New Zealand Methodist Church OnLine History
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Ventures of Faith and Community The Development of Churches on the North Shore, Auckland
by Peter Lineham


There was no blueprint for the process of transplanting colonial Christianity to New Zealand in the nineteenth century. As people came from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and elsewhere, they brought with them their own experiences of church life. For some their own denominational expression of Christianity was an important part of their identity. For others that was less so. Each colonial context took on its own particular colour as the denominational proportions varied from place to place and the kind of individual leadership given to planting and maintaining churches differed. For the North Shore that religious development was influenced initially by both local initiatives and decision-makers living across the Waitemata Harbour in urban Auckland. The story of the growth of churches on the North Shore is very complex with a mixture of pragmatism, inter-church cooperation, sectarian rivalry and individual aspirations.

The rapid growth of population from the 1960s following on from the opening of the Harbour Bridge turned what had been very much a rural farming area with its strip development along the holiday beaches into northern suburbs for Auckland. More recently the North Shore has taken on its own life with its own particular demographic reflecting patterns of migration from South Africa and Korea. Boroughs and a city emerged and through amalgamation have more recently become a part of Auckland City. While the bridge and motorway provides a link north and south the North Shore has its own distinctive institutions including Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Massey University Albany, and the naval base at Devonport. The churches on the North Shore have developed a variegated response to their own context.

Professor Peter Lineham has taken on the difficult task of making sense of the religious diversity and pluralism on the North Shore. His work comes out of two lectures he gave, one to the Anglican Historical Society and the other to the Wesley Historical Society with a particular focus in each lecture on the respective denominations. He has brought that material together and developed it further adding much more about the other denominational contributions on the North Shore.

The Wesley and Anglican Historical Societies are indebted to Peter for his lively lectures and his painstaking research that have led to this publication. We would also like to thank David Verran who with his own considerable knowledge of North Shore history kindly looked over and made helpful comments on the manuscript.

This joint publication is a first for the Wesley and Anglican Historical Societies. In the nineteenth-century imported religious baggage from England resulted in some tension and moving away from each other. For Bishop Selwyn in 1843, Methodists were in "Schism... in other words ... in a state of Separation from the Church" and he treated their ministers as laymen. In response some of the Wesleyan missionaries replied to Selwyn that "Our 'position' is not that of 'schisms', but of a separate section of the militant church, raised up, by the special providence of God, for the accomplishment of an extraordinary work."

The Anglican Methodist Covenant signed in 2009 in contrast acknowledged the validity of each other's ministry and the two churches committed themselves "to seek a unification of ministries". There was an acknowledgement of the mutual recognition of each other's baptism and church membership and a commitment to strengthen relationships between the two churches. This joint publication is offered to both societies and parent denominations in the spirit of that covenant. As we seek to understand our history and where we have come from we will be better able to appreciate not only what divides us but also what we share in common.

Allan Davidson Occasional Publications editor, Anglican Historical Society Honoured Member WHS.

Helen Laurenson President Wesley Historical Society