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    Judge not on sexuality - 29-Dec-2006
    Would Chris Carter do a better job as Conservation Minister if he wasn't gay? Or new Labour MP Charles Chauvel be less successful as an employment lawyer had he been straight? Of course not, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

    A pity the Anglican Church and other denominations doesn't take such an uncomplicated approach. Archbishop David Moxon has said that the church in New Zealand may splinter as it struggles to deal with issues such as homosexuality, which have already caused serious rifts in Britain and the United States.

    The New Zealand church led the way in 1990 when it ordained Dr Penny Jamieson as Bishop of Dunedin, the first woman in the world to hold such as position. The diocese went against conventional practise again this year when it ordained Juan Kinnear as a deacon at St Paul's Cathedral.

    This gay debate brings into play the two factions of the church.

    The fundamentalists who stick unquestioningly to dogma, arguing the Bible is strongly against homosexuality. On the other side are the pragmatists who struggle in their attempts to keep the church practical and relevant in the modern world.

    As conservatives regard openly gay men in Parliament with disgust, it is reasonable to ask how they view those who hide their sexuality. Does it make any difference as long as they don't let their orientation get in the way of their job? Church leaders have turned up in court as adulterers, paedophiles, rapists, thieves and murderers. The Bibles teaches against those crimes and these men have been cast from their positions.

    Homosexuality differs from those crimes in that it is less a learned trait than a genetic one. What is it that gives one bloke sweaty palms when a beautiful woman walks into the room while another man's pulse quickens at the sight of a good looking male.

    Medical research suggests these are reactions that can be controlled; suppressed, yes, but not changed.

    Legal opposition to same-sex orientation has been removed in this country but it will be a long time before religious attitudes change. This is sad. Churches preach tolerance, acceptance and honesty but, on this issue, they practise something quite different.

    And the law allows them to do that. While it is unlawful to treat anyone differently based on sex or sexual orientation, religion is an exception, mainly for the sound reason that the state must never be allowed to come between a man and his god.

    Church leaders must not hide behind that. A gay man suited for leadership should not be shut out simply because his makeup means his sexual preference is less mainstream.

    The Catholic Church can hold its head high on that score. It makes no distinctions between gay and straight priests as long as they keep their sexuality to themselves and remain truly celibate.

    Churches that allow their preachers to marry don't have the luxury of that fence-sitter approach.

    The Presbyterian church in New Zealand this year banned homosexuals and de factos from being leaders, a sorry U-turn that pandered to far right conservatives braying from the front pews.

    There is no easy answer here for the Anglican church, which is no comfort when it must show considered leadership. It will lose some members in the process but that is just part of reform, a concept on which the church was built during the 16th century.

    As most churches selectively relax narrow beliefs to fit modern standards, the Anglicans should follow the lead of Dunedin Bishop George Connor in being more accepting, judging on ability rather than sexual preference.
    Ref: - Southland Times - Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

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