New Zealand’s Presbyterian Church has criticised a gay hate campaign amid a ruling by the denomination on homosexual clergy.

Stickers have been sent to members of the Presbyterian Assembly with the phrase “gays are a cancer in our church, let’s keep them out of leadership,” as they prepare to vote later this month on whether to allow gay ministers in the church.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Reverend Garry Marquand, has condemned stickers that have been sent anonymously to those attending the Church’s General Assembly at the end of September.

Representatives from across the church, including more conservative groups, have criticised the offensive actions of the anonymous sender.

“They seriously undermine the respect that we have sought to preserve in our discussions on this sensitive issue, and they are also contrary to the accepted processes of the Church. To operate in this way is to be condemned,” said Mr Marquand in a letter that was sent to every Presbyterian parish.

General Assembly 2006 is being held in Auckland from 28 September to 2 October. It faces a decision on whether to confirm the ruling of the 2004 Assembly that the Church may not accept for training, license, ordain or induct anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside marriage. The ruling does not apply to people trained, licensed, ordained or inducted prior to 2004.

The stickers have no connection to official Church mailings preceding this month’s General Assembly.