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One year on, same-sex couples find some churches happy to wed

Aug 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Same-sex marriage taking place at Old St Pauls

CHURCH WEDDING: James Harley and Iain McDonald married by Celebrant Gerry Blair at Old St Paul’s. PHOTO: Provided by couple, taken by Steven Sumpton

CHURCH blessings of same-sex marriages are still not commonplace but some couples are finding acceptance in churches.

This weeks marks a year since the same-sex marriage was legalised in New Zealand.

The Department of Internal Affairs reports 25 marriages took place in a church between August 19, 2013 and June 30 this year.

Iain McDonald and James Harley came from Australia to marry in a church in June this year.

They felt it was right for them to get married in church because both believe in god.

“I have always dreamed of marrying in a church so we were incredibly lucky that we came across Old St Paul’s,” says Mr Harley.

In the four years Gerry Blair has been a marriage celebrant she has only performed one church wedding – Mr McDonald and Mr Harley’s wedding.

She says same-sex marriage is still young in New Zealand and traditional marriages have long been centred on one type of ceremony.

Now same-sex couples have the opportunity to decide what they want for their ceremony.

“No one really knows what they’re doing, or what it means, or how best to represent themselves and their relationship through the ceremony,” she says.

However, there are still differing levels of opposition to same-sex marriage in New Zealand church communities.

Reverend Jason Rhodes from the Anglican Church of New Zealand says same-sex relationships are recognised and welcomed as part of the church community.

However, at this stage the church does not bless the relationships or perform religious ceremonies.

He says the Church Synod is discussing whether or not to bless these relationships in the future, but the decision could be at least four years away.

“We’re actually asking is there a way that we can recognise and bless same gender relationships in the church, and is there a way that those who don’t agree with that can also not do it,” Reverend Rhodes says.

However, performing same-sex marriages in the church is not being discussed at this stage.

Anglican church St Matthew’s in the City does host same-sex weddings but the neighbouring Methodist church performs the ceremony.

Vicar Helen Jacobi says it is the best they can do for same-sex couples at this stage, but are keen to offer ceremonies in the future.

Simone Olsen, spokesperson for the Catholic Church of New Zealand says doctrine and teachings focus on the permanent relationship of marriage as only between a man and woman.

“That’s our belief and our faith, so marriage between people of the same sex isn’t obviously consistent with that,” says Ms Olsen.

The Presbyterian Church of New Zealandalso upholds a traditional view of marriage and expects all ministers to affirm this, church spokesman the Reverend Ray Coster says.

There are no specific rules prohibiting a minister from conducting a same-sex marriage, but it is due to be discussed.

Presbyterian Reverend Jim Cunningham from St Andrew’s on the Terrace says the church community puts an emphasis on the quality of the relationship instead of the sexual orientation.

“We think it’s unjust for people to be discriminated in that way,” he says.

St Andrew’s has a history of being on the edge of social issues declaring itself as an inclusive church for homosexuals in 1991.

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