideological posturing about the Presbyterian priesthood. People get what they ask for in life. Animals don't.
    Ref: - Sunday Star Times


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