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Futurechurch to float on Angel Wings

By Paul Titus

A new trust has been set up to run and develop the Futurechurch website after the Methodist Church suspended its funding.

Baptist minister Rev Steve Taylor and his wife Lynne have established the Angel Wings Trust to take responsibility for the website, which provides a directory of emerging churches and alternative worship groups in New Zealand.

In 2000 Futurechurch was funded by a $200,000 grant from the Prince Albert College (PAC) Trust awarded to be paid quarterly over five years. The grant was given to the Women’s Resource Centre, which in turn employed Rosemary Neave to co-ordinate the work of Futurechurch and create its website.

The future of Futurechurch was cast in doubt last year when the Women’s Resource Centre announced it was to close. Rosemary made a proposal to use the remaining PAC funds (about $80,000) to operate the website through another organisation. After it sought legal advice, however, the Methodist Church’s Board of Ministry decided any money due to come from the PAC grant and any money accumulated in the project would have to be returned.

Board of Ministry chair Jan Tasker says the decision to fund Futurechurch went through the Methodist Church’s bi-cultural consultation process so it was not possible to change the purpose for which the money was given.

“The precedence with other PAC grants has been that when a project is completed or goes out of existence, any balance returns to PAC. There has been a lot of money returned to PAC in this way.

“The Women’s Resource Centre is closing so the grant given to them needs to be returned. The intellectual property and the data the project created belong to the Women’s Resource Centre, and they are free to transfer it to whoever they wish,” Jan says.

Rosemary is pleased the Futurechurch website has found a new home because she believes it is important to help connect and make visible the edgy things the mainstream doesn’t know what to do with.

“There is a lot of energy and creativity among alternative worship groups and they are often breaking new ground in connecting with the new generation. Many emerging spiritual communities want to stay in touch with the tradition but the mainstream seems unable to set up the structures to enable this to happen.

“I believe the challenge for the mainstream churches is to build creative relationships, mutual learning and connections between these groups and the tradition. The website is a small way of making visible the passion and creativity happening on the edge, so I am pleased it will continue in some way,” Rosemary says.

Steve Taylor has been involved in alternative faith communities and written a book about them, ‘The Out of Bounds Church?’ Along with his ministry at Opawa Baptist Church in Christchurch, Steve lectures at the Bible College of NZ.

He says initially he will have to run the Futurechurch website in his spare time.

“We created Angel Wings Trust so the website would not go to a church or a business interest. This way it retains its independence.

“We want to make the website more interactive, a forum where people can communicate with each other. This type of website requires someone to deal with spam and moderate the discussion so we will try to find a means to fund it. Initially this may be through advertisements on the site.”

Steve says currently a memorandum of understanding is being drafted that will enable ownership of the website to be transferred to Angel Wings. The website’s address will remain unchanged: www.futurechurch.org.nz.