The Methodist Church of New Zealand has clarified that gay and lesbian people can be ordained in the church but gay ministers may still be kept out of parishes where they are not welcome.

While gay people can continue to be ordained, the church will decide if it is appropriate to send them to certain parishes, said Methodist Church president Lynne Frith.

Dr Frith said a church committee carefully "matched" parishes and ministers.

"If a parish vociferously did not want a gay or lesbian minister, they would simply consider there was no matching and therefore the parish would not be forced to have that person and the person would not be forced to go there," she said.

"There are a number of parishes in this country in the Methodist Church that are reconciling or inclusive or welcoming congregations for whom it's not an issue.""

The Methodist Church yesterday released a memorandum of understanding saying it was a way to move forward on the issue of gay ministers.

Dr Frith said the response to the memorandum within the church had been positive.

"But that doesn't mean everybody's happy about it. It won't satisfy everybody. It won't satisfy some gay and lesbian people and it won't satisfy some evangelical people."

She said that like all ministers, gays would have to satisfy the church they were ready to be ministers.

"If they meet all the criteria of the church they may be ordained."

Sexual orientation was not one of the criteria and was "irrelevant" to whether people could be ordained.

Criteria included being adequately trained and being willing to work within the rules of the Methodist Church.

Dr Frith said she knew of three gay Methodist ministers.

In a statement, the church said the memorandum acknowledged the diversity within the church.

"It reaffirms that all candidates for ordination must meet the criteria of the church and that all placement of ministers is done with careful consultation."

Dr Frith said the issue had been under debate for more than 10 years and there were church members both for and against the ordination of gay people.

The church statement said the memorandum enabled people with "markedly different beliefs to remain in relationship with each other within the church".

- NZPA