Methodist Church of New Zealand

(Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa)

Wesleyan (Methodist) missionary work in New Zealand began in 1822. Missionaries from Britain initially ministered to the largely Maori population, and later to the new migrants. The first New Zealand annual conference of the Australasian (Australia and New Zealand) Wesleyan Methodist Conference was held in 1874. Also active in New Zealand were the United Methodist, the Free Church, and the Bible Christian Church. These groups came together with the Wesleyans to form the first Australasian Methodist Conference in 1897. Separation from the General Conference of Australasia came in 1913 and in the same year the Primitive Methodist Church in New Zealand and the existing Methodist Church joined to form one Methodist Church. In the 1960s the Methodist Church played an active role in negotiating a plan for union by five churches: the Anglican, Presbyterian, Congregational churches and the Associated Churches of Christ. The plan failed. Nevertheless the Methodist Church of New Zealand remains committed to ecumenism. In 2005, 85 of its 158 parishes were in active cooperation with one or more of the four former negotiating churches. It has always been a member of the national ecumenical bodies.

In its urban and rural settings, the church, through its parishes and social service agencies, is seeking to relate the gospel to human need. It is also responding to newly emerging social situations such as the impacts of globalization, breaking the cycle of poverty, caring for creation, and overcoming violence. As the church looks to the future, the roles of women, laity and the ordained ministry continue to be reassessed. In 1983 the church decided to move towards becoming a bi-cultural church. This recognizes the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi which was entered into by two parties representing the original people of the land and the later immigrant populations. In the following years the church has worked at ways of developing equality in decision-making, stronger partnerships with, and sharing of resources with the Maori section of the church, which now has its own autonomy within the life of the Methodist Church.

As migration from other Pacific countries has continued (beginning in the 1970s), ethnic groupings of Samoan, Fijian and Tongan members have assumed a greater and a stronger identity within the life of the church and are making a significant contribution to its diversity and richness. More recently Asian migration, particularly of Koreans, Sri Lankans, and Chinese, has added to this diversity.