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NEW ZEALAND TRIAL

 

IN THE HIGH COURT OF NEW ZEALAND
AUCKLAND REGISTRY

                                                                                              CP NO. 183/SW01

BETWEEN     VILIAMI ‘AKAU’OLA

First Plaintiff

AND                VILIAMI PALU

Second Plaintiff

AND               THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH OF NEW ZEALAND

First Defendant

AND               THE BOARD OF ADMINISTRATION OF THE METHODIST CHURCH OF NEW ZEALAND INCORPORATED

Second Defendant

AND                REVEREND PESETI TUKUTAU

Third Defendant

 

 

OPINION OF VICTOR SHEPHERD

 

 

VALLANT HOOKER & PARTNERS
Barristers & Solicitors
Ponsonby,
Auckland

Solicitor Acting: R J Hooker
PO Box 47 088; DX CP30015, Ponsonby
Ph:   (09) 360 0321
Fax: (09) 3609291

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I, VICTOR SHEPHERD state:-

  1. I was instructed by Counsel for the plaintiffs in these proceedings to provide expert testimony to the court on one of the issues before the Court namely whether  a decision by the conference of the New Zealand Methodist church to admit a person into full connexion as a minister  a person who was a practising homosexual is to alter or change the doctrines of the Methodist Church of New Zealand as found in the standard sermons of John Wesley and his notes on the New Testament. For the reasons set out in this opinion I conclude that the decision of the New Zealand Conference is to change or alter doctrine.
  2. I was provided with the following passages of the Laws and Regulations of the New Zealand Methodist Church :-

“AUTHORITY
1.1       The Conference is the governing body of the Methodist Church of New Zealand and has vested in it final authority on all matters of the
Church.  Its decisions are accordingly final and binding on both Ministry
and Laity.

1.2       Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 5-1.1  Conference shall have no power:-
(a)        To revoke, alter or change any doctrines of the Church as
contained in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley and his notes on
the New Testament, nor to establish any new doctrine contrary thereto;
(b)       To revoke “The General Rules of the Societies”;
(c)       To make such changes in the discipline as to do away with the
itinerancy of the Ministry;
(d)        To do away with the right of trial and appeal of Members and
Ministers of the Church;”

Property
3.2(h) Seeing that the property in the Parish is not used for
any purpose forbidden by the Laws if the Church or for any purposes,
entertainments or amusements which conflict with the purpose for
which the Church was called into being, or contrary to what is contained in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley and his Notes on the New Testament.”

 

  BACKGROUND & EXPERTISE

  3.    I currently occupy the Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian Chair of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto . It is the only Chair of Wesley Studies in Canada . At Tyndale Seminary I am also Professor of Historical Theology. I am also Adjunct Professor, Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto . I attach my full curriculum vitae. I have been accepted by a Court in Canada as an expert witness on the doctrines of the Methodist Church found in the writings of John Wesley.

 

REFERENCES

  1. In formulating my opinion it is necessary to have regard to the following notes sermons and writings of John Wesley:-

ROMANS 1:26-28

Therefore God gave them up with vile affections; for even their women changed their natural use to that which is against nature: (27)And likewise also men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward each other, men with men working filthiness, and receiving in themselves the just recompense of their error. (28)And as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to an undiscerning mind, to do the things which were not expedient: Filled with all injustice, fornication…….

Wesley comments on Romans 1:26 , “Therefore God gave them up to vile affections—To which the heathen Romans were then abandoned to the last degree; even the emperors themselves.”

Here Wesley is plainly referring to the well-attested fact that several Roman emperors behaved sexually in a way that was not exclusively heterosexual (if at all). Their behaviour was known and noted among Christians in that Christians were notorious for an understanding of human sexuality that repudiated any and all sexual expressions except marital intercourse. Wesley mentions women as well as men, since any non-marital (and therefore non-heterosexual intercourse) was understood throughout the Church as falling outside what God has ordained as proper sexual expression and therefore pertaining to the human good. Note that Wesley speaks of same-gender genital intimacy as “vile” and an instance of “filthiness”(27).

Wesley comments on 1:27 , “Receiving the just recompense of their error—Their idolatry: being punished with that unnatural lust, which was as horrible a dishonour of the body, as their idolatry was to God.”

“Unnatural lust” plainly refers to same-gender sexual craving, and Wesley maintains that it dishonours the body (implying that it thereby dishonours the Creator of that body) and as such dishonours god. Here he associates idolatry with “men with men working filthiness”. “Working” indicates what these men do. In calling it “error” he does not mean that it is non-culpable or a trifle or an inadvertence.

Wesley comments on Romans 1:28 , “God gave them up to an undiscerning mind (treated of, ver.32)to things not expedient–Even the vilest abominations: treated of, ver.20-31.”

Then Wesley continues, in his exposition of 29-31, to list “Every vice contrary to justice”. He mentions fornication first. “Fornication here includes every species of uncleanness.” Plainly the “vile affections”(26) and “that which is against nature”(26) and “men…burned in their lust toward each other, men with men working filthiness” is gathered up in “uncleanness”.

Romans 1:28 he discusses in his comment on Romans 1:32 , “But have pleasure in those that practise them — This is the greatest wickedness. A man may be hurried by his passions to do the things he hates. But he that has pleasure in those that do evil, loves wickedness for wickedness’ sake; and hereby he encourages them in sin, and heaps the guilt of others upon his own head.”

Here Wesley, with pastoral wisdom and sensitivity, distinguishes between the unguarded person whose surge of desire overtakes him in the very thing he knows he should hate and the person who finds pleasure in others who do evil, loves the wickedness itself, thereby encourages perpetrators in their wickedness, and brings the guilt of others upon himself. To be sure, Wesley is not restricting the application of his comment to “uncleanness”, but he certainly includes such “uncleanness”.

– – – –

In his Sermons Wesley amplifies Romans 1:26, wherein same-gender genital intimacy is referred to, “The will…was now seized by legions of vile affections”. [4:298]

ROMANS 2:14

For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these not having the law, are a law to themselves;

Wesley comments, “Do by nature–That is, without an outward rule; though this also, strictly speaking, is by preventing [i.e., prevenient, anticipatory] grace. The things contained in the law–The ten commandments being only the substance of the law of nature….”

By “Being only the substance of the law of nature” Wesley means “not less than the substance of the law of nature.” (For Wesley’s understanding of relation of the ten commandments to Jesus Christ, see V.Shepherd’s document below.) Wesley is aware that the ten commandments explicitly forbid adultery. He insists too (see V.Shepherd) that the ten commands are but the “heads” of the law of God; i.e., the commandment forbidding adultery comprehends all of the Old Testament precepts pertaining to sexual behaviour, including those that forbid homosexual genital intimacy. (E.g., “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22 RSV) Wesley’s understanding of the ten commandments as but the “heads” of the law or God precludes any suggestion that adultery is forbidden but homosexual intimacy is not.

In his comment on Romans 1:28 Wesley speaks of any and all “uncleanness” as “vilest abominations.” He cannot be understood to endorse or even permit homosexual behaviour.

ROMANS 2:16

In the day when God will judge the secretes of men by Christ Jesus, according to my gospel.

Wesley comments, “According to my gospel–According to the tenor of that gospel which is committed to my care. The gospel also is a law.”

His lattermost remark, “The gospel also is a law”, is crucial. The gospel is the good news of salvation, and as such exercises no less a claim upon people than the explicit claims of the law. Since the gospel aims at saving humankind from every kind of uncleanness, the gospel has the same force here as the promulgation of the law. Accordingly, all references to “gospel” or “Jesus Christ” in the Wesley corpus carry with them the implicit claim that all beneficiaries of the gospel (i.e., all who make a profession of Christian faith) repudiate all expressions of “uncleanness”.

1ST CORINTHIANS 6:9

Know ye not that the unjust shall not inherit the kingdom of God ? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor Sodomites.

Here Wesley explicitly mentions sodomy as disqualification for the kingdom of God . To be sure, he reads “effeminate” idiosyncratically as those who “live in any easy, indolent way, taking up no cross, enduring no hardship”. His point is that these latter people are no less disqualified than “idolators and Sodomites”.

He comments on this verse, “But why are these good-natured, harmless people ranked with idolators and Sodomites? To teach us that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought least; nor indeed till we think no sin is little since every one is a step towards hell.”

Evidently he intends here the following: [1] all self-indulgence is sin; [2] only vigilance against lesser sin will safeguard us against the “greatest sins”; [3] every sin is a road whose destination is hell.

Notwithstanding his idiosyncratic reading of “effeminate” he states [1] sodomy is sin, and (among) the “greatest”; [2] lesser and greater alike, undiscerned, unrepented of, unrepudiated will issue in eternal loss.

1ST CORINTHIANS 6:11

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Wesley comments, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed from those gross evils; and inwardly sanctified, not before, but in consequence of, your being justified in the name, that is, by the merits of the Lord Jesus, through which your sins are forgiven; and by the Spirit of our God, by whom ye are thus washed and sanctified.”

Wesley includes adultery and sodomy as “gross evils”. He emphasises, “not before, but in consequence of”, the fact that the cleansing of the sodomite Corinthians presupposes and in fact is intrinsically related to their having been justified (for Wesley, this means pardoned or forgiven). Pardon, of course, always presupposes guilt; forgiveness always presupposes relief from merited condemnation. The person who is pardoned has already been pronounced guilty. In his “through which your sins are forgiven” Wesley obviously includes sodomy as sin.

– – – –

In his Sermons Wesley amplifies 1st Corinthians 6:9, “And we know that not only fornicators and adulterers, but even the ‘soft and effeminate’, the delicate followers of a self-denying master, ‘shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of God’.” [3:150]

Elsewhere in the Sermons Wesley, again amplifying the biblical text mentioned above, faults the abuse of “the imputed righteousness of Christ” wherein someone who stands indicted by the catena of sins in 1st Cor. 6:9 claims the righteousness of Christ “as a over for his unrighteousness. We have known this done a thousand times. Such a person “…replies with all assurance, ‘…I pretend to no righteousness of my own: Christ is my righteousness”…. “And thus though a man be as far from the practice as from the tempers [Wesley characteristically uses this word to mean “dispositions’] of a Christian, though he neither has the mind which was in Christ nor in any respect walks as he walks…”. Again, Wesley regards all non-heterosexual expression to be inconsistent with Christian discipleship (“walk”). [1:462]

In speaking of life-change effected in the Corinthians through gospel as they repudiated their former behaviour, Wesley comments in the Sermons, “So the Corinthians were. ‘Ye are washed,’ says the Apostle, ‘ye are sanctified:’ namely cleansed from ‘fornication, idolatry, drunkenness’, and all other outward sin.” Wesley regards what the Corinthians had been about to be sin. [1:326]

1ST TIMOTHY 1:8-10

(8)We know the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (9)Knowing this , that the law doth no lie against a righteous man; but against the lawless and disobedient, against the ungodly and sinners, the unholy and profane, against killers of their fathers or their mothers, against murderers, (11)Against whoremongers, sodomites, men-stealers, liars, perjured person, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to wholesome doctrine.

In his comment Wesley says nothing about “whoremongers” and “sodomites”, in his taste to denounce the practice of slavery (“men-stealers”). Still, his comment on verse 8 is noteworthy: “We grant the whole Mosaic law is good, answers excellent purposes, if a man use it in a proper manner. The ceremonial is good, as it points to Christ; and the moral law is holy, just and good, and of admirable use to convince unbelievers, and to guide believers in all holiness.” It is to be noted here that [1] the moral law includes the prohibition against sodomy; [2] sodomy is a sign of unbelief; [3] since sodomy is a contradiction of holiness, those aspiring to holiness repudiate it by using the law lawfully. (1:8)

In his comment on 1st Timothy 1:9 Wesley says, “The law doth not lie against a righteous man, (doth not strike or condemn him,)but against the lawless and disobedient — They who despise the authority of the Lawgiver, violate the first commandment, which is the foundation of the law, the ground of all obedience. Against the ungodly and sinners, who break the second commandment, worshipping idols, instead of the true God. The unholy and profane¸ who break the third commandment by taking his name in vain.” Wesley includes sodomy in the “lawless and disobedient”, and he goes on to show that the perpetrators mentioned in 1:10 violate the first three commandments. Sodomy is an instance of lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, unholiness and profanity.

In his comment on 1st Timothy 1:11 he insists that the gospel, so far from voiding the law, establishes it. In other words, anyone who claims to be a beneficiary of the gospel (i.e., a Christian) is thereby pledged to uphold the law.

JUDE 7

Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, which in the same manner with these gave themselves over to fornication, and went after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Wesley comments on Jude 7, “The cities who gave themselves over to fornication — The word here means, unnatural lusts: are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire — The vengeance which they suffered is a type of eternal fire.” “Fornication” means “unnatural lust”. What this denotes is not in doubt in light of his comment on Romans 1. (See above.) The vengeance the cities suffered they suffered inasmuch as God avenged himself; i.e., judgement was rendered and enacted. Prefatory to all of this is Wesley’s comment on Jude 6: “…eternal displeasure toward the same work of his hands…because he ever loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.”

2ND PETER 2:7-10

And delivered righteous Lot , grieved with the filthy behaviour of the wicked…them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.

Wesley translates the Greek word “aselgeia” as “filthy behaviour. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament puts forward “sensuality”, “indecency”, “vice”. The same Greek word is used in several places, together with similar descriptors: e.g., “uncleanness and wantonness” (Romans 13:13 , Wesley’s translation), “uncleanness, and fornication and lasciviousness” (2nd Corinthians 12:21 , Wesley), and “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (Galatians 5:19 , Wesley).

– – – –

In Galatians 5:19 Wesley uses “aselgeia” again, and adds in the Sermons concerning this text, “‘They who are of Christ’…abstain from all the works of the flesh: from ‘adultery and fornication’; from ‘uncleanness and lasciviousness’;…from every design, and word, and work to which the corruption of nature leads.” [1:236]

Still amplifying Galatians 5:19 Wesley adds, “It is by him [the Spirit] they are delivered from anger and pride, from all vile and inordinate affections.” Wesley’s use of “vile” here denotes every expression of sexual “uncleanness”.

In his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount Wesley refers to Galatians 5:19 and therein speaks of the Christian, “This is only the outside of that religion which he insatiably hungers after…the being ‘purified as he is pure’ — this is the righteousness he thirsts after.”

REVELATION 22:11,14,15

He that is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still….Happy are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.

Wesley speaks of “dogs” as “fierce and rapacious men, even as the term is widely taken, following Old Testament precedent, to mean “homosexual”. It is to be noted that the people spoken of in 22:15 are denied access to the tree of life and are not admitted to the city [the new Jerusalem].

EPHESIANS 4:19

Who being past feeling, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Here Wesley translates “aselgeia” as “lasciviousness” and “akatharsia” as “uncleanness”. Elsewhere in his New Testament Notes Wesley deems “uncleanness” to include sodomy.

 

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS AS WESLEY’S CURE FOR ANTINOMIAN AND MORALIST ALIKE

See “Appendix 2”

  1. IT should be noted that Wesley dreaded antinomianism (the notion that the moral law had been relaxed for Christians) as he dreaded little else. His denunciation of antinomianism and his caution to Methodists concerning it are found in his Works passim. One particular instance of his concern here is illustrated by his three sermons printed consecutively in his Fifty-two Standard Sermons (numbers 34,35, 36):-

            The Original, Nature, Properties, and Use of the Law,

            The Law Established through Faith, I,

            The Law Established through Faith, II.

Note his insistence in the lattermost tract, “`We establish the law’…when we so preach faith in Christ as not to supersede but produce holiness: to produce all manner of holiness, negative and positive, of the heart and of the life.”(p.38, Volume 2, Wesley’s Works.) It should be noted too that Wesley everywhere regarded “enthusiasm” (the elevation of experience above scripture) as the godless parent of its godless offspring, antinomianism. It is no surprise, then, to see him follow his three sermons on the Law of God with The Nature of Enthusiasm.

It should be noted in this regard that John Wesley explicitly condemned homosexual behaviour in his longest tract, The Doctrine of Original Sin (1757). The “pederasty” of which he spoke includes homosexual sodomy between adult males as well, more specifically, that between adult and juvenile males. In his Notes on the New Testament (one of the standards of Methodism) Wesley comments on the reference to homosexual behaviour in Romans 1:26-27, “Receiving the just recompense of their error — Their idolatry, being punished with that unnatural lust, which was as horrible a dishonour to the body, as their idolatry was to God.” Concerning the “base fellows” of Judges 19:16-30, men who were bent on homosexual indulgence, Wesley, following the English text of the Authorized (King James) Version of the bible, speaks of “sons of belial”, and adds, “Children of the devil, wicked and licentious men.” With respect to Jude 7, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah , and the cities about them, which in the same manner with these gave themselves over to fornication…” (“the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust…” RSV), Wesley comments on “fornication”: “The word here means unnatural lusts: are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire — That is, the vengeance which they suffered is an example or a type of eternal fire.” The passage from the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” — Lev. 18:22 ) Wesley addresses by referring the reader to his comments on Romans 1:26 -27. He does as much with a similar passage in Lev. 20:13. He plainly thought that a point he had made unambivalently once he could make thereafter by referring the reader to it without the bother of rewriting it.   Several points need to be made here:- =

(i)              While Wesley says relatively little about homosexual behaviour, scripture as a whole says only enough to remind readers of what everyone is supposed to know: homosexual behaviour is an abomination to God and is to be shunned by men and women. (Jesus nowhere comments on spouse-abuse. No one would conclude, given the silence of Jesus on this matter, that he was in favour of it. Everything that Jesus says in the course of his earthly ministry militates against it. In other words, the explicit teaching of Jesus himself, together with his endorsement of the wisdom of Israel (he said he came not to abolish the law and the prophets [the Old Testament] but to fulfil them), provides the context that interprets not only what Jesus says but what he does not bother to mention in that it is indisputable. It cannot be imagined that in the primitive Christian communities a spouse-abuser could expect to be exonerated on the grounds that his Lord had not explicitly forbidden it.);

(ii)             In Wesley’s era it would not be contested that homosexual behaviour was immoral, even perverse, falling outside what God pronounces “good”, and therefore to be eschewed;

(iii)            Wesley’s civility and good taste (deemed desirable in an Oxford-educated, 18th century Anglican clergyman) would prevent him from amplifying a matter in which he knew everyone in the church catholic to agree with him in any case;

(iv)            There is nothing in Wesley’s theology or hymns or correspondence that suggests he approved in the slightest or regarded as permissible same-gender genital contact;

(v)             As someone ordained in the Church of England (and as someone whose Holy Orders were neither revoked nor surrendered), and as someone who always insisted that the theology, liturgy and governance of the Church of England were the finest to be found in Christendom, Wesley would unquestionably have rejected as a candidate for ordination or as a leader in local congregations anyone who engaged in homosexual behaviour;

Wesley’s laconic comment must be heard: “I allow no other rule, whether of faith or practice, than the Holy Scriptures.” (Wesley, Works, Vol. XIX, p.73).

 

DATED at Auckland this                 day of                                     2002.

 

……………………………………….

VICTOR SHEPHERD