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Vision Network gathers steam

By Julia Stuart

Getting Christians together is a major focus of Vision Network. The organisation is a member of the World Evangelical Alliance and is now five years old in its present form. It has about 500 member churches, congregations and church agencies around New Zealand.

Recently Vision Network has been very active in two major national religious initiatives. It is part of the Strategic Thinking Group, which is seeking a new ecumenical structure to succeed the Christian Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand (CCANZ). It also has one of the Christian representatives on the working group that is drafting the National Statement on Religious Diversity.

When Touchstone caught up with him in Wellington last month, Vision Network national director Glyn Carpenter was attending at regional round table meetings while also escorting Canadian Evangelical Fellowship’s David and Diana Macfarlane around New Zealand.

“These ‘round tables’ are attended by leaders or representatives of ministers’ associations, or anyone who has a heart for unity in the town,’ Glyn explains. “Usually about 15 to 25 people come. They share stories about struggles, what’s going well in their towns, and their different initiatives, and then there’s a time of prayer.”

Glyn says he appreciate the chance the round table discussion give him to sit with people around the country, pray with them, and hear their stories. They also give him the opportunity to share something of the national picture and issues, such as the Interfaith Statement or crime and punishment issues.

A new national ecumenical structure to replace CCANZ is still some way off, he thinks. Feedback on the three options presented to the national church leaders in September last year was far from conclusive about any way forward.

“There is now some talk about the possibility of a fourth way, which attempts to synthesise the positive comments we saw in those three,” Glyn says. “That will be presented to the church leaders in September.

“The journey to this point is being written up by two members of the Strategic Thinking Group, along with some of the theology we worked on.”

He is not totally happy with the interfaith statement situation either, and he is concerned that the current Draft Statement on Religious Diversity may become the final version.

“Our goal was to ensure that the significance of Christian faith was accurately represented in the statement. I think we’ve probably reached as far as we are likely to be able to go at this stage of the process. It’s now been endorsed by the Inter Faith Forum as the basis for on-going dialogue and the on-going dialogue element is critical.”

Network wants to set record straight

As noted in the March issue of Touchstone, Vision Network has taken issue with references to their 2005 pre-election activities in the article Labour to resurrect Christian politics? (Touchstone Feb, 2007).

National director Glyn Carpenter “absolutely refutes” the implication that Vision Network is hostile to the Labour Party. “It’s simply untrue,” he says. “So is the claim that we were seeking regime change at the 2005 election. [Before the election] I toured to speak with ministers’ associations right around the country, and I said exactly the opposite.

“The first objective of these conferences was to make sure people understood the mechanics of MMP. The second was to encourage Christians around the country to look at a broad range of issues. There was a sense that was coming through the media& that there was some kind of right-wing backlash focused on a very narrow range of issues.

“I wanted to take the opportunity as Vision Network to speak to people about the mechanics of the electoral process, but secondly to say, make sure when you are voting that you consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you look at issues as they relate to that.”

Glyn Carpenter is also concerned at an association the article made between a Vision Network- sponsored Christian leaders’ conference and pre-millenial theology.

“If this relates to the Congress that Vision Network is most identified with, again I completely refute it.” He thinks it may instead refer to the 2005 Kingdom Builders Conference, but it has proved impossible to verify this. “While it’s true to say we were supporters of that conference, it would be wrong to over-identify us with the content of it.”

He also objects to what he describes as a broad swipe at the Pentecostal and evangelical churches. “I wouldn’t be aware of a single church where the so-called moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality are constant topics for preaching. It’s a huge generalization whereas in my opinion this would not be true except in a tiny number of cases.

“Apart from the serious misrepresentation of Vision Network, which represents a broad spectrum of Biblically-orthodox Protestant positions, the article represents a general slur against conservative churches in general and presents them in a very bad light.”