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Wednesday 19 June 2019
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Talks on gay rights

Presbyterian church to discuss sexuality with followers

Activist Jason Jones at the Port of Spain High Court in a January 30 file photo.
Activist Jason Jones at the Port of Spain High Court in a January 30 file photo.

The Synod of the Presbyterian Church of TT (PCTT) has said the liberal views of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the United States on gay rights is not the view of the local church.

The church said it will take an exploratory approach to human sexuality in light of the discussions taking place in society, following the recent judgement in the Jason Jones versus the Attorney General case.

LGBTQI activist Jones challenged the unconstitutionality of Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act as it relates to banning sodomy and consensual homosexual acts, which Justice Devindra Rampersad upheld on April 12. The court is to meet in July to determine if the law will be struck down in part or in its entirety.

At its 58th annual general meeting (AGM) on April 26, the synod said further discussion is required on this debate among churches, faith based organizations and NGOs.

“The PCTT recognises that the modern liberalisation of rights for persons to live, love and identify as they wish in pluralist societies is an international phenomenon and different churches have taken various positions on the issues involved," the synod said in a report on the AGM.

“At present, the PCTT does not have a position on the topic of human sexuality. Many are misled into thinking that the position of either the Presbyterian Church of United States of America, the Presbyterian Church of Canada or the Church of Scotland, Scotland, is the position of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago. This is not so.”

The Church of Scotland has passed a historic vote to allow actively gay men and lesbians to become ordained ministers, while the top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church in the US has redefined Christian marriage in the church’s constitution as the union of two people instead of a man or a woman.

The local synod said it will seek to sensitise and engage its membership on the topic of human sexuality by having consultations at all levels of the church, including at its primary and secondary schools.

It said symposia will be conducted to explore the topic from a broader perspective including, societal behavioural patterns, individual, psychological, medical and health perspectives, legal rights and information from other relevant disciplines.

The findings will be used to inform the position statement from the church, in the spirit of their reformed doctrines and in line with scripture. However, the church reminded the national community to be tolerant of others even if they are at odds with another’s personal belief.

“Christ showed compassion and love to all. Thus, the PCTT cannot support any persecution or acts of violence against any citizen of this blessed land.”

Observing an increase in the level of mental health related issues which has resulted in extreme violent behaviours in the home, school and communities, the synod has also decided to take the initiative in establishing call-in centres with trained counsellors.

It has also taken an initiative to partner with other stakeholders to implement a refugee ministry to assist people who genuinely suffer the trauma of victimization and exploitation, as they seek to rebuild their lives. It expressed concern over Government’s decision to repatriate 82 Venezuelans on April 21, saying this raises human-rights concerns and brings into question TT's commitment to international conventions and best practices of developed countries.

Recognising the concerns about possible criminal elements enter the country via the unregulated influx of refugees, the synod also supported the call for greater security and monitoring at borders.

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