On the corner of Bealey Avenue and Victoria Street sits Knox Church, concrete and wood elegantly mixing the old with the new. Knox Church is unique, as is its pastor, Matthew Jack. Being a pastor, and being part of the rainbow community is rare. Matthew thinks he may be the only rainbow person leading any of the around 400 Presbyterian churches in New Zealand.
“The official position of the wider church here in this country is that rainbow people are not fit for leadership roles… I’m allowed to continue ministering because I was on the register of ministers in good standing when the excluding legislation went through.”
After his ministry is up, there are going to have to be some changes before more rainbow people are allowed to lead churches.
“I’m here on a grandparent clause, which means when I go, no more of my kind will come… But, within that national policy, which I acknowledge - I’m bound by that - I’ll carry on serving as I can. And when I can’t anymore I won’t, and I’ll wait for further generations of Presbyterians to work out what to do next.”
And he thinks that change may be happening, but there is still a long way to go.
He has found the Christian church welcoming but puts this down to his age and confidence in his sexuality. He views unsupportive environments cultivated by other churches as potentially damaging to someone who may be struggling.
“I’ve been to various events at other churches where I’ve listened to what’s being said, and it’s not friendly. I’m okay with that because I’m an older gay person, and I’m currently not coming to terms with myself and my sexuality. It’s just bordering on dangerous. So we’re doing okay, and we could do better.”
He points out with a chuckle that his journey to the faith was a long one. He was raised living a “very pleasant, nice secular life”, but when an English teacher brought up the question of God, Jack was fascinated at the discord among his friends. He approached his local minister to investigate religion further, saying he owes part of where he is today to those first chats.
“Good conversations with a good man, who had lots of time for a young person.”