Organized Methodism in Australia, as part of the Foreign Missions under the direction of the British Conference, dates from the appointment of the Rev. Samuel Leigh to New South Wales in 1815. This, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji were constituted “The Australian Wesleyan Methodist Connexion” with an Annual Conference, affiliated to the Parent English Conference, and the first conference was held in Sydney in the year 1855. The New Zealand Church separated from the Australian Conference in 1913 with the union of the Methodist Church of New Zealand and the Primitive Methodist Church of New Zealand and the first conference was held in that year.
New Zealand is a country with a population of 3,500,000. There are 9,473 Methodist Church members who worship as part of a Methodist Church parish. In addition there is a significant number of Methodist Church members who worship within a cooperative venture where the Methodist Church has combined with the Presbyterian or Anglicans or Church of Christ or Congregational Union congregation of a particular area. The establishment of cooperative ventures has occurred in many regions of the country and particularly in rural areas. These form over half of the parishes for which the Methodist Church of New Zealand is responsible.
At the annual conference in 1983 the church made a conscious decision to work toward becoming a bicultural church. In particular the church made a decision to take seriously the founding document of our nation, the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty was signed by Maori and Pakeha, and the church’s commitment to the bicultural journey affirms that partnership. For this reason we have adopted practices whereby the voice of the Tangata Whenua (the original people) is heard as equal with the voice of the Tauiwi (the people who came after). One of the outcomes of this recognition of partnership is that our church now seeks to make decisions using as much as possible a consensus process of decision-making.
At the 1989 conference, the following statement of mission was adopted for the people of Aotearoa/New Zealand who are associated with the Methodist tradition, both in Methodist parishes and in cooperative ventures. “Our church’s mission in Aotearoa/New Zealand is to reflect and proclaim the transforming love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and declared in the scriptures. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve God in the world. The Treaty of Waitangi is the covenant establishing our nation on the basis of power-sharing partnership and will guide how we undertake mission.”
The mission statement becomes the basis on which the mission of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, Te haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa is carried out, and reflects the partnership we seek to embody.
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