Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Auckland wins tribunal case

Professor Mark Hill QC has written a guest post at Law and Religion UK entitled Anglican Bishop’s refusal to consider gay man for ordination upheld by New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal.

On 17 October the Human Rights Review Tribunal of New Zealand handed down a judgment which will be keenly studied both by religious organisations and by LGBT groups. The case of Gay and Lesbian Clergy Anti-Discrimination Society v Bishop of Auckland [2013] NZHRRT 36 concerned Mr Eugene Sisneros, who wished to undergo a period of discernment to test his call for ordained ministry. The Bishop of Auckland refused to allow him to do so because Mr Sisneros was in an unmarried relationship. Mr Sisneros brought proceedings on the basis of direct discrimination (on his marital status) and indirect discrimination (due to his sexual orientation).

Under New Zealand law, section 38 of the Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful for employer organisations to discriminate on a number of prohibited grounds, one of which is sexual orientation. However, section 39 provides an exception in relation to a calling for the purposes of an organised religion. The substantive issue for the Tribunal was whether this statutory exception applied to the facts of the case…

Curiously that post does not (yet) contain a link to the full text of the decision, which is available as a PDF file, over here.

There is another discussion of this case (which does contain such a link) by Neil Addison at Religion Law Blog titled Gay and Lesbian Clergy v Bishop of Auckland.

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Father Ron SmithEdward Prebblerobert Ian WilliamsMarkBrunsonCraig Nelson Recent comment authors
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Nat
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Nat

I may be naive, but if the bishop refuses to allow a discernment process – why have the process at all? What is it for?

This displays both an arrogance and a lack of trust in the process.

Rev'd Laurence Roberts
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Rev'd Laurence Roberts

Another nail in the coffin of ‘organised religion.’

What price do we pay for ‘organisation’ ?

Father Ron Smith
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“The Bishop of Auckland, refused to allow him to participate in the process of discernment because he was in an unmarried same-sex relationship and could not therefore be ordained into the ministry.” This quotation, from the documented evidence in the case here mentioned, puts the matter clearly and succinctly in its proper legal perspective. At the moment, in ACANZP, the official line is as stated in the evidence supporting the Bishop’s decision. When knowledge of the fact that the candidate, Eugene Sisneros, was living in a same-sex ‘unmarried’ relationship (a situation that would apply to both heterosexual and homosexual relationship… Read more »

rjb
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rjb

What Fr Ron calls ‘hypocrisy’ might more charitably be deigned ‘flexibility’. Most bishops in ACANZP, including the Bishop of Auckland, don’t make a particular issue of any candidate’s sexual orientation or marital status if they can possibly avoid doing so. The majority of candidates (from what I’ve been told) do not share their sexual orientation with their bishop, and most bishops are perfectly willing to turn a blind eye. It is only in cases where it might be suspected that the candidate is deliberately trying to make a point, as would seem to be the case with Mr Sisneros, that… Read more »

Randal Oulton
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Randal Oulton

@ Ron Smith: (a) he should just get his butt married, he’s legal in New Zealand now, and then at least make them work to change the argument against him. (b) Victoria Matthews is Canadian and she’s in the background to all this isn’t she?

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

Could the Bishop’s objection now be overturned by dint of Eugene legally marrying his partner – as is possible now under New Zealand law? asks Ron. I don’t think so, as the current canons of the ACANZP would not allow it, and section 38 0f the Gay marriage law exempts religious groups. I think it very unlikely the canons will change soon either, due to the strong cultural antipathy amongst Maori and Polynesians to homosexuality. Also remember whilst there are no C of E bishops at Gafcon, there is one from New zealand. Since I was in NZ there is… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

It seems appropriate for me, as probably the only regular TA correspondent who is a priest of the Diocese of Auckland, to offer a few thoughts on this one. That is a bit difficult, as while I have some sympathy for the predicament that Bishop Ross Bay found himself in, I do disagree with his stand and have done so publicly. It is important to note that the Diocesan Synod approved a resolution last year, supported by both our bishops, declaring that we “…see no barrier to the ordination of those in committed same-sex relationships”. In the context of debate,… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Using the civil courts in this matter is a complete non-starter as it obviates the freedom of religion (however much I regret that).

Very odd and fuzzy understanding of the words relationship, celibate, chaste etc. Either that or the old bizarre CofE fiction that that it’s an entirely reasonable thing to expect a couple to be together and not have sex is falling out of fashion (along the way we seem to have completely elided the discussion of what ‘counts’ as sex for these purposes. Perhaps it’s better that way).

MarkBrunson
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I think what Robert’s seeing, Edward Prebble, is a social dynamic in Maori culture. The family and its continuation is extremely important. The objection (traditional objection) to homosexuality is not a moral objection, but practical – how can the family continue in a non-procreative relationship? It’s a traditional view that is slowly integrating new information. It’s not unusual in many societies – while tradition in Japan didn’t frown on homosexual relationships (even when those married were in a heterosexual marriage), a common term for homosexual activity, YAOI, is an anagram for words indicating that the act is seen as useless,… Read more »

robert Ian Williams
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robert Ian Williams

Sorry Edward, that is unconvincing spin.

Indeed the Bishop of Christchurch announced to her Synod that she doesn’t want SSM even discussed in General Synod until 2018-20!

The only really thriving churches in her diocese are evangelical ones.

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

Mark Brunson is probably correct that some Maori people (and others from a very wide variety of cultural backgrounds) may see the arguments about sexuality in the sorts of social dynamics/family continuance terms that he describes. But that misses the point I was making to Robert. It is a matter of fact, not spin, that a very wide range of views can be found across all three Tikanga of the ACANZP. It is therefore unsafe to predict that Maori or Polynesian “antipathy” would automatically scupper any move to liberalise our canons at General synod next year. Robert, I fail to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Robert I. Williams. You appear to be speaking from your experience in New Zealand a decade ago. Things are different from when you opted out of Saint john’s Theological College in Auckland. There is a new understanding here of gender and sexuality, consistent with modern science and sociological research, that, perhaps not surprisingly, seems not yet to have affected your own Catholic Church’s view of humanity.

Edward and I are actually part of the ACANZP, and perhaps more qualified to ‘read’ our situation – even if from a specific viewpoint.