Aotearoa Sunday

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The day of celebration, prayer and thanksgiving for the Bishop of Aotearoa is designated as the last Sunday of the Church Year - the Sunday before Advent. In the Worldwide Church that is Christ the King Sunday, so Prayer7s is celebrating it early.

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Aotearoa Sunday
Archbishop of Aotearoa,
Anglican Bishop of Waikato & Taranaki, Philip Richardson

Picture courtesy of www.taranakicathedral.org.nz

Today we celebrate the Bishop of Aotearoa, head of the Maori Church in New Zealand. The first CMS (Church Missionary Soc.) Missionaries in New Zealand did not come with the intention of serving settlers - there were none. They came to bring the gospel to Maori and form a Maori church. One of the original founders of the CMS, Henry Venn had the enlightened philosophy that missionaries should plant churches that would eventually be autonomous, where a small number of new indigonous christians, would spread the gospel among their own people and the Church be self-supporting within that culture. Sadly most colonial missionaries thought that replacing native culture and the “civilising of the natives” would bring about their more readily accepting Christ. Truth is elements of English culture weren't "civilized" at all.

The only CMS Missionary brave enough to bring the gospel to the fierce and cannibalistic, but noble Maori people was Samuel Marsden. Marsden eventually sent Henry Williams and his wife, who realised the importance of bringing the gospel to Maori in their own language and within their own cultural framework. They knew Maori should read the word of God for themselves in their heart language, Te Reo and started teaching and translating, from there the Maori Church truly began, as Henry Veen had foreseen, the gospel spread by Maori to Maori, running far ahead of the missionaries who followed in its wake.

The Maori Church grew rapidly, with its own flavour and style, a Maori version of Christianity. Christ transformed hearts, ending cannibalism and utu killings, but keeping within Maori culture in most ways. The clash came with the arrival of European settlers and the need for serving the Christians among those settlers - two very different styles of Church, both valid, it took a long time for the Pakeha Church leaders to realise that you should NOT try to unify them. The Maori Church already had martyrs when the Land Wars occured, the mutual racism, aggression and violence, between greedy English settlers and the fierce Maori warrior culture they were now trying to oppress, placed immense strain on the faith and loyalty of the Maori people to the Church and more martyrs were added to their number.

The solution eventually achieved is the 3 Tikanga Church we have today, its formation helped by the appointment of a Maori Bishop of the Maori Church throughout New Zealand, who could understand and appreciate both cultures, work in both and act as a mediator between the two when required. We can praise God indeed for the genius and talent of the first Maori Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett. The bishops that have followed in his footsteps have led to a thriving Maori church that meets the criteria that Henry Venn envisioned.

The current Archbishop of Aotearoa Philip Richardson, is based in Taranaki..he has a reputation for driving new ideas and new developments. He views his top priorities as helping the church to work together for the common good, to advocate for people on the margins, and help the church to “deepen its discipleship – in other words, to live out its faith.”