Attorney-General commends NZ’s Christian Heritage

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The following is reposted from The Christian message Samuel Marsden introduced 200 years ago has been positive for this country and is one which must be repeated with optimism and conviction year in and year out. – Hon Christopher Finlayson QC, Attorney-General, 21 December 2014.

The following speech was delivered by Hon Christopher Finlayson QC, Attorney-General, during the Gospel Bicentenary commemorations held at Oihi in the Bay of Islands, Christmas Week 2014. It should be an encouragement to Christians in all walks of life to know and tell our Christian story.

1814 was a very interesting year. The most noteworthy event was the abdication of Napoleon as Emperor of the French on 11 April, preceded a few days earlier by the Bourbon restoration. George Stephenson tested his first locomotive, Blucher, successfully in England. Pius VII re-established the Society of Jesus all over the world. Some here may say that was a very bad move by His Holiness; others, including me, say it paved the way for the election of Francis, the first Jesuit pope.

The British continued to have a bad time in the United States. On September 13, their failure at the Battle of Baltimore was a critical turning-point in their war with the Americans. The American defence of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the poem later set to music as The Star Spangled Banner.

The year ended with the Congress of Vienna, which sought to settle many issues arising out of French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Schubert’s First Mass and Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony had their premieres and, on 25 December, just down the path from here, Samuel Marsden brought Christianity to New Zealand.

As we all know, Marsden introduced to New Zealand what is arguably the gentlest form of Christianity: Anglicanism. Shortly thereafter, the Catholics arrived bringing French Catholicism and, some years later, Irish Catholicism.

With settlement came the dour Scots and Presbyterianism. Then the social justice advocates, unimpressed with establishment Christianity, who brought first Methodism and then the Salvation Army.

And this introduction of various forms of Christianity continued into the twentieth century. Orthodoxy came with our first Greek immigrants and in due course the Serbs, Romanians and Russians. Most recently, the Assyrian Christians, uprooted from their homelands by extremism, have brought their religion and liturgy spoken in the language of Christ.

This [the Christian heritage of New Zealand] is a rich and interesting story and it is not recounted enough.

Despite the odd outbreak of sectarian hostility, the churches have worked pretty well together over the years. I think of the first parish priest of Saint Mary of the Angels in Wellington, who conducted funeral services for the Presbyterians at St John’s in Willis Street when their minister was absent. Today, St John’s gives its church to St Mary of the Angels’ parishioners so they can celebrate Mass while their church in Boulcott Street is repaired.

All these churches continue today. Many appear to have fallen on hard times. They seem lost and perplexed by the modern world. They try to adapt, not always successfully. For me, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which Marsden inaugurated on Christmas Day 1814, and which has continued to this day, is underscored by four main points:

First, that the individual is made in the image of God and that, accordingly, everyone has worth.

Secondly, that one should respect individual effort and creativity, a key idea, particularly following the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In medieval times, and even in some corners of Christianity today, independence of thought is not cherished.

Thirdly, that a successful society is one governed by laws, not men and women – that we are all subject to the rule of law no matter how powerful or how rich. An ancient value, admittedly, but one reinforced by the Reformation and the American Revolution.

Finally, above all, the Christian message is a very optimistic one. It is a story of reconciliation and forgiveness.

As Pope Francis recently told the Council of Europe, in order to progress towards the future, we need the past, we need profound roots. We either preserve a country’s foundational being or it dies.

I am pleased to be here today and, to use an overused word, ‘celebrate’ the arrival of Marsden and Christianity into New Zealand because the Christian message he introduced 200 years ago has been positive for this country and is one which must be repeated with optimism and conviction year in and year out.

The Christian churches should be proud of these traditions and their message; they do not worry about reinventing themselves and trying to be relevant. Of course they have to adapt to changing times, but they can and must hold fast to unchanging principles and have the same gritty determination of Samuel Marsden.

This is a great day for New Zealand.


Glyn Carpenter has been National Director of New Zealand Christian Network since March 2003 and attends Northcote Baptist Church in Auckland. He is married to Christine (married in 1981) and has three sons – two in their last year at medical school and one working in computer science.

Our Story is still available

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Last year we released a new NZCMS Book, Our Story: Aotearoa – the Story of Mission in New Zealand Through the Lens of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society. If you’ve not already ordered your copy, now is the time. The book takes us on a journey through history, from the founding of CMS in England through to mission from New Zealand in the 21st century. Each chapter will help you discover how God’s story and our national narrative have been woven together.

The chapters of the book, each penned by a different author, seek to uncover the redemptive aspects of the stories of the missionaries first sent to New Zealand, to remember the grace provided to the missionaries sent from our land and to envision the future with God.

The book covers key moments in NZCMS history – reflecting on the impact of the League of Youth, mission in Pakistan and East Africa, and the birth of NZCMS in Nelson. We believe it is an invaluable resource for churches and individuals around the country who desire to understand the legacy upon which we build.

A bound copy of Our Story: Aotearoa can be yours for just $10 + $2.50 shipping.

There are two ways you can order your copy. First, you can contact Heather in the NZCMS office by emailing Otherwise, use the NZCMS giving form: fill out your details, under “What would you like to support” select other, and in the space “Other project or Mission Partner” fill in “BOOKSTORY” plus the number of books you wish to order.

A Kenyan at Waitangi

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What’s this guy doing here? Why is an African hanging around at Waitangi? No one asked me the question but I’m sure many were pondering it.

Over the last three years I’ve gone to Waitangi on Waitangi day and I reckon it’s one of the most amazing trips I make each year. But why do I keep going? Waitangi Day is always special for me because it is here that the relational foundation for our nation was laid. We are still on a journey of understanding what that means, but this is where it all began 175 years ago.

As an emigrant to New Zealand, I believe understanding place and history are vital in connecting to the soul of a nation. It’s not just about heritage but it’s about identity.

You may wonder how Waitangi could be important to a Kenyan, to an ‘outsider’? Isn’t your sense of identity connected to your roots in Kenya? Yes I have roots in Kenya, but I’ve been planting roots here too. Over the last six years my family has been trying to understand what it means to plant our roots deep into Aotearoa soil. It has meant to visit the beautiful places in this country, building friendships with Kiwis and seeking to integrate into New Zealand society. It has meant finding a church to belong to and getting involved. I haven’t picked up the Kiwi accent yet, but my daughters have.

And this is how it’s supposed to be. As I read the Scriptures, I see God calling his people to be pilgrims, people who are on a journey. And even when God’s people had been forcibly removed from their motherland, God still told them to see the peace and prosperity of the city to which he called them into exile (Jeremiah 29:7). Part of what it means to be God’s missional people is to be prepared to sink our feet into the soil of the place God has called us to.

Over the last few years, I felt that there was something incomplete with this journey of discovering and integrating into New Zealand. It was like a tree with lovely branches and fruit but without roots. So I began a journey of planting my feet into the roots of New Zealand. Here’s three key lessons I’ve learned along my journey.

1. It’s about People

Governor Hobson’s speech to the tribal chiefs in which he said “He iwi tahi tatou” (“We are all one people)” mirrors the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul speaks of Christ, “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul knew what it was to work among two divided peoples, Jews and Gentiles, but also to see a ‘new people’ brought into being. Can we pray for a posture of unity as we explore our unique identity as kiwis?

Waitangi is special to me because it is through what happened there that this country was established. It means people like me are able to come and live here. Because of the Treaty, we have been welcomed to come and call this country our own. Without the Treaty I would not be here, I would not be welcome in this country. So I see God involved in the Treaty of Waitangi and it’s great that Waitangi day begins with a prayer meeting at dawn attended by politicians, local leaders (and anyone who is able to get there at 4.30am!). Which other country in the world begins their ‘independence day’ celebration with a prayer meeting?!

My involvement as a representative of  NZCMS at Waitangi is in some small way a ‘coming home.’ Members of CMS were among the British missionaries who contributed to the original Treaty process in 1840. I also see the key role the missionaries, especially Henry Williams, played as trusted friends of Maori in the treaty formulation and promotion of it among Maori. While some scholars have painted some of the early missionaries as colonist puppets aligned with land confiscation, a careful reading of history must recognize that these missionaries, although not angels, came to New Zealand for the Maori people, offering support, education and translation work.  This work was often carried on by Maori evangelists working among their own people.

I have many Pakeha friends after being in New Zealand for six years, but until two years ago I didn’t have many Maori friends. So I enrolled at Te Wananga o Aorearoa to study Te Reo Maori in order to communicate with Maori folk as I build friendships. I now have a number of Maori friends and I value their friendship deeply. This has been my bi-cultural  journey connecting to Tangata Whenua.

2. It’s about Place

As I studied Te Reo, I learnt that it was not just about language. Like many African cultures, the class was a community. We prayed for each other, played games and enjoyed kai together – and somewhere in the learned some Te Reo. But the most significant discovery for me was the importance of place among Maori. Its interesting that when you introduce yourself, you talk about where you comes from before you even say your name! So I decided I wanted to visit as many places of significant for Maori as I could. I’ve since been to Onuku Marae in Akoroa, there the Treaty was signed in South Island. I’ve been to Rangiatea Church in Otaki built by Te Raupaha who had been greatly impacted by the Christian message. I’ve been to many other places of significance in North Island.

But Waitangi beats them all! Why?

3. It’s about Posture

Although People and Place are important considerations in finding our roots, I’ve found that a posture of learning, of being a student of culture, is vital in helping me appreciate the beauty of culture. Although there are many things I have not yet understood about Kiwi culture, I have learned to ask questions and not assume.  I believe the Treaty of Waitangi has the potential to cultivate a unique national identity if we approach it with a learning posture. I believe the spirit of the Treaty should be one we seek to live out as we model a posture of ‘peace-making’ in this complex, multi-cultural world.

Moving forwards

I also go to Waitangi day not just to look back but to celebrate the present and look to the future. I go to celebrate a rich multi-cultural event earthed in a healthy and vibrant bi-cultural relationship.  Unfortunately what we mostly see in the media is the negative side, but a lot of great things happen at Waitangi: families on the beach, cultural groups doing variety shows, a stunning array of great kiwi food including mussel burgers and just a lovely holiday atmosphere. It’s like a big camp for the whole country where thousands of kiwis of all shapes and colours gather to celebrate. I think we need to learn the art of celebrating.

But its more than just celebrating the past. The treaty of Waitangi looks to the future too. Looking out over the Marae at the Dawn Service and seeing  representatives of iwi, government, church, and New Zealanders from up and down the country strengthened my conviction that the Treaty is still a significant factor in developing a deeper bi-culturalism and a richer multiculturalism. While we must be aware of the continuing disparity between segments of the Maori population and wider New Zealand society, I do believe there’s significant progress in social and economic development among iwi.  Asking what went wrong with the process will take us only so far. Instead we are better to focus on what is going on now. If we are to avoid criticism and conflict and embrace cooperation and consensus we must learn from our history and take the best of its strengths to build into the future. I believe God is doing something unique in New Zealand and I want to be able to listen to discern where he is at work so that I can join him!

Marsden and the Hauraki Gulf

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Last Sunday I had the privilege to join Pane Kawhia from the NZCMS Council at a special event at Kaiaua  Marae on the Hauraki Gulf. This was to celebrate Samuel Marsden’s first visit  after he delivered his first sermon at Rangihoua  in 1814. The day began with a Powhiri at 9am followed by a church service and historical presentations. Plus lots of kai.  Local Kaumatua,  Murehu Wilson, narrated the genealogy of Ngati paoa and Ngati Whanaunga which gave us insight into the history of the area, especially about how the people received the Gospel. I spoke on behalf of CMS, acknowledging the role of the early Missionaries (both Europeans and local Maori evangelists) as messengers of the Good News and encouraged the local iwi to embrace the good news of Jesus for today. I also had the privilege of presenting the new edition Paipera Tapu to the kaumatua of the Marae.

We also heard from Ron McGough. He share that some land, now with the Anglican Church, was first gifted to CMS by the local iwi and that most of it had been sold. However, the Church was planning to return the remaining pieces of land to the local iwi. I was very encouraged by the news.

The event was a great celebration of the good news of Jesus impacting the people in Hauraki area.

Will we fulfil the greater promise? (From Anglican Taonga)

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The following is from Anglican Taonga last week. The reflection mentioned was read at Waitangi during the dawn service last Friday.


On the eve of the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, Archbishop Brown Turei has asked whether Maori and Pakeha can find the faith and courage to fulfil “the greater promise of the Treaty of Waitangi: One people, united.”

Archbishop Turei, who is Te Pihopa o Aotearoa and one of the three leaders of the Anglican Church in these islands, has produced a prayer and reflection to mark the occasion.

He briefly surveys the 175 years since 1840, offers his assessment of where bicultural relations are at now, and then says: “our true potential as one people” can only happen if we can “renew within ourselves the faith and the courage of our forebears who first signed the Treaty.”

Archbishop Turei then spells out a number of conditions which must be met for that renewal to take place, and that promise to be fulfilled.

His prayer can be read here and his reflection is here.

Archbishop Turei’s prayer and reflection are supported by his brother Archbishops Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua.

Archbishop Richardson is the leader of Tikanga Pakeha (and senior bishop of the seven Pakeha dioceses), while Archbishop Halapua is the leader of Tikanga Polynesia (and therefore of Polynesian Anglicans in Aotearoa New Zealand).

The NZCMS Story Through the Eyes of Jane Kendall

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At the recent Festival 200 in Christchurch, NZCMS was invited to present an item that captured how the Gospel came to this land.

Feel free to use this video during this season to tell the NZ Christmas story.

Thanks goes to Laurel Rose Gregory for playing the role of Jane and Mandy Neil who helped us adapt an earlier script that she had written. Both Mandy and Laurel are descendants of the Kendalls.

Our Story Book

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Our Story: Aotearoa – the Story of Mission in New Zealand Through the Lens of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society is new book by NZCMS seeking to discover how God’s story and our national narrative have been woven together.

The chapters of the book, each penned by a different author, seek to uncover the redemptive aspects of the stories of the missionaries first sent to New Zealand, to remember the grace provided to the missionaries sent from our land and to envision the future with God.

The book covers key moments in NZCMS history – reflecting on the impact of the League of Youth, mission in Pakistan and East Africa, and the birth of NZCMS in Nelson. We believe it is an invaluable resource for churches and individuals around the country who are exploring their history during this bicentennial year.

This book is now available for purchase and we have a special Christmas offer for all NZCMS supporters. A bound copy of Our Story: Aotearoa can be yours for just $10 + $2.50 shipping.

There are two ways you can order your copy. First, you can contact Heather in the NZCMS office by emailing Otherwise, use the NZCMS giving form: fill out your details, under “What would you like to support” select other, and in the space “Other project or Mission Partner” fill in “BOOKSTORY” plus the number of books you wish to order.


Our Story: the DNA of CMS

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By Philip Mounstephen. 

Below is the transcript of Philip Mounstephen’s talk at the Our Story Hui.


If you were to sit at my desk in CMS House in Oxford and look at my computer screen you would see that I have as my wallpaper a picture of a silver teapot. The teapot itself is safely stored in our archives. But it was around that teapot that a group of people gathered one day in March 1799. These people were members of what was known as the Eclectics Society and they met regularly to discuss topics of mutual interest: the question that day was this: “What methods can we use more effectually to promote the knowledge of the Gospel among the Heathen?”

The answer they came up with to that question was to form a society: which they did almost straightaway, in fact the very next month: it was a society not formed for itself, but formed for the sake of others, and formed indeed for the sake of the Lord, to love and to serve his world; the society which was first called ‘The Society for Missions to Africa and the East instituted by members of the Established Church’, but which today we call rather more simply the Church Mission Society.

This new Society was in many ways the brain child of the remarkable group of friends who lived together in what was then the village of Clapham, to the southwest of London, under the guidance of the Rector of Clapham, John Venn. The best known of this group of friends was William Wilberforce, the leading light in the campaign to abolish the slave trade, but in truth it was a gathering of many quite remarkable people. Their detractors labelled them, rather derisively ‘The Clapham Sect’ but it’s a name that stuck and by which we will still refer to them – but now with great affection.

Today however I want to highlight their connection with another place. It’s not quite on the edge of the world as is New Zealand (and I apologise if that’s a very European perspective). But this place is definitely on the margins in UK terms. Many of the people gathered that day in London, or who were involved in one way or another in the founding of CMS, had strong connections with the Yorkshire port of Kingston upon Hull – usually called just ‘Hull’ for short.

A few months ago I was in Hull to give thanks for 200 years of the Hull and District Association of the Church Mission Society – another significant bicentenary – and a wonderful time we had. Hull is a very significant place in CMS story because as I say almost all our founders in the Clapham Sect had some connection with the city – either because they came from there or because they married into Hull families. Indeed they all came from Hull trading families and I think that’s significant because I believe as a consequence they had a naturally global instinct. Hull may be a long way from anywhere else in England but if Wilberforce wanted to be globally connected all he had to do was walk out of his back gate on the High Street and go straight down to the ships moored on the wharfs along the river Hull – ships that traded into the Baltic, up to Russia, and across the world.

The Hull connections are many and varied – and lead us in fact directly to here, to New Zealand. Let’s start the journey with William Wilberforce who was undoubtedly the city’s most famous son. He was educated at Hull Grammar School, where he struck up a lifelong friendship with his Headmaster, Joseph Milner. It was Milner’s brother Isaac who was later instrumental in Wilberforce’s powerful and life changing conversion – his conversion to Christian faith which became the mainspring of all his subsequent activity.

But among Joseph Milner’s other pupils at Hull Grammar School was a man called Samuel Marsden: Samuel Marsden, whose name you’ll already know very well. In 1793 Samuel Marsden, on Wilberforce’s recommendation, became the second chaplain to the penal colony in Botany Bay and then subsequently, eleven years later, was sent by CMS to bring the gospel here to New Zealand, in 1814 – the event of course which we are gathered here to celebrate.

So you can see that there is a direct connection between the city of Hull, where CMS really has its roots, and the first preaching of the gospel here through Samuel Marsden. In this talk today I want to bring out and help us reflect on some particular features of CMS early mission, including that mission to New Zealand, in the context of the truly remarkable global movement in mission that took place in the 19th Century and beyond.

The great missionary enterprise of the 19th and 20th Centuries has often been criticised, frequently out of ignorance. Now we certainly didn’t always get it right, not by any means. But today we should reflect too that many of those people who followed the call to mission left their homes with their possessions packed in a coffin because they had no expectation of returning. Often as not they respected the cultures they found, expressed the gospel sensitively in the terms of that culture and frequently stood in the gap between those cultures and the often brutal machinery of European imperialism. That was true in NZ but it was true elsewhere too. We didn’t always get it right, but we often did, and at great costs to those who undertook the endeavour Over the 215 years since our founding some 10,000 people have crossed cultures and continents to share the good news of Jesus through CMS, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the face of the Church in Africa, in Asia and in South America – and indeed in other places too – is substantially different because of the long-term, committed, faithful, sacrificial work of CMS mission partners. From Hull and Clapham such incredible influence flowed. It flowed in every direction, around the globe and back again, so that now I’m delighted to say that we have wonderful mission partners, Chris and Anna Hembury, doing fantastic work back in Hull itself.

My favourite quotation about CMS comes from a man called S. C. Carpenter, Dean of Exeter. Writing way back in 1933 he looks back at the history of CMS and says this: ‘CMS was at times limited, at times injudicious, but always full of life; a guild with its own peculiar vocation within the life of the Church’. I love that. I think it captures something of the adventurous ambition of the Society. I don’t mind us being limited, as long as we limit ourselves to mission; I don’t mind us being sometimes injudicious, because we always want to take risks in mission; but I do want us to have that sense of being a guild, a family, a community – think of those friends gathered together round the teapot – with a sense of our own particular calling within the life of God’s church: a calling to long-term, committed, faithful, sacrificial global mission.

But let’s now focus our thinking more specifically on some of the key features of that early mission, not least as it was expressed in mission here in NZ. The title of this talk is “Our Story: the DNA of CMS” – so let’s try and identify just four strands of that DNA.

Here is the first. Our mission has been and always will be about people. Our mission has been and always will be about people. It sounds deceptively simple, but actually it’s fundamental. Mission is about people. It’s not about technique or strategy – at least not first and foremost. First and foremost it’s about people relating to other people and discovering in the encounter their true humanity in Jesus Christ. In the bicentenary service in Hull, Chris Hembury was interviewed and was asked what he and Anna do, and he said, ‘Well I can tell you about the different activities we organise, but it’s what happens between those activities that really counts’. And of course he meant by that the relationships they build, the trust they establish, with the people with whom they work. Because it’s in those encounters, in those gaps, that Jesus is shared and lives are changed. Indeed it was wonderful to meet Lee that weekend – a young man from the area where Chris and Anna work, who Chris brought to faith and who is now bringing other young people to faith himself: Chris’s spiritual grandchildren. It’s all about people.

And of course this is deep rooted for us. Way back at the beginning John Venn, Rector of Clapham and one of our founders, enunciated the foundational principles by which we work. It’s worth listing them all, though I want to focus on the final one. We call them the Venn Principles and they read as follows:

Follow God’s lead Put prayer first, money second Begin small Rely on the Spirit of God

And the fifth was this: ‘Success will depend on the kind of men employed.’ We’ll forgive him the gender specific language of his age, but we won’t be fooled by the deceptively simple language. It really is all about people – and about the quality of people we send. It’s not about technique or strategy – at least not first and foremost. First and foremost it’s about people relating to other people and discovering in the encounter their true humanity in Jesus Christ. That’s why when we today articulate our four values we don’t talk about four detached adjectives: pioneering, evangelistic, relational and faithful. We say rather that we are people who are pioneering, evangelistic, relational and faithful. It’s all about character and being formed in the likeness of Christ and displaying his character to the world.

Getting people to go at the start was something of a struggle. In fact it took years to get anyone to go at all. Indeed at the beginning the first people we persuaded to go weren’t English Anglicans at all, but German Lutherans. But go they eventually did, in their thousands, often as I say with no expectation of returning. One of the first things I did in my time in office was to visit the grave of Bishop James Hannington behind Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala. Hannington was martyred bringing the gospel to Uganda. And he wasn’t alone in meeting that fate.  And I am constantly challenged and awed that such a sacrificial spirit of service lives on.

Of course that sacrificial spirit was made manifest here in NZ too. It was no small thing at the start of the 19th century to come over here from the other side of the world. The majority of people who came never went back. I’m enjoying learning more about Samuel Marsden in my time here. But he does seem to me to have been a remarkable man – alongside many other remarkable people, both men and women in this story we’re re-living over these few days. And can I just acknowledge the fact here that the people I’m highlighting today are men, because their stories are better known. But the truth is that the majority of people who have served in mission have been woman – and some truly remarkable women at that. But Marsden too was remarkable not least in his faithfulness. As we shall see in a moment he simply would not give up even though he had good reason to more than once. But this remarkable man’s faithfulness would eventually lead to great fruitfulness. And it is remarkable people, much more than policies or strategies, who mark so much of the early years of CMS – and they challenge us to be remarkable in our turn, the Lord being our helper, and above all to manifest, to embody, in ourselves, by his Spirit, the likeness of Christ.

A second stand of DNA I want us to examine follows from the first. These remarkable people we celebrate here were remarkable not least for their sheer dogged persistence. We’ll come back to NZ later, but for the moment I want us to turn to another part of the world to illustrate this. Back at the beginning of October, Bishop David Evans, former Bishop of Peru and General Secretary of SAMS, spent the day with us at CMS. SAMS – the South American Missionary Society – was for many years a separate organization but merged with CMS a few years ago. We merged not least because SAMS and CMS shared so much DNA. Bishop David led us in latin-style Holy Communion and then joined with us in two hours of focussed prayer for South America.

To inspire us for the day we put one or two treasured artifacts from the archives on display – including famous teapot, plus the sextant and diary of Captain Allen Gardiner, the man who was the pioneer of mission in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. He was the pioneer of mission in the extreme south of South America even though he never saw a single convert and starved to death with the rest of his party on a remote beach.

I found it incredibly moving to read his final diary entry, written in his own very frail hand. He wrote this: Great and marvellous are the loving-kindnesses of my gracious God unto me. He has preserved me hitherto, and for four days, although without bodily food, without any feeling of hunger or thirst. And then there is no more.

Allen Gardiner’s story shares a common theme with many other stories of early missionary endeavour. So many of these stories are marked by sheer dogged persistence. These were not in the main stories of triumphant progress, but rather stories marked by much opposition, difficulty and discouragement. The second party that followed Gardiner were all speared to death by the local people. And yet still they came.

And while events in NZ didn’t turn out to be quite so bloody, it still required incredible persistence on the part of Marsden and others to keep going. The mission to NZ was first approved by CMS in 1808 – 9 years after its establishment, and in those 9 years only a tiny handful of people had been sent out. The mission to NZ was approved by CMS in 1808 but it was over 6 years more before Marsden would even set foot in NZ. The conditions were tough and the missionaries were particularly unwelcome in the eyes of the number of renegade European settlers who were already here. In 1822 there was the disastrous incident where Thomas Kendall and two other missionaries were implicated in inter-tribal warfare and became the first missionaries ever to be dismissed from CMS service. And it was a full 11 years after Marsden first preached that the first baptism took place as a consequence of the mission’s work.

And yet… And yet they persisted. They would not give up. Would we have done the same? I fear not. I fear that my generation at least is too easily put off by difficulty and discouragement. If something doesn’t appear to work we presume that it is not the Lord’s will that it should and we move on to something else.

But people such as Allen Gardiner and Samuel Marsden had a different perspective. They were so steeped in the scriptures that they did not doubt that it was indeed the Lord’s will that his gospel should spread across the whole world. They understood that difficulty and discouragement were inevitable companions in mission. They saw things with the faith of Abraham, of whom Paul writes: No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20-21)

May the faith of Abraham and Allen Gardiner and Samuel Marsden be ours too as we persist, despite the obstacles, in God’s glorious work of mission.

The third strand of our DNA I want to pull out is our commitment to what we call holistic mission. In other words we are committed to mission for heart, mind and spirit, for the individual and for society and for the whole created order. We’re committed to holistic mission because we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. So we accept no sacred / secular divide. We want to reflect in what we do the commitment of Jesus Christ to the whole person, to the whole of society, to all of creation.

That commitment is very deeply rooted for us. It is no coincidence that CMS and the movement for the abolition of slavery share common origins, for there was no sacred / secular division in our founders’ minds. For them the agenda was clear: their agenda was nothing less than Jesus’ agenda: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind – to set the oppressed free.” Freedom from slavery and freedom in Christ were all of a piece in our founders’ minds, and all of a piece in the minds of many of those set free too. It is no surprise that Sierra Leone, which was itself set up as refuge for freed slaves became a vibrant source of so much wider missionary activity in West Africa, as people went forth from there to proclaim good news for the poor and freedom for the prisoners.

It is no surprise in this context that Henry Venn (the son of John Venn and CMS’ General Secretary) came to articulate the classic principles for the governance of the indigenous churches that they founded. This classic missiological principle is known as the ‘three-self principle’: a conviction that churches founded by these new movements in mission should be self-governing, self-financing and self-propagating. Not, in other words governed from afar, but churches that were truly self-governing, self-financing and self-propagating. And this was not an accidental conviction. It grew directly out of its context in the movement for the abolition of slavery. For churches whose members had known slavery how on earth could those churches be otherwise than self-governing, self-financing and self-propagating? This was Christian politics, Christian civilization if you will, for freed-slave, unshackled Churches. This was how things should be if they were to be genuinely Christian.

One of the real heroes of the CMS story is a man called Samuel Ajayi Crowther. The young Ajayi was taken from his village by a slaving party but was liberated from a Portuguese slave ship by the Royal Navy. He was taken to Sierra Leone and subsequently to England and in both places he was nurtured and discipled by CMS. He came to faith, was ordained, and was eventually consecrated 150 years ago this year, at Henry Venn’s instigation, as the first black African bishop of the Anglican Communion. His experience of liberation from slavery and of liberation in Christ, as two sides of the same coin, profoundly shaped him and was the mainspring for his life in holistic mission. His journey in mission led him eventually back to his own country where he worked tirelessly on the Yoruba translation of the Bible; established a cotton industry in Abeokuta to counter the slave trade; engaged in patient and persuasive dialogue with local Muslim leaders; and planted significant churches schools and mission stations all along the Niger. So transformatory was his work, not least in codifying and unifying the Yoruba language, that he is often referred to as the father of the Yoruba people. This was not in other words a narrowly evangelistic mission – though it was certainly evangelistic – but was wonderfully holistic. It was about the establishment of the Kingdom in all its breadth and depth.

There is a tragic coda to Crowther’s life in that he was tragically and shamefully sidelined at the end of his life and died a broken man. Shamefully it was CMS missionaries who did that. And it’s interesting to note that those who did it were heavily influenced by the European holiness movement: in other words they focussed so much on personal holiness that they became deaf and blind to wider issues of justice and righteousness. In other words they bought classically into a sacred / secular divide and did not believe in holistic mission.

The 19th Century missionary movement has sometimes been characterised as being about the three ‘C’s of Commerce, Civilisation and Christianity. And I would say that at its worst that was just what it was about: the unthinking importation of beads and Bibles. Indeed I don’t think Samuel Marsden always got it right, not least in his questionable conviction that the Maori needed to be “civilised” before they could be evangelised. I say ‘questionable’, because there is some question whether Marsden did I fact believe that. But if he did then that belief is at the very least questionable.

But I would also say that at its very best mission was all about commerce, civilisation and Christianity. In other words it wasn’t just about the salvation of souls. It was about the establishment of shalom, the building of the common good, the empowerment of people through the free and fair exchange of their goods and services. It was about the Kingdom of God in all its breadth and depth; it was a broad vision for the transformation of the whole world. Our founders in the Clapham Sect were not a one or two issue group. It wasn’t all about slavery and CMS. They really did want to change the whole world: through things such animal welfare, education, food banks and credit unions – all of which sounds very contemporary. Indeed after the slave trade had finally been abolished Wilberforce turned to Henry Thornton and said, ‘Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next?’ To which Thornton replied, ‘The National Lottery, I think.’ Now there’s an idea!

Thinking more positively about Marsden’s mission here it’s worth noticing that the missionaries CMS sent were skilled in a whole range of things: schoolteachers, carpenters, shoe-makers to name but three. In other words this was a broad based and not a narrowly ‘churchy’ mission. Some like Marsden were ordained, but many were what CMS called ‘lay settlers’. Indeed it’s worth noting that the first of what would become hundreds if not thousands of ‘medical missionaries’ was sent to NZ – a man called S. H. Ford in 1836.

This selection of people was not accidental. Marsden’s vision for the Maori was of a trading society, trading freely across these islands and Polynesia and NSW – a society that amongst other things would thereby be protected economically from exploitation by encroaching Europeans: an exploitation of which Marsden was rightly fearful. Marsden’s vision was therefore of a holistic mission, for the whole person and for all of society, a vision of shalom. And as such Marsden’s vision for holistic mission predates that of Crowther and others by several decades.

And this commitment to holistic mission, to the 3 C’s if you like, is an enduring influence on CMS – and needs I think to be an enduring imperative in mission. Sometimes people ask me what the difference is between what we do and what a secular NGO might do. Now I’m not going to knock the excellent work many NGOs do, but I would say that our motivation is entirely different. We believe we have been called to our mission by God; we believe he sustains and supports us it, and we do it for him and for his glory. We believe in fact that because of Jesus we too can say, The Spirit of the Lord is on us, because he has anointed us to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind – to set the oppressed free. So we rightly resist very strongly any suggestion that we’re involved in some kind of glorified development work: we are engaged in the whole mission of God; the work of Jesus, who is Lord of all, and whose good news is good news for the whole person, the whole of society, and for all of creation – because there is nothing he does not care for and nothing he cannot transform. That is a central theme of CMS Africa’s Samaritan Strategy ministry, which Dennis Tongoi will be talking about later: a ministry classically rooted in the CMS tradition of holistic mission.

So that our mission in CMS must be as broad as it can be, because there is no aspect of the life of creation that the good news of Jesus does not touch. But our mission in CMS must also be sharply focused. It must be focused with pinpoint accuracy on Jesus Christ. If it’s not about Jesus it’s not good news. It is his mission – his holistic mission – we are called to, and no other.

And so we come to the fourth and final strand of our DNA, and it expresses a fundamental conviction about the priority of mission. My Church, the Church of England, has been through a kind of conversion experience in the last few years and come to the huge realisation that, to quote the words of Tim Dearborn, ‘It is not that the Church of God has a mission in the world; it’s that the God of mission has a church in the world.’ There’s a huge difference between the two attitudes. In the first mission is just one activity of the Church: mission is smaller than the church. In the second it’s the other way round. Mission is much bigger than the Church because it’s not our mission, it’s God’s mission: it’s God’s mission that he calls us to be involved in. Mission is God’s agenda, his heartbeat: the bringing back of the world to himself. If mission is bigger than the church, then it must change our perspective. The Church of God does not set the agenda for mission. Mission sets the agenda for the Church of God. I think this is a perspective that is more readily grasped in the global south than in the north. The church in the global south has grown because of mission – and so mission is a more natural priority for them. In fact the church is always and is only the fruit of mission, so mission always needs to be its primary purpose.

But this conviction about the priority of mission is not actually a new conviction. It’s a rediscovered conviction. Our founders in the Clapham Sect were well aware that the Church of God does not set the agenda for mission but rather mission sets the agenda for the Church of God. That indeed was why they founded CMS. If they had waited for the Established Church to respond to the challenge of mission they would have waited a very long time indeed. But they followed not the Church’s agenda but the mission agenda – and their obedience and persistence in doing so did indeed change the world. And incidentally that’s why I think the church of God desperately needs communities and societies like CMS to help the Church not become fixated on its own institution but to rediscover the priority of mission.

If mission is bigger than the church, then it will inevitably challenge the Church. We do not own mission: it owns us. And as it owns us it will lead us to unexpected places. True mission will always lead us beyond the institution and out to the margins. I believe that God is calling us in CMS to recapture our pioneering instinct we’ve tried to formulate that call as a commitment to the least evangelized and to the most marginalized. We’re working on how we can develop our international strategy more and more in that direction and next year I hope to go to places such as DRC, South Sudan, and the Chaco of Northern Argentine and Paraguay to see how we can practically express that commitment in such places – and other places too in due course.

The great theologian of mission, Lesslie Newbigin, once said, ‘Our business is to go outside the church walls, become aware of what God is doing, and cooperate with Him’. That’s what Marsden and the Clapham Sect did. I think that’s exactly what we need to do too. We need to do it because ironically it’s often hardest to see what God is doing from within the walls of the church. It’s outside the walls of the Church, in the uncomfortable and marginal places, that we rediscover the priority of mission and can engage with fresh energy in the transformatory mission of God.

The history of CMS has always been, at our best, to go from the comfortable to the marginal. The very best way to honour that heritage, that DNA, is to go on making the same commitment ourselves. To help us reflect on that I’m going to close by reading a poem from the Welsh poet R.S.Thomas called ‘The Coming’….


‘The Coming’

And God held in his hand

a small globe. Look, he said,

the son looked. Far off,

as through water, he saw

a scorched land of fierce

color. The light burned

there: crusted buildings

cast their shadows; a bright

serpent, a river

uncoiled itself, radiant

with slime.



On a bare

hill a bare tree saddened

the sky. Many people

held out their thin arms

to it, as though waiting

for a vanished April

to return to its crossed

boughs. The son watched

them. Let me go there, he said.


Where Jesus has gone, may we follow: for his sake, and for his glory. Amen.

Our Story: The Night that Transformed a Mission and Established a Church

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By Malcolm Falloon. 

The following is the first resource from the Our Story Hui: a transcript of Malcolm Falloon’s talk. More resources will be coming shortly.

One of the outstanding features of the late 1830s and 40s in New Zealand history was the widespread movement of Māori to embrace missionary Christianity. Beginning in 1830 with a handful of Māori Christians closely associated with the CMS mission stations of Rangihoua, Kerikeri and Paihia, the movement grew until by 1842, some 70-75% of Māori professed to be Christians and ten years later, in 1852, that percentage had increased to perhaps 90-95% of the Māori population. Historians have proposed a number of broad theories as to why Māori converted to Christianity, each identifying a key moment, period, or “turning point” in the prospects of the mission.

For instance, some have suggested that the launching of the missionary schooner the Herald in 1826 gave the Missionaries a degree of economic independence from Māori that led to Māori viewing the missionaries with a greater level of respect. Others have opted for a later period, perhaps after 1835, when the missionaries for the first time were able to distribute printed portions of the Bible in sufficient quantities leading to a thirst for literacy among Māori, a literacy closely identified with the Christian religion. In reaching these conclusions, however, historians have often paid little attention (if any) to whether the missionaries themselves had identified any significant transitions in the work of the mission.

As it happens, a close reading of the missionary letters and journals does point to a distinct change in tone, or perspective, in the missionary correspondence, occurring at the beginning of 1830. Before this date, the missionaries would report, at most, only gradual progress in the mission and instead be looking forward in faith to a time when God would pour out his blessings upon Māori. After 1830, however, the missionary correspondence is marked with thanksgiving for what God had already accomplished amongst Māori and prayer for God’s nurture and protection of a work already taking place.

For instance, Williams Williams in reviewing the year at the end of 1828 wrote to London:

The past year has been an eventful one, but it has not been marked by any change among the Natives: yet we must acknowledge that the prospect brightens before us.

Yet in March 1830, his outlook was distinctly different:

We have now abundant cause for gratitude to our heavenly Father for what he is carrying on among us… now I trust the time is arrived when poor New Zealanders shall receive the Gospel of Christ.

The examples could be multiplied, and taken together they clearly demonstrate that for the missionaries, 1830 was a year of transformation, beginning in the month of February at the Paihia mission station. February 1830 began with 3 significant baptisms, including that of Taiwhanga, the leading Māori of the Paihia mission. But the month ended with an even more significant event, a Wednesday evening Prayer Service, led by the missionary Richard Davis, on 24 February 1830 – the night that transformed a mission and established a church!

…Read More

A Crossroads in New Zealand

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In this latest edition of NZ: Myths and Realities Keith Newman shares about the critical crossroads that we are at as a nation.

Throughout the year NZCMS is putting together a series of short videos where reputable Christian thinkers address the myths and realities of the Gospel in the New Zealand story.

For more information about New Zealand’s Gospel-bicentenary click here. Celebrate with us 200 years of the Gospel in Aotearoa.