When rights become wrongs Fearfully and wonderfully made
By Keith Newman (13-03-2020/ updated 25-03-20 with postscript at end)
The Abortion Law Reform Bill and its amendments passed in the New Zealand Parliament on March 18 2020 following emotionally charged debates was a further polarising of our nation over what is sacred and what is secular. The new law, described by some as the world’s most extreme abortion legislation, has vague language that opens the way for abortion on demand up to 20-weeks. Beyond that a doctor will need to determine the criteria through to full term.
Attempts to provide pain relief for full term babies being aborted, medical assistance for babies that survived the abortion process and an attempt to ensure the law wasn’t used for gender selection or for terminating babies with deformities including Down syndrome were overturned.
For many this is a Bible and Christian morality issue; there’s no shortage of biblical texts that can be used to support that even if they’re at times out of context, but is this also a Treaty issue?
Is the voice of Maori, the sacredness of the pepe, the continuation of whakapapa being challenged, along with tikanga Maori, as it clearly was when so many voices were raised during the Oranga Tamariki cases where newborns were removed from their mother’s at birth.
Is denying the rights of the child in the womb after 20-weeks also a human rights issue?
I am reluctant to introduce this topic to the Bible & Treaty group but I note many of Maori and Pacifica MPs in Parliament oppose it including Ratana MPs Adriane Ruarawhe and Rino Tirikatene and several others within Labour, including Nania Mahuta and Meka Whatiri.
I note also a strong voice coming from many church groups that represent several hundred thousand New Zealanders.
While there is majority support in Parliament for the bill to progress, I continue to challenge myself. What do I really think, am I sitting on the fence in the ‘right to life debate’ because I don’t want to be pigeonholed among the protesters or the proponents? Has my caution made me cowardly?
Touch and go birth
I hold no firm opinion either way but some serious questions arise in my heart and mind. I speak as the product of a high-risk caesarian birth that was touch and go...and one who had nightmares about that process until my teenage years, when I had a revelation about where those images originated. Was I human when I remembered being lifted from my mother’s womb, hell yes. And I’m so glad to be here.
Despite trying to keep an open mind I am disturbed at the language and the passion of those who are determined to de-humanise the fruit of the womb before it is fully ripened and continue to champion it’s end, even through cruel dismantling, like some great social breakthrough.
What about the people crying out to adopt a child, around 300 couples and individuals waiting at any one time, surely there’s some supply and demand issue to be taken into account here?
Andrew Little’s Bill is being pursued “to better align the regulation of abortion services with other health services, and modernise the legal framework for abortion currently set out in the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977”.
There were more than 13,282 abortions carried out in 2018, mostly women in their 20s, almost all on the grounds it would be a danger to the woman's mental health.
Abortion is about to be removed from the Crimes Act which seems fair enough but there are some critical definitions at stake and vague parameters that could pave the way for ‘abortion on demand’ or a kind of eugenics (abortion for Down Syndrome and other ‘defects’) which concerns many opponents.
In a heartbeat
A lot of misinformation has been propagated; recently one columnist suggested the baby has no heartbeat in those earliest stages, and there’s the ongoing suggestion that the foetus isn’t human until birth.
Without a good medical reason, ending of the life of a full-term baby, may under current law be considered as murder. The shift in terminology being used clearly attempts to redefine the argument.
Currently a woman needs two health professionals to support her case for a legal abortion and that’s pretty much it up to full term; the law change would remove these and other ‘obstacles’, making the decision pretty much up to the woman concerned.
In the second reading (3 March 2020) many of the “complicated legal hurdles to be cleared before receiving abortion” were removed. Support shifted slightly from 94 in the first reading down to 81 with 39 opposed.
More than 30 organisations signed an open letter supporting abortion law reform stating “at its core, this bill is about supporting women and pregnant ‘people's’ autonomy, dignity and wellbeing”. A petition with over 13,000 signatures was presented to Parliament in mid-2019 opposing the bill.
The New Zealand Christian Network actively wrote to oppose the reforms last year, the Catholic bishops have expressed concern that the ‘tenuous rights’ of the unborn baby are about to be removed.
Churches late rally
Now late in the picture the churches of Aotearoa seem to be rallying; in particular the Assemblies of God (AOG) representing 229 churches and about 20,000 people and the New Life churches (76 churches and approximately 13,000 people) and the Auckland church leaders group (16 senior pastors) have written to all MPs asking them to reconsider their decision.
I’ve seen passionate appeals from ministers of other denominations as well, crying out for the rights of the child. It is an appeal that resonates because it is a cry from the heart that prayerfully considers the Creator’s purpose and intent.
I’m all for women having the right to make decisions about what happens to their bodies and for abortion under severe mental or physical duress; in some cases where rape has occurred, or if giving birth might cause physical harm.
I’m not so confident it should be used as a means of late contraception. If we are made in the image of God then there’s a spark of divinity that is being snuffed out here. Those in favour of the bill deny pre-birth human status and will clearly have difficulty with the divinity part.
It’s supposed to be a conscience vote but there’s some suggestion its become a party vote in some cases, in other words vote how you are told.
The select committee received more than 25,000 written submissions and publicly heard from 150 groups and individuals. National MP Agnes Loheni claimed the vast majority of submissions opposed the bill.
Animal rights affirmed
We’re very firm about animal rights and pass legislation preventing calves from being aborted (June 2015) but seem to have little regard for the human baby. Even if the baby survives the abortion apparently any requirement for medical help will be denied.
Did Andrew Little really say: “Abortions that take place before nine weeks, or even before 12 weeks, do not entail an unborn child. It is not an unborn child, and I reject the language of that—that this somehow is a debate about unborn children." Well, yes according to Hansards that’s exactly what he said.
Little’s definition goes against much of the science and biology teaching that has been with us for generations; that life begins at fertilisation and is contrary to the long argued cases for foetal rights enshrined in the laws of many countries.
What about all the medical advice on protecting and caring for the baby in the womb; don’t smoke, don’t drink, which was standard talk and practice from Plunket and most doctors, nurses and health clinics?
What about the delight as the child grows and develops in the womb and starts moving and responding to stimuli, a kick at the sound of the father’s voice or a rhythmic movement when the mother singing? Is that not human?
And while I don’t agree with the very graphic images used by protestors to make their point I was concerned when David Seymour, who’s behind the Euthenasia Bill, used his own form of hate speech in Parliament: “I hate these odious ogres who stand outside abortion clinics” (11-03, NZ Herald).
Where do we stand?
Abortion is one of those topics so polarising and fraught with emotion that many refuse to engage in even discussing it. I’ve been one of those.
My conscience is telling me something is deeply wrong here, and that classifying a three month old foetus as simply tissue is a denial of something incredibly marvelous.
Scripture tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “knit together” in the womb and known by the Creator in the secret place (Psalm 139:13-18)
Have Maori and Pacifica voices been sufficiently heard or sidelined and dismissed? Is this vote really what New Zealanders want or is it part of an agenda to make unborn children another disposable part of our consumer mentality.
And, to my point, would this law change be a step too far and a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi promise to protect?
On March 18 abortion as a “medical procedure” was removed from the New Zealand Crimes Act under the Abortion Legislation Bill which passed 68 against 51.
Abortions are now simply a health issue. The controversial debate over whether to amend and liberalise the law passed a first reading in August 2009 with a much stronger 94 votes in favour and only 24 opposed. By the second reading there were 81 for and 39 against.
Parliamentary under-secretary to the Minister of Justice and Green Party MP Jan Logie hailed as a victory for women who will "have the freedom to make the right decisions for themselves" about having a child.
She said it treated “pregnant people” as untrustworthy and unable to make their own decisions, creating serious barriers to healthcare. Now they will no longer “have to jump through unnecessary hurdles".
Strongest opponent to the Bill National MP Agnes Loheni, described it as “an attack on our own humanity” and in her own report stated of the 25,000 submissions on the Bill, approximately 91.6 percent were opposed to it.
The idea of putting the vote to a public referendum was dismissed because of the already packed agenda which will see recreational cannabis and euthanasia questions as part of the September election process.
Under previous legislation women had to undergo a test by two medical practitioners to prove they would be under physical or mental danger decide if they proceed with the birth.
The changes still require a test for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant with two doctors agreeing an abortion is the right decision. Currently very few abortions take place after 20 weeks.
Wesleyans in Waipounamu A legacy of perseverance The story of James Watkin & Matiahau Tiramorehu
By Keith Newman
It was Maori who first bought the gospel to their own people in South Island after Wesleyans John Hobbs and John Bumby dropped off indigenous teachers in June 1839.
Taawao, later baptized as Rawiri Kingi, was the first Maori teacher in Canterbury who taught many to read and write and held regular church services. While CMS missionaries left scriptures with local Maori after being blown off course in November 1839, the first European missionary to preach and be stationed there was Wesleyan James Watkin.
John Jones, a ship-owner who ran the Waikouaiti whaling station, with the full support of local Maori chiefs, had been appealing for some time to the Wesleyan Mission Board for a full-time missionary to counter the influence of the lawless whalers.
Rev. James Watkin, a Welshman, with “a natural gift for acquiring languages” had been in Tonga where he had expert on their language and won many to Christ after recovering from a severe illness took up the challenge.
He with his wife Sarah and five children arrived in Otago on 16 May 1840 and he preached the first Christian service in the South island a day later. The first settlers had just arrived and within weeks British officials would come to collect signatures for the Treaty of Waitangi.
Watkin soon discovered the Maori Bible books supplied to him weren’t much use as the southern dialect was quite different to that of the north where the translations were done. Within four months he was preaching in the local dialect and had begun creating a dictionary of vocabulary and pronunciation.
Watkin’s nine-year-old son James learned directly from chief Haereroa and Watkin having spent time with many local Maori, soon translated the Gospel of Matthew which was printed in Sydney in 1841.
Commitment to share
Many came to hear Watkin preach and he went by horse, whale boat and on foot to reach as many iwi (tribes) and family groups (hapu) as he could. Maori learned prayers, hymns, liturgy and catechism which Watkin wrote down for them and the Ten Commandments were recited almost daily
Another Wesleyan missionary Rev. Samuel Ironside, arrived at Cloudy Bay on 20 December 1840, to take over the circuit between Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel, and often as far as Nelson and Motueka.
Within two years his converts were teaching throughout the East Coast of the South Island.
Late 1842, CMS Maori missionaries Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Whiwhi, began their South Island mission. Over nine months they travelled as far as Stewart Island, sharing their faith and asking forgiveness from those who had suffered at the hands of warrior chief Te Rauparaha (Tamihana’s Dad) in the Ngati Toa incursions.
Many thought they should fear for their lives but the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was well known by those who had listened to Watkin and Ironside and their teachers.
Watkin was concerned for his work and the impact of the CMS, in the light of Bishop Selwyn’s tendency to reject the Wesleyan efforts as not being of the true church. Even the CMS record fails to recognise the pioneering efforts of Watkin and Ironside, attributing much of the success in evangelising the south to the Kapiti Coast cousins.
Within days of the Wairau incident, where the first lives were lost over the failure of the New Zealand Company to determine the true ownership of land before sending in the surveyors, 200 Maori turned up at the unfinished chapel being built by M?ori at Moeraki.
Watkin baptised 21 Maori on 18 June 1843, among them was chief Horomona Pohio, the first M?ori pastor and teacher at Ruapuke, and Ngai Tahu chiefs Hoani Weteri (John Wesley) Korako and Tare Weteri (Charles Wesley) Te Kahu, who both became pastors and teachers at Otakou (Otago).
An unrivaled teacher
When the Moeraki building was dedicated on 30 July 1843 other chiefs were baptised, among them Matiaha Tiramorehu, Watkin’s main teacher at Moeraki who was unrivalled in his knowledge of Maori history, traditions and the higher mysteries.
By the end of the 1843 Watkin had baptised over 200 converts and trained 26 M?ori pastors and teachers. It is said that without his influence, relationships with the Ngai Tahu chiefs, the settlers and the purchasing company would not have been so harmonious: of the 25 Maori signatories 23 were baptised by the Wesleyans.i
In April 1844 James Watkin and his family moved to Port Nicholson (Wellington). His successor Rev. Charles Creed, from Taranaki, arrived with officials to put southern colonisation on a more just footing.
In many ways the legacy of Watkin was seen in the life, actions and testimony of Tiramorehu who encouraged his people at Moeraki to adopt European agriculture, become farmers and grow crops. He ensured customary rights were awarded in the Kaiapoi district (part of the Wairau block purchase) and helped broker land deals for settlements in Canterbury, advising who should receive compensation after early payments “grew wings”.
He challenged Governor Grey and land purchasers Kemp and Mantel for their deceptive practices, complained reserves were much smaller than promised and pursued promises for schools for Maori, then opposed fees charged for Maori to attend.
Tiramorehu’s firm grasp of English, the law and injustice changed the relationships between the governors and the governed to become a much more supportive one. In his old age Tiramorehu renewed his efforts to oppose shady land deals and acquire more land for the Ngai Tahu people.
His earnest desire that Europeans and Maori would live together as brothers is emblazoned across the front of the Christchurch City Council buildings which are now owned by Ngai Tahu.
Sources: Material paraphrased from Bible & Treaty: Missionaries Among the Maori, Keith Newman, Penguin (2010), pp 163-180 i John Jones of Otago, Eccles and Reed cited in T.A Pybus, Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island, Reed, 1954 footnote, p. 73
No solace in blood quantum - False agenda creates division
By Keith Newman
Wrong headed thinking and deeply entrenched myths still persist in much of our outdated attitudes in Aotearoa-New Zealand as we grapple with what it is to be a bi-cultural nation that values equality and partnership.
We all bleed red but flippant and shallow judgments based on external appearance continue to create hurtful and damaging distinctions and barriers to relationships that are in desperate need of being traced, faced and replaced.
Questions such as “Are you half-caste or what percentage Maori are you?” are just plain rude. And claims there are no full blooded Maori left aren’t strictly true, I have met full blooded Maori who have strong whakapapa lines they can trace back to their waka with no tauiwi (non-Maori, foreigner) in their lineage.
Asking the percentage question suggests you might be withholding judgement until you hear an acceptable fraction. And that’s exactly what we did in Aotearoa-New Zealand until 1975 when Maori could finally choose how they voted.
The first four Maori seats were allocated in 1867 and remained unchanged until MMP was introduced in 1996. Between 1893 and 1975 if you had 50% Māori blood you had to vote for the Maori seats otherwise you were only eligible to vote for the European seats.
However, some people including the One New Zealand Foundation and its offspring Hobson’s Pledge formed in 2016, want us to return to the ‘blood quantum’ approach for determining who is Maori and therefore eligible for the so-called “special privileges and rights”.
In 2004 National Party leader Don Brash opposed Maori political seats and representation on various public boards, challenged the Treaty of Waitangi “grievance industry” and suggested there were no full-blooded Maori left.
As Pita Sharples said to the Orewa Rotary Club in September 2006, two years after Don Brash’s controversial speech, it was an unfortunate political utterance that “respect for Maori should be predicated on a level of blood quota” and that Maori were somehow a “diluted race” because of intermarriage.
He was horrified that such an argument was still being perpetuated for political gain, stating “identity cannot be measured in parts”.
As recently as 2013 One New Zealand Foundation, in a submission to the Ministry of Justice said it would be fairer to all New Zealanders if the definition of Maori in any future Constitution stated, “Maori must prove they have 50% or more of tangata maori ancestry/blood quantum” to be legally considered Maori.
Researcher Ross Baker asked people raise the ‘blood quantum issue’ in their own submissions to the ministry. “Why should a New Zealand Citizen with less than 50% of ‘tangata maori’ ancestry have privilege, advantage or extra rights over any other New Zealander?”
These ideas continue to be propagated by Hobson’s Pledge which actively campaigns against Maori rerpresentation on councils and its idea of ‘Maori privilege’ despite the clear need to continue addressing the many issues of inequality evident in our society that can be traced back to broken Treaty promises.
Not so black and white
I’ve even begun to wonder if trying to squeeze Maori into a blood quantum framework on top of the land confiscations, other treaty breaches and attempted assimilation by church and state to “become like us”; the “we are all one” rhetoric, hasn’t actually been a kind of identity theft.
So where did this idea of black and white representing superior and inferior come from; was it a tactical tool for colonisation and is it something we need to personally and nationally ‘repent’ from?
Going way back to biblical times it was hardly a factor; if there was an issue of division it was more about religious, cultural or territorial issues. The Hebrew or Jewish people were connected by their genealogical ties back to the original 12 tribes, regardless of skin colour
Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry the cross for Christ was from modern day Libya and most likely an African man. Paul regularly hung out with Barnabus a native of Cyprus (often depicted as dark skinned) and Simeon (also known as Niger meaning of dark complexion) were close partners in sharing the Gospel.
The Ethiopian Eunuch was an influential person who spread the Gospel to his own people after an encounter with Phillip (Acts 8:26-40). And of course it mustn’t be forgotten that Jesus (Yeshuah) himself was not some blue-eye blond, he was an indigenous Middle Eastern most likely of a swarthy brown complexion.
Skin pigmentation went from simply being a fact of life based on location and genetics into a cultural and class determination in 1600s America largely because of the slave trade.
Britain had colonised American and was in need of labour to create its new reflections of empire building infrastructure and working the land taken from native Indian tribes or working in plantations.
Initially white Irish were imported to do the work, as they were apparently not considered fully human under British law. They worked sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean but more labour was needed so the Atlantic slave trade with Africa was born, often through seducing people on board ships or because chiefs or tribal elders sold off their own people for profit.
Bonded labourers were often set free after paying back the amount they were allegedly in debt for, and intermarriage often created a peasant class who were increasingly used as labourers
Whiteness, and blackness as a language for race was born in the mind of America in Virginia around the 1680s, and seems to first appear in Virginia law in 1691. Whites were given certain rights, while existing rights were taken from blacks (negroes, mulatos or Native Indians).
Black and white slave owners and land owners both had the vote until early 18th century but when the law shifted so whites could no longer be permanently enslaved, black slaves lost the ability to work their way to freedom.
Whites, even poor ones were now considered to be above blacks accelerating the race distinction or racism that was affirmed by Darwin’s survival of the fittest theories from the 1850s, creating a blueprint for further advancing colonisation across the globe.
Blood quantum, the determination of someones make-up by the percentage of racial parentage, is still used to some degree in the United States.
It originated with The Indian Removal Act (1830) and the resulting Trail of Tears or forced relocations of approximately 60,000 Native Americans, and efforts to create a head count.
Many forcibly driven from their ancestral homelands were well aware they were being “subjected to genocide” and understandably mistrusted the government of the time and tried to flee.
If they weren’t already in “prison camps” warrants were issued for their arrest and they were forcibly rounded up and documented against their will...this enrollment was not optional.
From 1834 the Indian Reorganization Act required persons to have a certain blood quantum to be recognized as Native American and be eligible for financial and other benefits under treaties or sales of land.
Someone with an Indian grandparent and three non-Indian grandparents was determined to be one-quarter Indian blood. Tribes that use this method require at least one-half to one-sixteenth tribal blood with proof required through documents approved by a government or tribal official.
Some tribes require as much as 25% ‘blood quantum but most still allow one sixteenth or one great grandparent. This is specifically prescribed under the US Federal Acknowledgment Act, 1978.
A Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB) can be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a regional or agency office that covers a tribal area closest to where ancestors lived or the tribe is located.
These Indian blood laws in the US and the 13 colonies that define Native American identity were enacted by the US Government, although some tribes no longer have this as part of their criteria.
Half blood to vote
In New Zealand the definition of Maori for electoral roll and other purposes, up until the late 1970s at least, was an expectation of 50% or greater Maori lineage.
Richard Mulgan in his book Maori, Pakeha and Democracy puts it simply. “Until 1981 the census defined a Maori as someone with a half or more Maori ancestry. The electoral law was similar. Before the Maori option for voter registration was introduced in 1975, voters were Maori or European electoral roles according to the fractions of their descent, with half castes being allowed a choice of either role.”
He says such definitions in terms of the degree of descent entirely ignored the cultural element in ethnic identity. “On present day views of ethnicity it is the cultural aspect which is now paramount. The key issue for someone of mixed ancestry is which ethnic group he or she is identified with.”
The 1986 census instead of requiring a precise fraction of descent, simply asked people for their ethnic origins with the Maori option for parliamentary elections allowing anyone with at least one Maori ancestor the option of enrolling on either the Maori or the General roll.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is clearly still wrestling with the issue in its paper, The problem of defining an ethnic group for public policy and why does it matter? It reviews multiple attempts to measure Maori identity through biology, socio-cultural or ethnic group attachment.
It cites Ritchie’s “degree of Māoriness” scale (1963) and Metge’s schema of “Māoritanga” (1964) and more recent researchers from Massey University who proposed a single measure of Maori cultural identity after a study of Maori households.
The measure is a weighted aggregate of an individual’s scores on seven cultural indicators (Cunningham et al. 2002, Stevenson 2004). Māori language has the highest weighting, followed by involvement with the extended family, knowledge of ancestry, and self-identification, based on a subjective assessment of the contribution of each to a “unique Māori identity”.
The paper presupposes that there is something culturally unique about Māori, and “that this can be prioritised, quantified and aggregated”. Elsewhere, researchers have used language use, religious affiliation and/or network ties as measures of ethnic attachment (Reitz and Sklar 1997).
Their problems with definition seem to be highlighted because of the diffulty in distinguishing between single-ethnic and multi-ethnic peoples and inter-marriage which “dilutes ethnic identity, which in turn weakens group solidarity and concomitant claims based on cultural uniqueness (Birrell 2000)”.
From a policy perspective, MSD says the distinction between single- and multi-ethnic persons is “easier to operationalise than either cultural indicators or biological proofs” making it more likely. to be accepted by policy makers as a way of dealing with those “deserving of closer attention”.
MSD certainly makes every effort to sound like its done its homework in order to background the reasons it believes what it does, in order to meet Maori needs.
Recipe for division
But these are deep identity issues that need careful handling as Maori move into the new way of asserting an identity that has been undermined and classified and reframed often in demeaning ways for far too long.
Donna Matahaere-Atariki, who received the NZ order of Merit in 2018 for over 20-years service in Maori health and education, recalls, in her Cultural Revitalisation thesis (2016), says the 1950s for example was a tense time for mixed marriages with resistance from both Pakeha and Maori to such unions.
She says the 1950s movie BrokenBarrier which dealt with the issues of intermarriage helped promote New Zealand on the international stage as an exemplar for racial tolerance which clearly was far from the truth.
“As a child of mixed marriage I was often reminded of the term half-caste, a term that was intended to be inferior. I recall being in High School during the 1970s and the teacher asking all children of any Māori descent to stand so that we could be counted. I was unaware at that time that this instruction coincided with government policy that changed the caste system from a belief in blood quantum to one of descent. An older birth certificate notes that I am ‘3/4 caste’.”
Matahaere-Atariki says degrees of descent remain problematic because this normalises the tendency for identity to be confused with biological features. “Even today, the notion of blood quantum can be used as a self-identifier of an individual’s ‘degree of Māori-ness’ which is disconcerting.”
She quotes Angela Wanhalla discussing the difficulty of tracing mixed marriages, specifically for Māori women citing multiple research projects which stated very few full blood Māori exist, thereby “legitimating both a turn to racial traits and a refusal to recognise the rights of a fully endowed indigenous population”.
Matahaere-Atariki says, “If we do not exist ‘in all our purity’, then it is assumed that we have no rights. The concern that mixed marriages weakened group identity based on ideas of cultural uniqueness is both unhelpful and scientifically indefensible. Politically it represents the exposure of racial ideology promulgated in order to conjure up a platform for the disenchanted.”
She says the term “cultural revitalisation” is an incomplete term “for the right to continually remake our culture and identities in ways that we may yet, not even imagine. We carry our fears in a way that our mokopuna do not. They will have opportunities, yet to be discovered, and it is the role of all of us, including government to ensure that policy is broad and deep enough to support their right to express their culture with the technologies at their disposal.”
Culture, she says, should be an ordinary part of what defines Maori and not a burden to be recovered.
Race is arbitrary
New Zealand-born mission leader, author and communicator John Dawson says biologically there are no races and so-called racial characteristics vary so much from individual to individual that all attempts at establishing distinct biological units that deserve classification are arbitrary.
“Each person has tens of thousands of different genes. At the genetic level, human beings are incredibly diverse in a way that transcends geographical dispersion. Therefore, what we call a race is a classification of culture, having more to do with tribal membership or national citizenship than any real genetic distinction.”
For some reason, says Dawson in his book Healing Americas Wounds, skin colour has been the defining characteristic in cross-cultural relationships. “No personal physical feature, except gender, has made such an impact on the fates of individuals and people groups, yet pigmentation is a relatively superficial thing.”
Pakeha can be cruel when we speak in racist clichés like ‘bloody Maori’, fail to engage meaningfully, use ‘get over it’ terminology in relation to unresolved Treaty issues or suggest Maori shouldn’t be privileged over any other race.
Just read the comments column in the newspapers around Treaty settlement articles or for that matter social media. If you hadn’t noticed racism has become a major issue in recent years then you have grown an extra thick skin, regardless of its colour.
The book No Maori Allowed by Robert E. Bartholomew (Feb 2020) which exposed deeply entrenched racism in Pukekohe and other locations in South Auckland in the 1950s-1960s was an eye-opener for many.
That skin colour was used to prevent Maori sitting in the same theatre rows as their Pakeha friends, getting their hair cut at the same barber shop or being served at the same pub was one of those shameful things few spoke about other than in hushed tones in selective company.
It was heartening to learn that the segregation in the local theatre came to an end when Pakeha friends of Maori who were being discriminated against took a stand and confronted the owner. It would be interesting to know whether Maori felt welcome in local churches and whether those churches stood with them?
Restoring our story
Similarly the overt racism of publishers, politicians and property peddlers in Taranaki and Whanganui in the 1860s – 1880s; misinterpreting the works of Darwin to place Maori lower down the evolutionary scale than them, was too often casually dismissed.
The use of race and colour was used alongside greed without conscience as a further impetus to usurp Maori land, rights and mana.
The attitude in Pukekohe and neigbouring townships in the 1960s is in living memory and is far too close for comfort for those who still see colour as a barrier as were the attitudes of white superiority among far too many of us outed into the mainstream following the Christchurch mosque massacres.
History needs to be revealed warts and all if we are to progress as a nation. Our attitudes and loose lips are rightly under scrutiny as are those of many of our major organisations being exposed as institutionally racist.
If we are all created in the image of God (Latin: Imago Dei; Gen 1:27) then technically we’re divinely related and need to aspire to a higher calling that affords dignity to the diversity of our nation’s composite make-up.
There’s no question the multi-cultural blend will continue to shift and change through immigration and mixed marriage but at a foundational level we are a nation founded on a treaty between two peoples.
If those two Treaty partners can’t get it together and figure out how to walk in greater synchrony then in a rapidly evolving world where social, political and technological parameters are rapidly shifting we should expect major disruption and instability ahead.
Looking back historically can be helpful and informative but there’s a need to lift the carpet, look closely at what we’ve swept under there, and get to work at cleaning our respective houses so the next generation isn’t left with our mess.
Myself and others have been musing lately on the word ‘repentance’, as a pre-requisite for a changed life. It’s much more than asking ‘forgiveness for sins’ which in itself sounds like the start of one of those fire and brimstone messages that turned so many off investigating the Christ-based life.
The word first came alive when I read a secular book in the early 1980s that translated it as “having a fundamental, childlike transformation of mind”. That resonated. In a recent study on the Bible & Treaty site by the studious James Hay, he saw an immediate application for justice and reconciliation in terms of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In the New Testament repentance is a major theme; its used 64 times ( Gr: meta = after; noeo = to perceive; nous = the mind), and unpacks as to perceive afterward, to look back and regret or be moved when you see the consequences of your actions and change or amend your way of thinking and acting.
Rather than a guilt inducing religious term it actually asks us to look at how we think and whether this is appropriate going forward. James applied the term to being honourable and truthful, acting righteously and on becoming aware of the error of your ways, like Zacchaeus, working generously to restore what has been wrongfully taken.
Yes indeed, we need to get over our racist selves and show some long overdue respect and indeed generosity. Trying to re-classify anyone according to their blood quantum will offer no solace or solution to any social problem because who we are and who we are becoming defies such definitions.
It doesn’t require everyone to agree on how to approach kotahitanga (unity), just a groundswell of visionaries and leaders, including those in the church, who believe we can do things better, and are prepared to actively and intentionally listen and become part of the shift into a more positive and co-operative space.
If more of us saw Maori and Pakeha as equal partners, changed our way of thinking about race and colour, and stepped up to the higher calling as spiritual beings embracing the kind of love that transcends such pettiness we might even change the course of the nation.
Sources and resources Ross Baker, Researcher, One New Zealand Foundation Inc, submissions to Ministry of Justice. April 2013. Richard Mulgan, Maori Pakeha and Democracy, Oxford University Press, 1989, p.14 Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Cultural Revitalisaiton and the Making of Identity within Aotearoa New Zealand, , thesis, 2016 John Dawson, Healing Americas Wounds, Regal Books, California, US, 1994, p.205
“Fundamental discoveries like this change everybody’s lives. The electric lightbulb wasn’t invented by incremental research and development on the candle,” Ken Peach, director of the John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science (Higgs Bosun) Jan 2009.
“The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles (all peoples) are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, sharing together in the promises in Christ Jesus, ” Ephesians 3:6.
“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline,” 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV).
So what do the Hadron Collider, Archimedes, the legacy of Abraham, Jesus’ fishes and loaves miracles and the life of Maori prophet T.W Ratana have to do with passing on the spark of inter-generational blessings?
Knowing where we have come from and having a clear idea of how history has unfolded in our country, city or neighbourhood, can give us a better understanding of the times we’re in and how to help shape the future.
The ancient Greek philosopher, inventor and engineer Archimedes who researched levers, including the block and tackle system later used by sailors to move heavy objects, said “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”
We all need a turangawaewae (a place on which to stand), a sense of belonging, good people around us and a sense of purpose and destiny to help us fulfil our potential. Part of that is knowing what you believe and being confident that worldview or belief system has sure foundations.
The Christian faith is no different, it needs a cornerstone (Is 28:16; Ps 118:22; 1 Peter 2:6-7; Eph 19-20), to ensure its structure is true, and solid foundations (Ephesians 2:20) to build on. That Cornerstone is Christ and the foundations are the founding apostles and prophets.
Both Christianity in all its variant denominations and most of the Maori prophetic movements, Kingitanga, Pai Marire, Ringatu and Ratana have the Abrahamic Covenant as their core foundation and often associated themselves with the 12 Hebrew tribes which had similar rites and rituals along with their affinity with the land of their forefathers.
Don Richardson in his powerful book Eternity in their Hearts, spent years researching key stories in indigenous belief systems that pointed back to belief in One God and his redemptive acts in their historical narratives. He was critical of missionaries who imposed their western views without delving deeper into ancient belief origins.
Richardson said spiritual motivation requires historical motivation and the Abrahamic Covenant is like a backbone of the Bible with its deep truths which are known in part to all people groups.
He says we need to be infused with the right historical perspective to give us the kind of zeal that motivated the apostle Paul, and he likened this viral motivating spark to physicists looking to accelerate an atomic particle to high energy.
For a start that particle needs to be charged then caught in the grip of a powerful magnetic field in relation to a long tunnel or ‘accelerator’.
By analogy, suggests Richardson, we first have to become ‘charged particles’ through conversion to Jesus Christ, caught in the surrounding magnetic field; the power of the Holy Spirit, which permeates the Body of Christ. Then we need to align with a very long tunnel: God’s 4000-year old purpose in history as defined by the Abrahamic Covenant.
Christian believers of all descriptions owe their heritage to Abraham who came out of the pantheistic world of Ur of the Chaldees drawn by a divine promise from the God of nations that through him and his descendants all nations would be blessed.
From Abraham and his wife Sarah spring Isaac, Ishmael (father of the Arabian nations), Jacob (Israel) and the 12 tribes. From that earliest patriarch and his descendants comes King David and his son Solomon and ultimately through Mary (seeded by the Holy Spirit), Jesus the Messiah (Yashuah ha-Mašīaḥ), the Christ (anointed one).
To bless all nations
There are 300 Old Testament passages that amplify God’s promise to “bless all nations” (Ps 67, Isa 49:6). The New Testament continues to state that we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to that promise (Gal 3:29).
The Apostle Paul, a scholarly Jew and a Roman citizen who persecuted the early believers, had to rethink everything after a powerful and transformational encounter with Christ.
He knew the ancient scriptures and all the promises of a coming Messiah but gave away his preconceptions of a conquering King in the military sense when he recognised the upside down, revelation of the suffering servant showing a new way.
He saw the continuity of history from Abraham’s time and ultimately got the revelation that Christ was the promised ‘seed’ (Gal 3:16, 19) and through him that “every nation, tribe, people and language” will be blessed (Acts 3:25).
Paul and the Apostles saw the Abrahamic Covenant as central to everything Christ came to accomplish.
As Christians we have been blessed (Gr: Makarios) and are called to be a blessing; to leverage a deep and wide heritage stretching back to Abraham, that should inspire us to be agents of change and favour and to extend the benefits of grace whenever and wherever the divine spark of the Holy Spirit prompts.
Profit or prophets
Here in Aotearoa-New Zealand we have had our share of visiting prophets and healers and often treated them as if they were entertainers, waited to book our tickets for the next conference, guest speaker or peddler of spiritual blessings.
In reality though these gatherings can only deliver a short-lived buzz, a spark that so often fails to ignite the kind of inner flame that continually connects us into God’s divine circuit so we can energise others.
It’s too easy to look to church leaders and visiting prophets, teachers and healers as if they’re specially gifted or better candidates to engage in the miraculous.
We are asked to trust and believe that Jesus meant it when he told his disciples there would come a time when they would do greater things that he did.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 12:12-14).
I marvel at the gifts of healing, prophecy and words of knowledge exhibited Aotearoa’s own prophet, healer and visionary Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, who between the two world wars helped restore confidence to broken and dispossessed Maori people.
Many hundreds of people were physically healed, others spiritually restored and given hope, when he called them to unity under Ihoa o nga Mano (Jehovah of the Thousands) asking them to give up their fears and superstitions in the ‘old gods’.
Ratana was also practical, creating work and a vision for the future of Maori, and even helping restore the largely forgotten Treaty of Waitangi to its rightful place.
Ratana as a religious movement is very much aligned with the Hebrew foundations, with Bible-based teachings and the buildings themselves telling of the Abrahamic heritage, even the star or whetu marama symbol (tohu) on the roof of the temple at Ratana Pa points to Jerusalem.
On 28 Jan 1928, Ratana, in confirming new apostles into his church, said in his early days he’d been given the same power and authority Christ gave his disciples to cast out demons, heal the sick and do the will of his Father in Heaven. He passed on this gift (which he called voltage) to the next generation and said more was coming.
Jesus viral message
The faith, hope, love and forgiveness message of Jesus was so compelling that in the three short years of his ministry he had a huge impact. His memorable words and parables and his actions in speaking truth to power, healing the sick, the blind and broken and unpacking the old scriptures in a fresh and liberating way, went viral.
The miracles of feeding the 5000 and the 4000 (twice he supernaturally provided bread/ sustenance/ symbolic of his body) served as a faith accelerator and perhaps he was indeed accelerating the literal elements of this known world into a world of possibilities most of us can’t even dream of.
On learning of the beheading of John the Baptist (his cousin); the one who cried in the wilderness, after prophesying the arrival of the Messiah and baptizing him in the river Jordan, Jesus withdrew to a solitary distant hillside.
The multitudes followed him and when the disciples suggested they go home in the evening because they were hungry, Jesus singled out a young boy with two fish and five loaves.
He got the disciples to arrange the people into smaller groups, prayed .... and as the food was handed out there was a supernatural increase, providing enough for all those who gathered to hear the words of this God-man, this fisher of men.
It was an echo of something many of them would have been familiar with; Moses and the provision of manna in the desert on the journey to the promised land or Elisha taking 20 loaves from his first harvest to feed 100 men ... and when they’d eaten it all there were leftovers (2 Kings 4:42).
And here there’s enough left over for the disciples to take 12 baskets with them when they headed out on the lake to meet Jesus on the other side.
And even after that, not entirely convinced of this logic and nature defying feat of feeding the 5000 (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 1:6-14) they were astonished when Jesus comes slip, slap, slopping, walking on water in the early hours of the morning.
Just for a moment Peter steps into that realm and finds he too had transcended the denseness of this world and entered into the ‘heavenly’ faith realm where he was able to join his Saviour until the doubt factor crept in and he got that sinking feeling.
That’s the stuff of science fiction and its part of the heritage of our faith.
We’re still doubters though with many scientists and academics dismissing Creator & Son as our ‘invisible friends’ while so many other science fiction scenarios are becoming science reality.
The world we live in is circled by instant communications, we’re reaching into distant galaxies with our cameras, have plumbed the depths of the oceans and yet still discovering we know so little.
Between 1998 – 2008 an enormous particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva.
It took 10,000 scientists from universities and laboratories in 100 countries to create this 27 km ring 175 metres below the Swiss-French border where particles were boosted by superconducting magnets and accelerators.
It used 170 distributed computing facilities across 36 countries for a grand experiment which in 2012 succeeded in discovering what most scientists hate to have called ‘the God particle’ the Higgs Bosun which broke the laws of symmetry.
It confirmed the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics which had largely been theoretical until this point, confirming that electrons could be in two places at once.
It was thought this could be the key to the next science and technology breakthrough, revealing new knowledge about earth’s origins and deeper mysteries of the universe and physics.
The total 30-year cost of finding Higgs Bosun by the time it was shut down for data analysis after the last run between 2015-2018 was an estimated $US13.2billion
Data has been processed and evaluated since that time and CERN is preparing for another operational period having just received another round of funding in January 2020.
Meanwhile, physicists at the University of Sheffield; as part of the global the Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment (MICE), are working on an even more powerful particle accelerator to advance our understanding of the fundamentals of matter.
So far, protons, electrons, and ions have all been accelerated into beams but muons; subatomic particles that arrive on the Earth’s surface after forming as a by-product of cosmic rays colliding with molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, are the next target.
As it is in heaven
Isn’t it ironic that so much has been invested in trying to determine the origins of the earth and the universe, the nature of matter and whether one thing can be in two places at once when according to the Bible and Jesus we already have the answers.
Those answers are not always able to be observed under a microscope or a telescope they relate to our participation in the spiritual realm as part of a much more holistic Kingdom of God worldview.
Jesus, when being tested and challenged by the Pharisees in the temple responded, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad.” The Jews were puzzled and annoyed at this. “What do you mean you’re not even 50-years old (actually 30) and you claim to have seen Abraham?
Jesus replied “truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am” which could have meant, ‘hey, I was there and revealed my name (I am that I am) and my presence to Moses the lawgiver at the burning bush’ (Exodus 3). They didn’t like that either.
So often he defied the dense, dark, faithless order by performing miracles of healing, foreknowledge and impeccable understanding of the scriptures. When the religious priests and Pharisees in the crowds got annoyed with him for making claims of divinity they sought to stone him or capture him but they couldn’t. It seemed he passed right through their midst or simply disappeared (John 8:59; 10:39).
In science; as Don Richardson, who passed away on 23 Dec 2018 aged 83, alluded, we continue to push the boundaries of what we consider to be reality and are discovering there’s more...much more. Indeed, as science has now proven, one thing can be in two places at once.
For the Christian, knowing we stand on the Abrahamic Covenant; that through Christ ‘the seed’ we are also seeded to be sons and daughters of the living God, is foundational to our heritage.
The purpose? To “jettison all feelings of insignificance, indecision and purposelessness” to be accelerated toward to the great destiny of imparting blessing to all people, said Richardson.
Simple blessings grow
We are blessed by our engagement with the divine in order that we might share that blessing, that gift of favour, protection, gratefulness, thankfulness and support. It may be a stretch but the Hebrew word for blessing or blessed (barak or baraq) is very similar to the word for lightning.
The ultimate blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant is that we are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone” in whom the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple built for the dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Christ, through his action on the cross has broken down the walls of hostility, separation and division (Ephesians 2:14) that keep us apart. Once we’re ‘born again’ the divine spark gives us a sense of unity and purpose that crosses all racial, denominational, tribal and relational boundaries.
If the ‘seed’ of Abraham has been activated in us, then the spirit and character of Christ is formed in us (Col 1:27) and we should be exploring that miraculous capacity to live and love supernaturally.
Our Christian heritage is as much physical as it is spiritual. Our daily walk is ideally one part faith and the other works, with the supernatural as the new normal.
Faith activates the spiritual giftings which we are given to exercise or rehearse so we get better at using them as an agent of blessing (1 Cor 12; Romans 12: 4-6). Our works should be expressions of God’s love including justice and mercy, humility and generosity; the opposite of what the ‘world’ seems to value.
Being generous is one way to bless others and set in motion a pattern of cause and effect, sow and reap. Even the little inexplicable things that occur because we remain faithful and keep pressing on should be encouragement that we’re on the right track.
Having found our “lever and a place to stand”, like Archimedes who discovered how to use simple tools to move large objects, Christ-believers are leveraging a 4000-year old heritage of powerfully pregnant possibilities and promises.
What are we going to do with this ‘seed’ that has been propelled down this long tunnel of generations to spark generational change?
Are we ready to be revitalised and restored as charged particles with increased spiritual ‘voltage’ as part of a growing and vibrant body of diverse believers in Christ’s history accelerator?
Resources: Don Richardson, Eternity in their Hearts, Regal, 1984 Pp. 146-147 Amplified and NIV Bibles
NB: A revision of a 1980s script from the Soul Searching series created and first played on Radio 2XS Palmerston North with several songs and background music included. Thereafter it played on several other stations around the country and was printed privately as a tract for free distribution. On reflection it may seem a naive piece as the definition of modern marriage for many has now changed and some of the principles articulated here, which I have broken myself on many occasions, may appear too simplistic. In fact I had not yet married and my first attempt failed after 14-years so maybe I was naive. As a foundational look at what love is though, I stand by what I wrote nearly 40-years ago – Keith Newman Feb 2020
IMAGINE, if everyone loved their neighbour and considered that neighbour an equal to themselves, then one half of the world would be loving the other half and we would all be loved.
Slim chance though, with all our fantasies about what love is. Love has to be the most misunderstood and abused word in our language. If we believed the rumours then love is about sex rather than being the glue that binds friends and nations and probably the whole planet together.
Our concepts are tainted with glamorous preconceptions from love comics and sloppy television soap operas. We seem to have inherited the idea that when Mr or Ms Right arrives on the scene, that's it. Instant bliss, sparkling eyes and childish giggles forever.
Behind the make-up and the perfume, trendy fashions and the latest hairstyles are real people living in the real world. Real people get hurt when relationships don't work out. When days don't live up to Days of Our Lives-Young and the Restless, True Life Romance, Mills and Boone, Penthouse, Playboy or on-line fantasies, real people often blame themselves.
Real love is not the version where damsels in distress are rescued from fire breathing dragons by knights in shining armour. Real love is hard work but it wins out in the end.
The sad thing is that in many homes lonely people who got married are now lonely together; the casualties of romance have written themselves off like spent cartridges and love has become a battlefield.
Nightly people lower their moral standards in the belief that going all the way is the gateway to something deeper. Many of those who open themselves up to heated sexual encounters, quickly learn the meaning of ‘one-night-stand’.
The bedroom is seen as the nest where love is made, where it is created as the result of some sexual conquest, where manhood or womanhood are proven. This damaging and false concept has helped screw-up many people’s ideas of what love is.
Love within marriage can be crowned by mutual giving in sexual embrace, but to suggest that this is making love indicates there wasn't enough to go around beforehand. Love exists outside of our ability to contain it. We are only ever free to give and to receive.
The love that will heal our present rifts is not manufactured in the privacy of bedrooms. In this try-before-you-buy society we are treading roughshod over each other in search of something to make us feel whole and wanted. But with each new emotional casualty our hearts only become more brittle and the goal we have set our eyes on more distant. Bandage for broken hearts
Often in our experimenting with this thing called love we refuse to make commitments or accept responsibility. We see only our own needs and when we are bored we move on to what we think is greener pastures. Surely love has more to offer than a band aid to patch up wounded souls; more than a bandage for broken hearts.
We need an enduring love. An injection into our systems, disinfecting old wounds and healing us from inside out. True love, when it enters the picture, won't come like lightning bolts from heaven. Real love will take time to birth. Like a child it needs to be raised up and given good examples on which to form its character.
Love cannot be grabbed or demanded - it is a gift which must be shared if we are to appreciate what is contained within its wrapping. Love cannot be captured like some butterfly in a net — it is a response which grows with time or withers with impatience or apathy. Love, like the most exotic of flowers requires careful tending so it can form the desired blossom and exude its unique perfume.
There are many varieties and degrees of love. There is simple acceptance, deep affection, erotic love, passionate commitment and friendship. Each requires a specific environment in which to mature. For stable love, we need a little of each. Sexual love cannot prevail alone.
The love we must search and pray for, is a love that will reach to the person beyond the mask and make inquiry at the heart of each situation. This kind of love is not content with masquerade or hypocrisy — it thrives on honesty. Too many walls in the way
Our ability to communicate this kind of love is severely limited. There are too many walls in the way. To make our love last longer and stretch further we must have an extra dimension in our lives.
Moving beyond whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears until our words mean sweet nothing, may well be the first act required in our battle plan.
Our love must extend even to our enemies and those who have done us wrong. In this lies the true test of love. Nothing valuable, nothing worth having was ever obtained without some sacrifice, some price being paid. Anything worth having is surely worth working for. Why should love be any different? If this kind of love is to come to our planet, our city, street or home, it will have its price. Man's first aid kit of detente, compromise, negotiation, treaties and temporary promises will not bring it about.
Only a change of heart and selfless motive can secure such a beautiful reality. Only God is big enough to ensure such changes. As each human heart opens toward the Creator with a desire to be made right, a little more of heaven can come to earth. God is love; his love is a perfect example for living this life.
God's love can reach out to anyone, no matter what state of decay their humanity might be in. God's love is unconditional. But his love required a sacrifice — his name was Jesus. Jesus was in true harmonious relationship with God.
Through identifying with Christ's death we may also identify with his resurrection life and in so doing find identity for our love. The human heart is the battlefield where love is lost and found. In Christ our victory is assured. The victor’s wreath is a love that transcends even our doubting.
If I had the gift of being able to speak in every language in all of heaven and earth, but didn't love others, I would only be making noise.
If I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, it would still be worth nothing without love. If I gave everything I have to the poor or was burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn't love others, it would be of no value.
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way., it is not irritable or touchy.
It does not hold grudges and will hardly notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.If you love someone you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them and stand your ground in their defence.
All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Now we know so little. the reaching of those most gifted is still so poor.
It's like this: When I was a child I spoke, thought and reasoned as a child. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood. Now I have put away the childish things.
In the same way we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror, but someday we're going to see him as he really is, face to face.
Then I will see everything as clearly as God sees into my heartright now. But there are three things that remain: Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.
These words are taken from the pages of the Bible - from 1 Corinthians 13 to be precise; you can read them in the King James Version, the New International Version or the Revised Standard Version, the Living Bible or The Message. Some of the words are different but the spirit is the same. It echoes the very heart of Christianity and cuts right to the essence of what real love is all about.
Reconnecting the Body Organism vs organisation - Time for a new conversation
“If it is of God you will not be able to stop it or overthrow or destroy it,” – Gamaliel, Book of Acts 5:38
“Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Be strong, be brave, be steadfast and willing,”Maori Proverb
At this critical crossroads in 2020 much of the denominational church dialogue we hear has become so inward focused, dull and lacking in visionary or prophetic zeal, that congregations remain ill equipped for the revolutionary shift Aotearoa-New Zealand desperately needs.
It’s time for a new conversation with fresh faces around the table who can see beyond the artificial walls and programmes we put in place and refocus on releasing the wave of reconciliation, healing, innovation and creativity that will spark a pan-denominational Spirit-led awakening.
Youth and Maori in particular are engaging in rich and challenging conversations about their place in our evolving society on social media and on marae and ad hoc gatherings around the country. The church voices we tend to hear most often end up silencing dissenting views or polarising or politicising rather than uniting.
When the Ratana church membership gets together in their thousands in January or Kingitanga bring their flock to Turangawaeae or Ringatu gather their membership there’s most often a sense of unity of purpose and a desire to work through the issues that divide.
The Christian church has yet to show that kind of determination beyond annual denominational gatherings and even those are too often fraught with dissent and division. So who’s modelling the way forward? What would Christ (Yeshua Hamashia/ Ihu Karaiti) want from those who claim his name?
Church members often see their places of teaching and worship as voiceless or lagging when it comes to healing our bi-cultural breaches or engaging meaningfully with the massive issues of societal change.
When we’re being media bombed with moral and ethical dilemmas, rumours of war, destruction of the planet through climate change and rampant consumerism, the growing rift between the haves and have nots and the mocking of our faith, we need socially relevant, inspired Bible-based messages.
So, are we giving any serious thought to dealing with racism, understanding the impacts of colonisation, addressing social justice, equality, the environment, the speed of technological change, training in powerful practical spirituality, generational healing and what it might mean to be a Maori and a Christian?
If our schools are finally going to start teaching New Zealand history as part of the curriculum then the church must step up. If churches don’t own and honour this history the risk is it will be de-Christianised in the evolving curriculum and believe me that is already starting to happen.
Treaty as spiritual document
Unless we more clearly define our role in spreading the ‘good news’ within the borders of Aotearoa-New Zealand including honouring our part in the Treaty of Waitangi and learning about early Maori-missionary history, many seekers and Maori congregants will slip out the back door, possibly for the last time.
So who is working to build strong bi-cultural links, supporting research within the Christian community, collating resources and intentionally collaborating and working in the gaps.
How can we improve connectivity and collate and share sacred and secular resources for the common good? Dare we share or are we still defending our denominational barriers and neglecting to creatively collaborate?
The challenges ahead include going beyond tokenism to the point where Maori are viewed and treated as full members of the Body of Christ; where Maori leadership is honoured and their aspirations supported (This is the Treaty in action).
Our rich history and the amazing renewal and awakening that happened when Maori took the Gospel to their own people from the 1820s until the 1850s sets an incredible precedent to leverage and learn from.
There were successive inflows or mini ‘revivals’ in some mainstream denominational and Pentecostal and Charismatic churches during the 60s, 70s and 80s but we mostly failed to respond in a culturally relevant way.
Following initial expression of repentance and forgiveness there was often little follow through. Despite inspiring teaching and evangelistic preaching ongoing engagement with Maori needs, concerns or direction, particularly during the Maori cultural renaissance of the 70s and early 80s was sadly lacking.
Pressure to conform to European-based church culture resulted in an early exit for far too many who were wanting a deeper experience, genuine relationships and an opportunity to contribute.
Family counselling needed?
Like most of us, Maori generally want to participate in and be embraced as family in a fellowship that has purpose and direction and is committed to community. Many remain cautious about re-engagement with church because of past experience.
As well as encouraging Maori and highlighting their pivotal role in our Christian past and future it’s equally important to ensure Pakeha identity as tangata tiriti is affirmed so we can walk together as equals, sharing and enjoying our differences.
Too often, however, our churches take their lead from offshore, rehash old denominational programmes, lock things down to a 10-year plan for preaching and teaching, with a formula for ‘fun’ youth group nights, failing to hear the groan, ‘not another pizza and movie night, I want to be part of something world changing’.
If we don’t ask people what their needs, passions and interests are and simply ask for volunteers to fill pre-defined slots (Sunday School teacher, usher, car park attendant, dishwasher and coffee maker, set up and pack down...) we are curbing the flow, shutting down our best resources (people) and setting ourselves up for more of the same.
We need inspired teaching and preaching but what has been missing for so long, outside of ‘house groups’, is a safe forum where, like in the Book of Acts, people can raise questions and concerns, share ideas, dreams, thoughts, prophecies, creative expressions and encouragements (1 Cor 14:26)
Many Christians are involved in social work in the health and justice, education, environmental and bi-cultural studies and need to be embraced and supported by our churches because they’re doing amazing work. How can we encourage and involve and include these folk in our planning?
If we aren’t listening to Wairua Tapu (Holy Spirit) and making space for the wind of change and opportunity to blow through then we will remain stuck.
It’s like we’re afraid to rock the boat but the reality is the boat is already rocking and the storm is only going to get worse until we find the still place from which to regain our bearings.
What can we do differently?
What if the next wave may just come from the nation’s 750 marae, or from Maori-led churches or Maori leaders? What would that mean for the church in Aotearoa that so often talks about unity and reconciliation and yet in reality appears so divided along denominational and theological lines?
What did we do wrong in the past to put the fire out and how can we avoid this happening again? Would we do things differently or again try to herd everyone into the assimilation box and ignore the wonderful mystery and diversity of difference that is meant to be a great gift to the church?
A major challenge is how to share with and challenge leaders who micro-manage or aren’t interested in New Zealand’s bi-cultural story, don’t see it as a Treaty of Waitangi commitment or even feel the need to explore cultural awareness.
It will require boldness, humility, wisdom and a deep move and conviction of the Holy Spirit to topple some of these denominational idols, systems, programmes and frameworks that keep us from each other and from our national destiny in God.
The obstacles include leadership that doesn’t foster and release the natural and spiritual gifts of their membership. Building trust and equipping the saints is pivotal and that means getting beyond set programmes and providing a safe place to openly and constructively discuss topics of relevance for the times with young and old where they don’t feel judged for airing their fears, concerns and confessions.
God knows who real leaders are and so do most people who are looking to be activated, inspired, encouraged and empowered to get on with who they are called to be not simply make up the numbers in the pews/seats on Sunday mornings.
Leaders, need to regain the role of discerning spiritual talent scouts, calling Maori (and others) forward into their giftings and begin resourcing their organisations with material to help everyone better understand this fragile transition period we are in.
Part of this should be an effort to engage with Maori leaders in their own community, build relationships and constructive dialogue about how to help and work together and encourage two way traffic between marae and churches.
Equipping the saints
The revitalised bi-cultural journey now gaining momentum around the country should be enthusiastically embraced as part of a fresh move of God but its going to require a new kind of team work.
Pivotal in this endeavour is for ‘leaders’ to support key individuals who are natural connectors, bridge builders, and mavens (holders of key contacts or information and knowledge) who can network, enthuse people and build connections between Pakeha and Maori, church and marae, needs and solutions.
Adaptive leadership and financial support will be needed for the bi-cultural shift that will change the atmosphere in our churches and para-church organisations and empower creative thinkers to explore outside failing frameworks and declining membership.
The game changers in our midst might include researchers, story-tellers, musicians, film makers, painters, prophets and poets, public speakers, administrators, tradespeople and mentors of all kinds, who want to collaborate and use their gifts to encourage others and built the Kingdom.
Key to this process is owning and unpacking our pioneering encounter stories and how to create new stories, including testimonies across all media forms, and creative solutions that can impact on church and society today.
If there’s solid evidence of hospitality, inclusion, healing, restoration, faith building and practical servanthood the word will get out and people will come and bring their friends or else they’ll go to where this is happening. Authenticity trumps the guilt trip about loyalty and church hopping any day. Soundtrack for revival
I highlight musicians, singers and songwriters because that's often where the prophetic gift begins to set the tone for deeper revelation. Are we listening? Something’s happening. There’s a new song arising.
There’s a soundtrack to this renewal, a healing resonance of beauty and deep reflection born from pain and frustration and a desire for repentance, restoration and release.
In a Maori context, a waiata or song or haka that naturally comes as a response to a welcome or a presentation that touches the heart, is an important part of this exchange. Spontaneity cannot be scheduled.
There’s a rhythm that is indigenous to this nation and we need to reclaim it. It will touch the hearts of us all when it finds its expression on the airways and in our gatherings; Stan Walker is part of that, as is Brooke Fraser (the largest selling New Zealand artist of 2018) and many others including Whirimako Black who carries a deep and sweet cultural payload.
The albums of Cindy Ruakere and the more recent expressions from the Salvation Army compilation and Aaron Hardy and Link’s Te Rautini which have produced epic music now being used by churches across the country are feeding and seeding the hunger for change.
Just like Dave and Dale Garrett’s Scripture in Song (recently celebrating a 50th anniversary) found a common chord across denominations in previous generations the new song/sound/anointed prophetic words and messages open the way for what is yet to come.
And we need to recognise mammoth efforts like Dave Mann’sHope Project which distributes professional booklets to our mailboxes along with his pithy broadcasts on Rhema and LifeFM (....and Southern Star, who blanket the nation with the Gospel message) and appreciate people like Andrew Urquhart on Rhema and Shine TV who actively pursues Treaty of Waitangi and bi-cultural stories.
In the past 15-years teaching and storytelling from passionate and committed people has ramped up to a new level with people like Jay Ruka running courses and publishing his book Huia Come Home. He regularly works alongside prophetic worship leader and speaker Cindy Ruakere, Bradford Haamithe author of many valuable books and cultural advisors to film and documentary makers.
Alistair Reese for example has invested deeply in working alongside Maori leaders and others including the Parihaka leadership, being party to the Tauranga Moana Anglican apology and writing Naboth’s Vineyard and Reconciliation and the Quest for Pākehā Identity in Aotearoa New Zealand.
And of course there’s Treaty researcher Samuel Carpenter and the team at Kuruwha Trust who run informative training and onsite sessions including the annual pilgrimage to the home of the treaty on Waitangi Day.
Such people are great ambassadors and peacemakers with empathy and listening skills who connect well and make things happen. Dancing on injustice
There’s more to come for this generation and the next, it just needs to be nurtured and encouraged in the right Spirit-led environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more songs, books, poems, theses, films and documentaries aren’t already being produced for such a time as this.
There are many new names appearing in Maori leadership who will no longer accept sitting in the back seat or being side-lined because they know the time is right for them to step up.
This shift not just happening in the church it is a general evolution across all manner of organisations from marae to local councils, committees, academia and decision making groups.
Ready or not our Maori Treaty partners are now sitting at the table of influence and we need to start listening to and praying for and with the wise ones who have fresh approaches that can help us navigate out of our monocultural stiffness and deliver healthy alternatives to our broken colonial systems.
Maori will no longer tolerate being treated as poor second cousins ... they are leaders, creatives, powerful speakers and contributors who have been trained and prepared to help us thrive in the midst of the challenges ahead. They are our partners.
Progress toward a more bi-cultural view of history within the church and parachurch organisations mainly comes down to the God-given passion of leaders who have had their own revelation that this is a journey they want to take their people on.
Personally, I think there’s a need for strong cross-denominational conversation that involves leaders and aspiring leaders from theological colleges, academia, church and youth groups, and those with media skills.
I imagine a series of wananga to inspire and encourage one another, mentors and emerging leaders in particular, and to empower story tellers and look at ways to produce, fund and distribute inspirational nation changing resources.
At the very least it’s time to move beyond denominational, compartmentalised or silo thinking to start sharing and building up an inventory of resources that we can all benefit from.
There is a raft of new and revised material coming to the fore from researchers, writers and academics exploring many of the areas discussed so far that will help further inform the way forward.
That might include web links to helpful messages, advice, studies, papers and articles, a list of books on social and historical relevance to the New Zealand Bible & Treaty situation, helpful contact lists of government or other agencies or church or para-church organisations or marae or Maori Christian organisations.
Is it time to review where we are, look at what’s holding us back, get resourced, collaborate around a more organic and better resourced vision of the future that can go viral, get some fresh faces around the table and have that new conversation?
NB: A major 2020 revision of a document requested by a Christian funding organisation that ended up in the round filing cabinet (2008). Evolving list of resources available on request.
An ‘indefencible’ betrayal How Paparoa became Howick
Howick, today a prosperous, go-ahead community with a strong migrant population, has a dark history of broken promises including the betrayal of a peace deal brokered between missionaries and Maori when Governor George Grey on-sold most of south Auckland as surplus land.
The deal caused further pain when Grey renamed the 300-year old coastal location to honour an English Lord who arranged to populate the area with retired soldiers from the United Kingdom.
Over 800 years ago descendants from the Tainui canoe took advantage of the sheltered coastal lands with a strategic outlook across the Hauraki Gulf, plentiful kaimoana (seafood) and volcanic soils to grow kumara and other crops.
The tangata-whenua or original people of Howick-Pakuranga were Ngai Tai of Tainui descent, who lived in the area at least 300-years before European settlement.
They knew the area as Paparoa (long place) and Owairoa “the place of the long river”; the view from Stockade Hill towards Waiheke looks “like a river, and established pa (fortified villages) at Ohuia Rangi (Pigeon Mountain), Te Waiarohia (Musick Point) and Tuwakamana (Cockle Bay).
This was a sought after part of a huge tract of fertile land that had been fought over for decades and where much blood was spilled during the Musket Wars.
Tainui chief, Potatau Te Wherowhero, later to become the first Maori King, had proposed Bay of Islands missionaries Henry Williams and William Fairburn help him work out a solution to keep the peace so he could leave the Manukau area and return home to Waikato. Williams in particular had a reputation for negotiating peace among warring Maori tribes so Te Wherowhero sought a creative way to end to the invasions by Nga Puhi and the constant tribal skirmishes over borders between Waikato and Thames. The Fairburn Purchase
At a large gathering of chiefs and their representatives at Otahuhu in January 1836 a deed was signed by 31 representatives of the various South Auckland hapu and tribes.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) would hold much of South Auckland in trust taking technical ‘ownership’ of one third of it; William Fairburn and his wife would own one third, around 80,000 acres, and the remaining third would be held in trust for the local iwi so they could continue to live there undisturbed.
This became known as The Fairburn Purchase; for his part William Fairburn invested everything he owned to complete the deal and in return he and the CMS agreed to set up a mission station and school at Maraetai.
In 1837 Fairburn signed back a third of the land (27,000 acres) to the five main South Auckland iwi.
A new regime
In 1841 Governor Hobson set up a Land Commission to look into all the land sales before the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed in 1840. He promised land taken unfairly would be returned to the rightful owners.
Individuals were only allowed to keep a maximum of 2600 acres and the Land Commission recommended a third of the Tamaki Block (Fairburn Purchase) be returned to the local iwi and hapu who were living on the land which would honour and be in accordance with The Fairburn Purchase.
However, Governor George Grey ignored all previous arrangements between the CMS, Fairburn and local tribes and took it all (75 000 acres, most of South Auckland) claiming it was surplus.
Grey had made promises to military settlers who were being bought out from the United Kingdom to help protect Auckland from a potential Waikato invasion and planned to sell the rest to other settlers.
One of his main motivations was to raise funds for Government coffers which had been severely depleted through the failure of the previous New South Wales-based Government to invest in the colony and bad management by the administration that Hobson bought with him.
On appeal Fairburn was allowed to keep 5400 acres (mainly in Otahuhu and East Tamaki) which was later further broken down. Distraught at the betrayal he began to drink heavily and his erratic behaviour saw him dismissed from the CMS.
His daughter Elizabeth, fluent in te reo, was sought after by Bishop Selwyn as a teacher and translator for his Maori Girls College. When missionary printer William Colenso sought ordination Bishop Augustus Selwyn said he first needed to be married.
It was suggested Elizabeth might be the ideal person. When the two met, however, they both agreed it was not a good pairing, but Selwyn insisted, telling Colenso he would not be ordained until he entered into what was eventually proven to be a loveless marriage.
European settlement began on November 15th, 1847 when the Minerva arrived at Owairoa (Howick Beach).
The Government had assigned land at Otahuhu and Howick to three companies of retired British and Irish soldiers who formed the Royal New Zealand Fencibles and their families.
The local tribes remained unaware of the sale of their land and the now doubly broken promise that it was being kept in trust for them until settlers took over and began working that land, felling their forests and working their traditional fisheries.
Between 1847-1854, eleven ships brought the 2,500 Fencibles and their families, which nearly doubled the population of Auckland at that time.
The Fencibles were offered a cottage and an acre of land in exchange for seven years’ service manning defence posts with a commitment to regularly attend church
The first building to be erected in Howick was All Saints Anglican Church, which remains the second oldest wooden church in New Zealand. The second building was a wet canteen that was subsequently improved to become the “Royal Hotel”.
Renaming and claiming
Governor Grey immediately imposed a new name for the area, honouring Viscount Howick, the English statesman Henry Grey who had recently been made secretary of state for war and the colonies who had been responsible for deploying the Fencibles.
Lord Howick, had under his father the British Prime Minister the second Early Grey, been a leader of the House of Commons and supported self-governance and free-trade for the colonies.
However, his attempt at a constitution for New Zealand proved unworkable so he gave his plans to Governor Grey.
When the Fencibles arrived most Maori could read and write the English language after attending. Fairburn’s Maraetai Beach mission school.
Later when the government was confronted with the betrayal it had perpetrated a small amount of compensation was paid to dispossessed iwi with 50-100 acre reserves granted including those at Ihumatao (Makaurau marae), Pukaki, Mangere Bridge and Ramarama.
In 1863, Maori supporting the Kingitanga movement with Te Wherowhero’s son Tawhiao now at its head, were forced to move away from the area into Waikato unless they swore allegiance to Queen Victoria.
When they moved south the land set aside as reserves when their own territory was sold out from under them was confiscated.
Many people continued to use the Maori names for the coastal area until the European name Howick was officially adopted by the town council in 1923.
On 7 Nov 2015, the tangata whenua, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki the people who had originally lived and farmed at what was now known as Howick and surrounding areas received a Treaty of Waitangi settlement of $12.7 million, had 16 cultural sites returned to them with $50,000 to revitalise them. Resources: The Story of Wai O Hua – mana whenua of Tamaki-Makaurau, Frank Walton June 2016 Alan La Roche, Times Online April 2018. Wikipedia-Howick and Howick Village website Bible & Treaty – Keith Newman (Penguin) 2010
I'm seeing the word ecclesia popping up a lot lately and have used it widely myself as a metaphor or description for the church as ‘the called out ones’, but ‘called out’ to be what?
Clearly the mandate is salt and light in places that have become darkened and lost their flavor. But are we getting this lantern on a hill and saltshaker stuff right?
So many terms used in the bible have been borrowed from the popular culture of the time and made to mean something different than was intended in the proper context.
The term ecclesia (ekklesia) for example is used as a name for the church meeting as a congregation or a wider body regardless of denominations with the inference of being called out from the world and no longer to be part of it.
So how can you make a difference or be the difference if you aren’t engaging with those outside your Christian peer group?
Ecclesiology is the study of the Christian Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its ‘politics’, discipline, destiny, and leadership. According to Meriam-Webster ecclesiastical is “of or relating to a church especially as an established institution or suitable for use in a church”.
King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, the book of poems and wisdom which has Koheleth (gatherer or teacher) as the narrator or central figure ("one who convenes or addresses an assembly") is about the struggle for meaning and purpose and the frustration of trying to try to find out God’s mysterious purpose. If you look at the original usage of ecclesia, it relates to a quarterly gathering of Greek citizens of all classes who were called out or summoned from the cities to gather, for example in Athens, as part of a political assembly to debate important issues.
Such gatherings occurred in most Greek cities and carried on into the early Roman empire. They made democratic decisions on policy and how the city should be run. These gatherings would hear appeals in the public court, elect chief magistrates and confer special privileges on individuals.
So the original term and the way it is used today are in tension. The church that exists on Sunday with a preacher and congregation is only part of the picture because the true meaning of church implies participation, involvement, engagement and purposeful action as part of God’s Kingdom.
It’s a theocracy under God where all are treated equally and work together organically. This is where the voice of the people is heard and not just in congregational singing. There’s something else going on, an agreeing together to make a difference in the world (but not of it, Jn 17:15-15). When the ecclesia meets things should change because that’s why they were called together.
In any of our church forms do we gather to honour God and be challenged around the important issues of the day, where everyone a chance to share their views (marae-style?) with an input into what needs to be done, what needs changing personally and corporately?
Do we together as a people under a pre-determined programme and structure or together have a sense of investment and purpose that we are collectively contributing to the kind of vision or cause that enhances the wellbeing of each other and the nation?
Do we get a corporate sense of momentum, of common destiny and unity in how we represent the intentions and purposes of this great Creator God that we serve? Are we showing his likeness to the world so they are knocking at our doors, messaging us and emailing us asking for our wisdom and input and advice or our skills and strength?
Are we an example of what the world should look to in dark times? Do we have the refreshing flavor of new ideas and ways of seeing things that is so desperately needed in times like these?
So is the ‘body’ working together under the headship of Christ, to contribute to positive godly Kingdom change in a broken world or are we just glad to get away from it all on Sunday, slap a few backs, shake a few hands, share a few highlights and head back home to the real world?
Are we really being an ecclesia? - Keith Newman 08-03-2019
RETHINKING UNITY Kotahitanga and Convergence vs Assimilation
Will we get it right this time?
“Unresolved stuff always comes back to bite us, making it more difficult to sit, and if unity ignores diversity or leaves no room for flexibility and difference then its not unity,” Keith Newman, 13-03-2019
Can two walk together unless they are agreed is the biblical challenge (Amos 3:3).
If you take the time to examine the words of most of the early inspirational Maori leaders from Tamihana Te Waharoa to King Potatau Te Wherewhero, Patuone to Piripi Taumata-a-kura or Hoani Meihana te Rangiotu to T.W Ratana you will find that common thread.
They point ultimately to the One God and one way forward; in Te Wherowhero’s case in 1858 it’s “There is but one eye of the needle through which the white, black and red threads must pass. After I am gone, hold fast to love, to the law, and to resolute faith.” In Ratana’s case in the 1920s, the wero (challenge) to all the iwi he engaged with around the country over the Bible and Treaty was “are you united yet?”
Getting to the point of agreement where mutual respect allows us to hold different views; accepting we are all at different stages of the journey and may have taken a diverse routes to get here, is not so easy.
I despair at the selective reading of scriptures, including (Galatian 3:26-29) that suggest we relinquish our cultural and racial identities when we come to Christ and blend into some amorphous beige melting pot.
In the New Zealand context, God is calling our indigenous people to be the absolute best Maori they can be as full members of the Body of Christ, something many misguided leaders have denied them for far too many generations.
I’m reminded of the warning issued in a recent interview with Winkey Pratney that past revivals, often led by inspired Maori preachers, have been crushed by misuse of “power and control” and our tendency to revert to religion rather than relationship.
Shark or kahawai
An online conversation with Simon Moetara made me acutely aware of just how volatile and often loaded our use of words and descriptive terms are. I couldn’t help but respond to his comment on a post I made of former Prime Minister Norm Kirk in 1974 outing how the term assimilation had been misued in the past; “its what cat’s do to mice” .
Simon simply said sharks and kahawai. When asked him to clarify he pointed to a quote from Tilly Reedy in the Listener (1991) as an allegory describing the struggle to be Māori in mainstream society. "Let's work together,' said the shark to the kahawai." "Great,' said the kahawai with a trusting smile. 'Fool' thought the shark as it opened its mouth and swallowed the kahawai.
"That's partnership," said the politician. "That's integration," said the bureaucrat. "That's assimilation," said the Māori."
Simon pointed out that this had been used by Brendan Hokowhitu in critiquing the 1961 Hunn Report's emphasis on integration: “Let's integrate”, said the shark to the kahawai. “Have I any choice?” Ka'ai and others (eds), "Ki Te Whai Ao: An Introduction to Maori Culture and Society" (Pearson: 2004), 196).
In a March 2018 comment piece by Hokowhitu he refers to Lt. Governor William Hobson’s statement, when shaking the hand of Treaty signatories in 1840, which has been so misused by Don Brash and others.
He iwi tahi tatou, “we are now one people” which clearly created a dilemma; “we are not one people in New Zealand, and neither should we try to be a mono-cultural society,” said Hokowhitu.
I often refer to Dame Joan Metge’s statement that for Maori that statement from the governor was most likely to have been understood as “we two peoples together” and I often add on the end ...“make a great nation”.
Cracks in the veneer
The challenge is walking this out and discovering what that partnership might look like if we are to truly get to know each other’s hopes and aspirations and link arms in this endeavour in a year when divisions seem to appearing everywhere like cracks in the veneer of society.
I love the idea of unity in diversity or as represented in one of my favourite books “The Dignity of Difference” (Jonathan Sacks, 2003) but so often we are so invested in the theology, politics or social agendas that make up our world views that we can’t see a way forward without adding to the divisons.
I note the name of an up and coming “strategic gathering” being run by the Hikoi Aotearoa (Pacific Pearls etc) and Jesus for New Zealand in Wellington on March 31 is “Convergence”.
That’s another great word that can have diverse meanings. It’s been widely used in the technology sector to describe the intertwining of computing, telecommunications and broadcasting; something we couldn’t have imagined 20-years ago but it will continue to transform every sector of society in a revolution that is now entering lightspeed.
Convergence; the coming together of separate things, in the context of the church and nation would appear to refer to the bi-cultural journey. Are we really separate? If so that is the saddest thing.
If travelled carefully, prayerfully and in a Spirit-led way, however, picking up on this ancient journey (pre-1814) could be transformative, particularly as this gathering is largely Maori-led.
If seems to align with Norm McLeod’s evolving vision, which picks up on the generations old Maori vision of Kotahitanga (unity and solidarity), and rightly places the Treaty of Waitangi as a template for change with Christ at the centre of how that might play out for the healing of the nation.
This is a hard ask for many in the church who have failed to see that their descendants, the pioneering missionaries, brokered the Treaty and were asked and tasked with ensuring it was honoured.
Shofar so good?
The hikoi seems to align with what happened at the gathering to support keeping the name of Jesus in the Parliamentary prayer. The most impressive part for me was not shofar blowing and ‘praise Jesus outbursts’ but the role that Maori, in particular senior and emerging leaders of the Ratana faith, took in making that a prophetic event.
It also seems to sit well with the launching of a waka at Waitangi on February 5th that was for the first time crewed by men and women across various denominations of the Christian faith.
So who is ‘converging’ with who and what will that look like? When the Hikoi Atoearoa set off on Waitangi Day 2019, I listened to organiser Stephanie Harawira on Radio Rhema, responding to the question, what will you do when that hikoi across the nation’s marae is over?
Her response, unexpectedly had me floored. The cloak (korowai) of the Holy Spirit fell when she said something like, “I’m going home to have a rest, then I’m going to write to all the churches around New Zealand and ask them to look around at the people in their congregations and encourage, pray for and support those who they believe can have an influential voice in this nation.”
I tautoko (agree wholeheartedly). That affirmed what I had been saying for some time, that our church leaders should be talent scouts, looking to identify and stand with those who are active in the community or public sector and to activate others in their various fields of endeavour.
That is about looking inward to have a more effective outward impact and gets us beyond the old myth of only certain people being ‘anointed’ for ministry, or that ministry is street preaching or supporting missionaries in a foreign land.
That attitude has created an unbalanced view of what ‘church’ is, and more often than not undermined the growing need for ‘missionaries’ in the workplace and our own communities and nation to be undercover agents working for social and spiritual change.
Shine the light
Having become more engaged with our own congregations; beyond pat on the back Sunday school for adults to being salt and light in the marketplace, gives us another way to look at the wider resources that can be deployed and shared across denominational patch protection.
This is where we again need to explore what is meant by unity; working together for a common purpose, and how we dismantle the obstacles to that happening.
If our collective resources were deployed more wisely imagine the huge dent that might be made in reducing homelessness, meeting the needs of the broken, the fatherless, the lonely, prisoners inside and reintegrating into society and those struggling mentally, physically and spiritually?
Imagine how we might impact policy and decision making at our local councils, if churches prayed together and physically got together with a united voice and presented ideas, programmes and fresh ways of looking at old problems with an offer of volunteers and pooled resources?
So, unity and convergence are commendable aspirations but, as they say in the business world, what will be the take away value?
That will be up to those who we support as leaders to drive forward as our representatives, as long as they get the message that convergence and kotahitangi is initially in their court.
If met with resistance then its time to work with those who do care enough to break with the old formulas. If things are indeed shifting under the guidance of Wairua Tapu (Holy Spirit); who we keep asking to guide us, then we need to accept that there’s another way forward.
Despite all the talk of unity though, trust has been broken and it takes time to restore that. Not just words but person to person relationships ( kanohi ki te kanohi) and to work through our differences not only as Christian brothers and sisters but perhaps following the Treaty of Waitangi as a template or model that requires us to work together if it’s going to work at all.
More love needed
There’s a mountain of cynicism and opposition to this happening but breaking new ground; and Lord knows we’ve been here many times before, requires real world examples of what’s working and persistence, integrity, good faith and above all else expanding the boundaries of our love capacity.
Walking together in a kotahitanga way is the ideal but how we define that presents risk of its own. Claiming unity at one level can close the conversation when in fact ongoing korero and wananga (personal and collective discussions, sharing conversations aimed at exploring and resolving) are essential.
Unresolved stuff always comes back to bite us, making it more difficult to sit, and if unity ignores diversity or leaves no room for flexibility and difference then its not unity.
All of this has to be worked through carefully and lovingly otherwise we side against those who disagree and end up creating another form of assimilation that is no longer acceptable in the church or any other form of control structure or governance in this nation.
But this is the Christian (Christ-following) kaupapa (principals and ideas as a basis for action); we are kaitiaki (caretakers) of the love of God, called to be peacemakers and wielders of the kind of forgiveness and compassion that is so needed in the world today. As they say don’t tell me, show me.
So if we’re heading toward unity, we need to live it personally and make it go viral; if we’re talking convergence or reformation then we need to engage in wider conversations that don’t lapse into 1980s Christian clichés. We need to learn and listen before engaging, and then pursue healing conversations that lead to action.
I’m looking forward to see whether we can weather these converging streams, which in many ways are happening regardless of the growing number of conferences and hui.
Can we arise and shine and align to meet the challenges of these times; I don’t think we’ll get too many more opportunities, or remain divided by our infighting, giving ‘the world’ more reason to dismiss the deep gifts of healing and wisdom we can bring to the table?
- Keith Newman, 13-03-2019 Artwork. Prints and cards from Paula Novak firstname.lastname@example.org
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self control,” 2 Timothy 1:6-7
By definition, whatever a revival is, it sounds like crying for something we once had. But maybe we’ve not been this way before; maybe we can't relive the 70s or 80s again, although sometimes it feels like we’re trying to.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self control,” 2 Timothy 1:6-7
REKINDLING THE FLAME
By definition, whatever a revival is, it sounds like crying for something we once had. But maybe we’ve not been this way before; maybe we can't relive the 70s or 80s again, although sometimes it feels like we’re trying to.
What if this revitalizing fire we’re hungering for across the nation is not about everyone becoming like us but us becoming more like we’re meant to be inspired by the Holy Spirit’s activating energy which just spills out naturally through our loving relationships.
Maybe what is starting to happen in pockets around the nation is so fresh and untainted that it can’t be contained by any denomination or within any church structure or building or programme and that attempts to do so will in fact stop the flow?
Are you open to having your mindsets and worldview challenged and changed? Is your language locked down into biblical clichés so people of the world immediately spot your Christian sales pitch? Are your views on difficult topics so rigid that you end up having arguments rather than debates and discussions?
Are your church services so structured that everything is orchestrated, rehearsed and timed so there’s no flexibility or spontaneity? Are your house groups so framed that you only get to discuss what was said on Sunday, and follow a set format with little chance to talk about the day to day challenges, difficulties, needs, concerns and questions you might have about your faith?
What is that’s not the way many of us are wired and only leads to more top down flat format, uninspiring gatherings that will, like so many similar efforts before the, just fizzle out as numbers swindle and people become distracted?
What if our Creator has raised up Maori and Pakeha to be in tune with the land and the times to be part of something unique?
Let’s talk about that, let’s explore that possibility; what would that look like as we engage in our bi-cultural journey and look for unity in diversity and what Christian identity looks like in 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand?
Instead of looking ‘out there’ for programmes, speakers, talent and new ideas for our local churches we should start by looking at the gifts and opportunities in our own midst. What if our Creator is looking to release a new wave of creativity in just about every area of our lives imaginable, including in your workplace and in areas where you always wanted to engage.
The pastor and leadership team as talent scouts, encouragers and developers of potential...now that shouldn’t be a new idea.
Are we praying for our nation and our local government and church leaders, specific community needs; looking to engage with local marae and iwi leaders and for discernment on how to engage with in our street, our neigbourhood and who we might partner with to make a difference?
Who’s doing it well; who’s sharing and serving the broader body beyond the walls of their own denomination?
Who’s got the best plans and resources for changing the game, bringing down the walls of division, dealing with injustice and offering alternatives to the broken systems arounds us?
Who’s got the best programmes to disciple difficult people, from academics to gang members, that can excite and inspire those who have endless questions as they activate and explore this new faith so it doesn’t just settle for the pew and then the backdoor?
What if we shut down the smoke machines and flashing lights and just waited in the silence to hear...I don't think the Holy Spirit needs theme music to make an entrance...or call down from out of the clouds the God of the Universe who is already everpresenteverywhere. Christ in us. What a heritage.
Maybe we should learn to look a listen a little longer and look a little deeper when we engage and look for the Christ in each other?
If we love our neighbours like we really truly would like to be loved then maybe all the little fires; might start leaping like sparks between us, through us, out from us.