A New Zealand church has been let off the hook for forbidding a gay man from becoming a priest.

The Human Rights Tribunal yesterday dismissed a complaint by the Gay and Lesbian Clergy Anti-Discrimination Society against the Anglican Diocese of Auckland because it said the church was following its own rules.

The complaint referred to Eugene Sisneros' unsuccessful application to be considered for priesthood by the Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay, because he was in an unmarried relationship.

Potential priests must be "chaste" to enter the training process, which is defined by the Anglican Church in this country as single and celibate or in a heterosexual marriage.


"Those ineligible for entry include those in a heterosexual de facto relationship and those in a homosexual relationship which is committed and monogamous in nature," said the tribunal's decision.

"Being gay or lesbian is not in itself a bar to ordination. But any candidate not in a marriage between a man and a woman must be celibate."

Mr Sisneros was an events coordinator for St Matthew-in-the-City who gave up to three sermons a year, was in an unmarried relationship and believed the treatment unfairly discriminated against his sexuality and marital status.

During a hearing in May he spoke of his "humiliation and disappointment" at not feeling equal to his peers.

Mr Sisneros, an American who holds New Zealand residency, began theology studies at university in 2006 and at the same time expressed his desire to become a priest.

Yesterday's ruling stated that because Bishop Bay acted within the church's parameters, he did not breach the Human Rights Act.

"... there was no element of unlawfulness under the Act when the Bishop of Auckland addressed the request by Mr Sisneros that he [Mr Sisneros] be permitted to enter the discernment process," it said.

Bishop Bay said he welcomed the decision that "correctly identified the balance between individual human rights and the autonomous nature of the church in a way that ensures the freedom of religion".