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Sunday 12 October 2008


New gay deacon - "making a meaningful contribution"

Posted in: Features, True Stories
By Matt Akersten - 7th November 2006

1551-Ordination-images.jpg
Dunedin's new openly gay Anglican deacon: Despite conservative protests and media scrutiny, Juan Kinnear was ordained on Saturday. The new Anglican deacon declined newspaper interviews, but was happy to chat with GayNZ.com.

How was your ordination on Saturday?
It went well, thank you. The ceremony was well-attended, and all went according to plan.

So no one in the congregation objected?
There was one incident in which some members of the congregation – three gentlemen who had travelled from Christchurch [Rev Malcolm Falloon, Rev Wally Behan and John Bryant] - expressed their opposition to my ordination.
There's a particular space in the liturgy when the Bishop asks whether the congregation present supports the ordination. The answer was a loud yes, except for the three gents who indicated that they were not in support!
But the Bishop George continued with the service, and I was very happy. The service was, I think, quite a memorable occasion.

It sounds a bit like a wedding, with the celebrant saying ‘does anyone have any objections?'
Yes, it's a bit like that. Usually three weeks in advance of an ordination, a letter from the Bishop is read to the congregation, in which they are given the opportunity to lodge any objections, so it's a bit like the old bands of marriage. That gives the Bishop time to look at any objections there may be.
But obviously these gentlemen wanted to make a more public objection. It is of course within their rights. Other than that it all went perfectly well!

Were you surprised at the media attention you received?
Yes, in that the Diocese of Dunedin has consistently taken an accepting approach to this matter. They have in the past had other gay clergy.
I think that perhaps in recent years the atmosphere has become somewhat more charged. Consequently, emotions ran a bit higher than they would have in the past.

Members of your church say they've always had gay people, some of them quite high up in the church.
Oh yes, absolutely. We had a previous Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, who was openly gay.

I haven't been able to find out a lot about you – apart from everyone saying you're such a nice guy, and you're into gardening!
Oh, that's very kind! We lead an extremely boring and sedate life. I suppose there's a lot more interesting people about than me!

Do you have a partner?
Yes. We've been together for eighteen years now. So we're pretty settled and in it for the long haul.

What does being part of the church mean to you?
I think it's like a lot of stuff in life; it's a mixed relationship. When one is faced with criticism and rejection, of course one can't help but feel disappointed and perhaps isolated in some ways.
But I've also been overwhelmed by support and encouragement. These are the things that make my continued commitment to the church worthwhile for me.
While arguably people have moved away from the church in recent years, all of us seek ways in which to make meaningful contributions to the lives of the people around us.
So that's what I'm attempting to commit myself to – making a meaningful and positive contribution to the world in which I find myself. It sounds a bit flaky, but it's really how I feel!


Matt Akersten - 7th November 2006