the revised Anglican Church in New Zealand instigated a
benign form of religious apartheid?
by Graeme Davidson, September 2001
have an uneasy sense that they belong to a Church that
has instigated a benign form of religious apartheid
with the three tikangas acting like church Bantustans
doing their own thing, in their own way, under
the control of their own bishops and a remote General
decade ago governance of the Anglican Church
in New Zealand was dominated by the white majority. In 1992
was revised to rectify this. The Church was split into three
seats of power or tikanga (cultural streams). These are
(Polynesia), and Pakeha
(the rest, who are predominantly white with a sprinkling
of other ethnic groups).
tikanga is an equal partner in the Church's governing body,
the General Synod. Each exercises missions and ministry
within its own culture.
is also a tacit assumption that this Anglican partnership
would serve as a model for how New Zealand should be governed
in a bicultural partnership an issue General Synod
members will wrestle with this November.
sense of unease
For those in the pews the tikanga partnership has been
confusing and difficult to comprehend. There is an uneasy
sense that they belong to a Church that has instigated a
benign form of religious apartheid with the three tikangas
acting like church Bantustans doing their own thing,
in their own way, under the control of their own bishops
and a remote General Synod.
question is often raised as to how this official cultural
separation fits with St. Paul's comments in his letter to
the Galatians that there is 'neither Jew nor Greek, slave
nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ
Jesus'. For many the revised constitution seems to suggest
While there is a common recognition to have ministries customised
to meet cultural needs, there is grief that ordinary parishioners
in each Tikanga are not mixing and a sense of loss from
not having direct exposure to the richness of what each
culture has to offer. In his August letter to Clergy and
Vestry Secretaries Bishop Tom Brown of the Wellington Diocese
comments on some of the benefits of the three tikangas.
He then adds, 'By way of contrast a lament has sounded across
the Diocese in all sorts of places that we see little of
each other as Tikanga, and that is loss'.
others are happy to live and let live. They don't want to
be disturbed by the 'goings on' in the other tikanga - except,
perhaps, when it comes to sharing money and property.
do we meet?
Unless you are a seminarian at St. John's College, make
the effort to visit the other two tikanga or a special get-together
is organised, the only real place to benefit from the diversity
is at General Synod a few days once every two years
and three levels of church government representation remote
from the people in the pews. This rare opportunity to be
involved with the Church as a whole is reserved for bishops
and the elected few.
came home in the 1998 Hikoi of Hope, when, as a consequence
of a General Synod resolution, Anglicans from all three
tikanga and others from all over New Zealand walked to Parliament
to highlight poverty and social injustice throughout the
country. The Prime Minister of the time, Jenny Shipley,
received a delegation, but many Anglicans felt disappointed
and betrayed when issues of Maori sovereignty dominated
the presentation. People raised the question whether Maori
sovereignty was the key agenda for tikanga Maori.
original missionaries to New Zealand discouraged Maori from
practising their form of spirituality. Over 150 years later
Maori gods and spirituality have started to come out of
the closet. The Maori tikanga and liberal academics and
clergy who sense the need to provide diverse forms of spirituality
and different entry points to Christianity have given encouragement.
There has also been a reaction to the dominance of first
world theologies that encapsulate the culture, history and
preconceptions of the Northern Hemisphere.
an article in the 2nd of September Sunday Star Times entitled
Maori gods find church approval, the head of the
Maori tikanga, Bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe, is quoted as saying
,'I think any other gods are emanations from the one God.
That's what we are saying in Maoridom'.
like this create a suspicion that the integrity of the faith
is being corrupted. Incorporating Maori animistic gods like
Tane (god of forests and birds), Tangaroa (god of water)
and Tawhirimatea (god of winds and storms) within a mainstream
Christian Church raises the question of how far the Church
can go before compromising the first of the Ten Commandments.
question is not unique to New Zealand and the South Pacific.
It is an issue the Church constantly faces when interfacing
with other cultures and spirituality, whatever age it finds
itself. What is permissible and what isn't? When is the
local spirituality helpful to understanding Christianity
and when does it become unhelpful or even heretical?
the Treaty apply?
In the past the Church has been guilty of riding roughshod
over indigenous cultures. In New Zealand the early missionaries
interceded between Maori and the European colonists on the
nation's founding document, the 1840 Treaty
of Waitangi between Maori chiefs and the British Crown.
is much debate as to the interpretation of the Treaty in
its two languages, and particularly about the question of
sovereignty and the preservation of Maori culture. Obligations
under the Treaty were invoked when the Revised Anglican
Constitution was being developed. But it is doubtful whether
the Treaty would apply to the governance of a voluntary
organisation like a church. It is also difficult to understand
how the Treaty is relevant to tikanga Pasifika, which includes
the countries of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.
churches in New Zealand haven't adopted the tikanga lead
of the Anglicans, so it is very unlikely that it will receive
groundswell endorsement from the public as a model for the
governance of the country. It appears that the church has
enough difficulty convincing its tripartite self.