Church: Marry him or pack your bags

You don’t really expect this situation to crop up these days, with debates around lesbian priests and transgender marriage, but it appears one church down south has gone back to basics

A 72-year old Southland woman has had her 30-year church membership revoked because she lives in a de facto relationship.

The Calvin Community Church, a presbyterian church in Gore, has revoked the membership of one of its long-term members because her relationship with a man she lives with was “at variance with what is expected of a member of Calvin Community Church”.

The woman said she was told “out of the blue” she had to either marry her long-term partner, leave him, or no longer be a church member.

She was still able to attend the church, but she has declined to do so because “they have discussed my private life around the table”.

“I was shocked. I was very upset at the way it was put to me, someone just phoned me out of the blue and I was told I had to either marry him or I can’t be a member of the church.”

“This is 2014, not the 1950s, times have changed.”

You have to wonder if there is something else going on and this is simply a way to eject her on a technicality. ?But no, the?Calvin Community Church does really seem to insist on having the old fashioned standards implemented rigorously. ?

The woman and her partner, who have both been married previously, have been together for eight years and have been living together in Gore for three years.

As a Christian, she said she would prefer to be married to align with her beliefs.

But her partner was not ready and it was not anyone’s place to force someone into marriage, she said.

“There is only one judge and that is God. Why break up a happy relationship. I’m very happy living with him, I’m too late in life to go through a relationship upset.”

“I’ve thought about it and prayed about it and I’m happy with my relationship.”

Elders at the Gore church disagreed.

In a letter to the distraught woman, senior pastor Keith Hooker said those who wished to be counted as members were responsible for upholding the church’s standards in accordance with scripture.

It was the church’s view living unmarried with a long-term partner did not meet those requirements.

“You have said that your partner is not willing to marry you. Although being married is outside of your control it is, however, your decision to remain in the relationship,” his letter says.

“While we respect your right to live in a de facto relationship, it is quite clearly at variance with what is expected of a member of Calvin Community Church.”

So, if they lived next door to each other and were going at it like rabbits (pardon the mental picture), it would be just fine. ?If they are flatmates, it would be just fine. ?But living in the same house like a couple, not so fine.

Oh well, there are other churches to belong to I guess. ?But I still think there is something that happened that isn’t yet public. ?After all, it was OK for three years for them to live as a couple, so what has changed?


– Bridget Railton, Fairfax