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Journal 2006 - Wesley Historical Society

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                Journal 2006 - Wesley Historical Society
Contents

Editorial       Terry Wall

New Zealand Methodists and 'Missionary Propaganda' -
Alan Davidson

23 My Years at Goldie College - Jim Cropp

Harold Whitmore Williams - The Forgotten Genius - Fred Baker, Tatiana Blagova

Spirituality in Biblical Perspective - J J Lewis

The Search for Descendants - Val Payne

Book Review 'Gathering for God: George Brown in Oceania' by Helen B Gardner - John Roberts

Editorial

We are pleased to bring a focus on the Solomon Islands in this issue of the Journal. The Methodist Church of New Zealand has a long association with the Solomons, an association which has been mutually enriching.

The Rev. Dr Allan Davidson opens a window on the past with his exploration of the significance of the film The Transformed Isle. The 1920s film was used by the church to point to the effectiveness of the Methodist mission. Allan traces the fortuitous origins of the contact with the film-makers and the trials of production. Setting the film in its historical context, he probes important questions about the rationale of the 'propaganda' and the theological issues raised by mission.

Reflecting on his experience as Principal of Goldie College, the Rev. Jim Cropp provides us with an insight into his demanding ministry in the 1960s. Looking back he discerns that he was there at a critical time in the development of the church's life in the Solomon Islands.

Harold Williams is one of New Zealand Methodism's remarkable characters. His story deserves to be widely known. We are indebted to the Rev. Fred Baker and Dr Tatiana Blagova for researching his life in this land and his time as a political correspondent for leading British newspapers during momentous days in Russian history. We are introduced to Williams' prodigious linguistic abilities, his sympathy with revolutionary thinkers and his visit to Tolstoy.

It is with pleasure that we make available an unpublished paper that J.J. Lewis gave at a retreat held in Wanganui in 1983. For those familiar with his insight into the biblical world, it comes as a testimony to his faith. For those who did not have the privilege of hearing his lectures it will be fresh, succinct and a gift waiting to be discovered. Reading these words we are reminded of the centrality of worship and prayer, the deep roots Christian faith has in Hebraic tradition and our need of "the full story of grace."

Val Payne writes of the challenge of tracing descendants of those buried in the Mangere graveyard. It is a story of persistence and developing research skills, of hard work and serendipitous breakthroughs. In the process light is shed on local Methodist history and the network of relationships that is Methodism.

The review of Helen Gardner's book George Brown in Oceania takes us back to mission work with which this Journal began. The Rev. John Roberts gives us an overview of this work which had its genesis in a doctoral thesis. We see George Brown operating as both evangelist and anthropologist. We learn of the 1878 retaliatory raid conducted by Brown and the response of the Australasian Conference. Fundamental questions are raised about the missionary enterprise.

Noting the death of eminent church historian Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) David Steinmetz {Christian Century, 22 August 2006) commented that Pelikan wrote to correct the reading of the history of dogma of the late nineteenth century scholar AdolfHarnack. The history of Christianity could not be reduced to ethics and the 'Fatherhood of God' and the 'Brotherhood of man'. Pelikan refused to dismiss the metaphysical and theological tradition and also included Orthodox and post-Reformation Christianity in his work.

Steinmetz claims that church historians face many challenges engaging with the past. "They must learn the languages, customs, intellectual assumptions and even the humour of the people they are studying." He rejects the view that "historians serve as cheerleaders for past figures of whom they particularly approve or misrepresent other figures of whom they disapprove. Their task as historians is to enable the voices of Christians from distant ages to be heard again by a church that may have forgotten them and desperately needs to hear them again."

This Journal in its own modest way seeks to take seriously this vision of critically relating to the history of our community of faith, as a resource for future discipleship and witness.

Terry Wall