The Bishop of Auckland, Rt Rev Ross Bay, appeared before the Human Rights Review Tribunal today to answer a charge that he has discriminated against a gay man who wants to become a priest.
Eugene Sisneros, an Events Co-ordinator at St Matthew-in-the-City, was refused entry to the diocesan ordination training programme because he is living in a same-sex relationship – and is therefore not chaste in terms of the Anglican Church canons.
The bishop's position is that the Anglican canons do not permit anyone living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage to be accepted for training for the priesthood.
The bishop believes that the canons presently define chastity as being either married, in the traditional sense, or single and celibate.
However, the question of whether the definition of chastity should be broadened in canon law to include those living in committed same-sex relationships is before the Ma Whea Commission, which will report to next year’s General Synod.
If the General Synod decides such same-sex relationships can be blessed, it automatically follows that those in these relationships could be considered for the priesthood.
Mr Sisneros, who says he has been signalling his desire to begin ordination training since 2006, has completed a theology degree.
The hearing began in the Auckland District Court yesterday, with evidence from the plaintiff's witnesses.
Archbishop-elect Philip Richardson gave testimony on behalf of the defence today.
The hearing is expected to finish on Wednesday with a reserved decision.