The Tongan Methodist churches’ executive body, known as Vahefonua Tonga in New Zealand, took a firm stand against gay marriage saying that its church buildings will not host gay wedding ceremonies and its presbyters will not solemnise them either.
This was declared by the Synod Superintendent of the Vahefonua Tonga O Aotearoa National Synod Rev Setaita Kinahoi Veikune in a letter sent to the Methodist general secretary Rev David Bush
It says, “While English-speaking parishes are deciding at the local level Vahefonua Tonga decided at the synod level that no presbyters stationed to Vahefonua Tonga will officiate at same-sex marriages and those marriages will not be hosted in any Vahefonua Tonga parish’.
There are 37 Tongan Methodist churches in New Zealand that come under the control of the Vahefonua Tonga. Among those churches, some Tongan congregation shares the use of a Methodist property with an English speaking congregation.
Rev Veikune told the general secretary if gay couples want their wedding performed in those churches, Vahefonua Tonga would like it to “be discussed with the parish council”.
Rev Veikune’s letter sided with the Methodist’s President against those gay couples who think they should be given the freedom to do their wedding in any Methodist Churches in New Zealand.
President Rev Rex Nathan, and vice president, Jan Tasker wrote that, “Methodist presbyters are permitted to officiate at same-sex marriages but are not required to do so, in line with the legislation. Local congregations can also make their own decisions on the use of their premises.”
The Marriage Amendment Act legalizing same-sex marriage in New Zealand took effect on April 19.
Since then the Methodist congregations and presbyters throughout the country have been grappling to find answers to divergent views over same-sex marriage, according to the Methodist’s Touchstone newspaper.
“Earlier this year, the congregations discussed two questions”, it says. “First, would they allow their church buildings to be used for a same-sex marriage? Second, would they be able to station a gay presbyter?”
The responses from the English congregations expressed different views ranges from in favour of and in opposition to hosting and to solemnising same-sex marriage.
“St Lukes Northcote voted strongly against hosting same-sex marriages and narrowly against stationing a gay presbyter.
The Takapuna congregation voted narrowly in favour of hosting same-sex marriages, and 60 percent were in favour of stationing a gay presbyter”.
In October last year, about 300 people from the Tongan community across Auckland marched in protest against the bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
The march was staged at the Lotofale’ia Methodist Church of Mangere.