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A three-ghetto church based on politics rather than Christianity
by Graeme J. Davidson
January, 2008

....Several weeks ago the leading Roman Catholic cleric in the UK upset Polish immigrants. One even said she felt “spiritually raped”. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor had accused them of being in danger of dividing the Church along ethnic lines. Poles in Britain have church services in Polish with their own priests and cultural activities, and the Cardinal wants them to join local parishes.
....British Catholic newspaper The Tablet supported the Cardinal’s desire to avoid church ghettos: “Sooner or later a mood of resentment and alienation sets in that feeds on injustices, real or imagined. Unity in diversity is a fine principle; but diversity by itself does not serve the common good”.
....What would the Cardinal make of the Anglican Church in New Zealand? It has three churches in one. And the division is definitely ethnic and cultural – Pacifica, Maori and Pakeha. Despite the Anglican New Zealand Prayer Book and the Bible stating that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentle or discrimination of gender, class of race, our Anglicans have created a segregated church. So, is the church heretical?
....The motive was good, but the outcome isn’t Christian. The debate that began in the seventies over the Treaty of Waitangi emphasised how Maori were subject to a dominant and assimilative European culture. To rectify this injustice Anglicans revised their constitution in 1992, splitting the church into three equal partnerships. Each Anglican tikanga, as these divisions are called, has its own language, church buildings, clergy and customs. That means many things happen in triplicate – like having three archbishops.
....There are constant calls for greater communication and understanding between tikanga. Shortage of resources has resulted in partner churches. And that’s not about how Presbyterian and Anglicans work together; it’s a way that Maori and Pakeha Anglicans can join hands across the cultural gap created by their own constitution.
....Church spin-doctors vigorously promote this unity in diversity. But why isn’t the Anglican Church encouraging gays and those who oppose women clergy to set up their own tikanga to add to this all-inclusive diversity? And though there are Anglican Chinese missions, why doesn’t this ethnic group have its own tikanga?
....You can move freely between tikanga. Even so, many Anglicans treat it as a benign form of apartheid and feel that the three-ghetto church has been thrust on them for political rather than for theological reasons.
....They have a point. The 1840 secular bicultural Treaty between Crown and Maori often takes centre stage, overshadowing the Christian message.
....The Diocese of Waiapu, covering the mid Eastern North Island, is about to elect its next bishop. The Waiapu Diocesan News reports that what the Diocese most values is its bicultural heritage and partnership. And what do they want from their next bishop? At the top of their list is someone who knows how to lead and has broad experience of the tikanga church “with knowledge, understanding and commitment to things Maori”. Imagine the uproar if that stated “commitment to things European”. It would rightly be seen as racist in this context. So, why isn’t “commitment to things Maori” racist?
....Mention of the next bishop’s depth of Christian faith is much lower on the list, almost as though it were an afterthought. In contrast, the Christchurch diocese puts spirituality at the top of the list for its next bishop.
....Clergy promise to abide by the Church constitution, which makes it difficult for them to oppose the three-in-one solution. The few who do speak out find they are banging their heads against an institutional brick wall. They’re judged culturally insensitive, having personal issues, not passionate about justice or out of step with where New Zealand is.
....Nevertheless, our Anglican Church must respond to what Nobel Peace Prize winner and South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “The only separation the Bible knows is between believers on the one hand and unbelievers on the other. Any other kind of separation, division, disunity is of the Devil. It is evil and from sin.”

The bizarre trinity of the New Zealand Anglican Church
...Imagine the reaction if the Anglican Church in South Africa were to divide itself into three separate sub churches within the main church, and if it did it along cultural and ethnic lines – whites, blacks and coloureds. Even if worshippers had the right to choose whatever cultural sub-church they liked, it would rightly be seen as a throwback to the bad old days of apartheid and contrary to the gospel. St Paul does emphasise that there is neither race nor gender in Christ. Yet, since 1992, the Anglican Church in New Zealand has split itself into three separate ethnically-based cultural churches – Maori, Pakeha and Polynesia.
...For publicly criticising this bizarre trinity (See column below and also Is it Anglican to practise apartheid, I have been refused a licence to practise as an Anglican priest in the Waiapu Diocese, where I reside. I have been ordained 40 years and worked as a priest in the UK, USA and New Zealand. Obviously, the Anglican bishops of New Zealand wanted to make an example of me. They seem terrified of open criticism and debate on the benign form of apartheid they have created. Why? Is it because their agenda is more political than Christian? After all, the three tikanga or cultural sub-church model is similar to what the Maori political party wants for the governance of New Zealand. [added July 2010]



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