Back last month we celebrated Waitangi Day and watched the video’s, “The Treaty of Waitangi, What really happened (Pretty Much)” but today we are revisiting it in a slightly different perspective. Back in England in the early 19th Century, a group of evangelical, praying Christians from the Church of England (Anglican) formed a Home group, out in Clapham. They came to be called the “Clapham sect” or “Clapham Saints”, they were motivated by their Christian faith and concern for social justice and fairness for all. Lead by William Wilberforce MP, Henry Thornton and including Rev John Venn, the local Rector, the group contained some very influential people and God used them to achieve great things, including the abolition of slavery, the founding of the S.P.C.A., the founding of the Church Missionary Soc. and more.
Their actions led to missionaries being sent to New Zealand. Both the Clapham sect and those missionaries were responsible for the creation and signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Yet the key part played by Jesus followers has largely been written out of our history books, or been painted in negative terms.
Without the work of Henry Williams, James Stephens and William Colenso the Treaty would not exist. Henry and Marianne Williams came to Aotearoa in 1823, as CMS Missionaries, 9 years after Samuel Marsden first preached here. Things were not good with the missionaries here until they arrived and took charge. Little impact had been made on Maori, but by 1845, 60% of Maori were attending Church services.
The key factor in this surge of converts was Williams' decision to learn Te Reo and the Maori Culture. They saw that for the gospel to take root it had to be presented in the heart language of those to whom they were bringing it and explained in a way to which they could relate. It was the Missionaries who then created a written form of Te Reo and fostered the importance of Literacy, Maori children started going to school and many taught what they were learning to their parents. The Bible was then translated into Maori, by William Williams (Henry’s brother) and printed on New Zealand's first printing press by William Colenso.
More quickly than the Missionaries themselves had dreamed of, the word of God spread throughout New Zealand, with Maori missionaries and ex-slaves, bringing the gospel to tribes throughout the land. They were brave men risking death due to utu (revenge killing in reprisal for previous killings in tribal conflicts), indeed New Zealand has its share of Maori saints and martyrs.
By the time the Bible translation was completed, most Maori were literate, and there's a story of how one man walked 250 miles just to get a Bible. Dramatic changes were taking place, cannibalism was being abolished and there was a refocus of “utu” through the lens of grace. Whole communities of Maori had begun following the ways of Christ, resulting in enormous transformation. The Williams’ and their fellow missionaries were trusted and held in high regard by the Maori, but the missionaries were increasingly concerned about the growing prospect of European involvement and intentions in N.Z. they could see the ominous clouds on the horizon. . . as we know, they were right to be worried. They wanted a new way of relating to indigionous peoples - one that recognized their rights and was a mutually beneficial partnership - that’s why the Treaty exists. (to be continued . . . on Tuesday.)