Homosexual rejected for priesthood speaks of humiliation

Bishop Ross Bay says he is following the Anglican Church's doctrine.  Photo / Steven McNicoll
Bishop Ross Bay says he is following the Anglican Church's doctrine. Photo / Steven McNicoll

Eugene Sisneros has described his hurt and humiliation after allegedly being rejected for a priest training programme because he was in a same-sex relationship.

A Human Rights Tribunal hearing into the alleged discrimination opened at Auckland District court today.

Mr Sisneros is taking the Anglican Bishop of Auckland to the tribunal, claiming he was barred because of his sexuality - a claim the bishop has denied, saying he was simply following the church's doctrines.

Mr Sisneros said his rejection from the programme has had long-term effects.

"I am deeply affected by this discrimination as a human being. I am not equal.

"My feelings of humiliation and disappointment continue to this day,'' he told the hearing.

Mr Sisneros, a 38-year-old American who holds New Zealand residency, is an events coordinator for St Matthew in the City.

In 2006 he began a Bachelor of Theology degree and started signalling his desire to enter the Anglican Church's training programme for priests by writing to Bishop of Auckland John Paterson, who said there was opposition to the ordination of gay clergy.

In 2009 Mr Sisneros entered a "permanent, exclusive and stable relationship'' with his current same sex partner.

When existing Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay took over the role in 2010 he said there was no resolution over the ordination of unmarried clergy same sex relationships, so Ms Sisneros withdrew his application, he said.

Mr Sisneros was rejected "by reason of the defendant not being chaste in terms of canons of the Anglican Church,'' Bishop Bay told ONE News.

That means anyone wanting to become ordained needs to be in what the Anglican Church deems to be a chaste relationship - a marriage between a man and a woman or committed to a life of celibacy.

Mr Sisneros said he was "very disappointed'' by his exclusion from the programme and felt he had wasted six years of study towards his goal of becoming a priest.

He had "overwhelming'' support for his progress into the programme from St Matthew in the City, where ordained priests who were public about being in same-sex relationships had given sermons, he said.

Since 2008, Mr Sisneros had given sermons three or four times a year, he said.

The hearing is set down for nine days.

- APNZ

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