Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

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Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia logo.gif
ClassificationProtestant (with various theological and doctrinal identities, including Anglo-Catholic, Liberal and Evangelical)
ScriptureHoly Bible
TheologyAnglican doctrine
Primates (Archbishops)Don Tamihere (Aotearoa)
Philip Richardson (New Zealand)
Fereimi Cama (Polynesia)
Parishes552 (2008)[1]
RegionNew Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands
HeadquartersMeadowbank, Auckland, New Zealand
SeparationsChurch of Confessing Anglicans of Aotearoa/New Zealand (2019)
Other name(s)Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (in Māori)

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (Māori: Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa; formerly the Church of the Province of New Zealand) is a province of the Anglican Communion serving New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. Since 1992 the church has consisted of three tikanga or cultural streams: Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. The church's constitution says that, among other things, it is required to "maintain the right of every person to choose any particular cultural expression of the faith".[2] As a result, the church's General Synod has agreed upon the development of the three-person primacy based on this three tikanga system.[3] It has three primates (leaders), each representing a tikanga, who share authority.[4]

The Anglican Church is an apostolic church, which claims to trace its bishops back to the apostles via holy orders. A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPB/HKMOA), containing traditional liturgies, rites and blessings, is central to the church's worship. Since the 1960s the New Zealand Anglican Church in general has pursued a decidedly more liberal course; it has approved the marriage by a priest in a church of someone whose earlier marriage was dissolved (even though the former spouse still lives), and has approved blessings for same-sex couples.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is not established as an official church of any sovereign state, unlike the Church of England from which it grew. However, Anglicans have taken a preeminent leadership role on New Zealand state occasions.[5] The 2018 census recorded 314,913 Anglicans in the New Zealand part of the church while the 2013 census had recorded 469,036.[6][3] The number who attend services on a regular basis or have any connection with the church is considerably smaller. While one in three New Zealanders identify as Christian, only about one in ten identify as "active practisers".[7]


Until 1992, the church was formally called the "Church of the Province of New Zealand", and was also referred to as the "Church of England".[8] It is now known as the "Anglican Church", reflecting its membership of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Members of the church typically identify as "Anglicans".[6]


First New Zealand Anglicans[edit]

The Māori name for the New Zealand Anglican Church, te Hāhi Mihinare (the missionary church), reveals its origins in the work of the first missionaries to arrive in New Zealand.

Anglicans began missionary work among Māori in 1814 through the Church Missionary Society (CMS), a voluntary evangelical group within the Church of England. Evangelicalism began as a movement within 19th-century Protestant churches in Britain that combined humanitarian activism with an emphasis on the personal experience of sin, and the salvation gained through the death of Jesus Christ.

The CMS mission to New Zealand was begun by Samuel Marsden, the Anglican chaplain in New South Wales. He had met the Ngāpuhi chiefs Te Pahi and Ruatara when they travelled outside New Zealand, and they encouraged him to visit their country. Ruatara provided protection for the first mission station, at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands.

This 1820 painting shows Ngāpuhi chiefs Waikato (left) and Hongi Hika, and Anglican missionary Thomas Kendall

For the first years of the mission, intertribal Musket Wars hampered the missionaries’ movements and Māori interest in their message. Personal disputes between the early missionaries, and their involvement in trading muskets, also compromised their efforts. However one of the first CMS missionaries, Thomas Kendall, successfully produced the first written versions of the Māori language.

Henry Williams arrived to lead the New Zealand mission in 1823 and gave firm local leadership and new direction, emphasising evangelisation and peace-making between tribes. After Hongi Hika's death in 1828 the mission became less dependent on the goodwill and economic support of Māori.

Henry's brother William Williams arrived in 1826 and led the work of translating the prayer book and the Bible into Māori. As Māori became literate, some also became evangelists for the new teaching. The number of Māori converts grew rapidly in the 1830s and early 1840s and Māori began to include Christian ideas in their world view. The conversion of a whole tribe together contrasted with the missionary emphasis on individual conversion.

Missionaries and the Treaty of Waitangi[edit]

In England the church and state were interlinked and the Church of England had a special status guaranteed in law. Evangelicals, as loyal Anglicans, accepted this status and encouraged Māori to look to the British Crown for protection and recognition. As a result CMS missionaries, especially Henry Williams, played a leading part in encouraging Māori to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

In later years this missionary support for the treaty led to increasing disillusionment among Māori as the treaty was ignored by the colonial and settler governments. The emergence of Māori religious movements such as Pai Mārire and Ringatū reflected this rejection of missionary Christianity. When the missionary Carl Sylvius Völkner was suspected of spying by Māori in 1865, the fact that he was a member of the Anglican clergy afforded him no protection, and he was executed.

Settler church[edit]

Bishop Selwyn

After missionary work among Māori, the second major influence shaping the Anglican Church came from rapidly growing numbers of Anglican migrants. The early CMS missionary beginnings and the large number of settlers who came from England resulted in Anglicans becoming the largest of the religious denominations in New Zealand. In 1858 more than half the population was Anglican.

George Augustus Selwyn became Bishop of New Zealand (the only Anglican bishop to have this title) in 1841. He headed both the Māori and settler Anglican parts of the church. Evangelical missionaries were suspicious of his control over them and his emphasis on the authority of the church, while settlers were hostile towards his pro-Māori stance. He increasingly found himself caught between Māori and Pākehā issues of land and sovereignty.

In 1865, Selwyn, who had served as a chaplain during the New Zealand Wars, wrote of the Anglican Church's relationship with Māori, "oh! how things have changed! how much of the buoyancy of hope has been sobered down by experience! when, instead of a nation of believers welcoming me as their father, I find here and there a few scattered sheep, the remnant of a flock which has forsaken the shepherd".[9]

Church constitution[edit]

While Anglicans carried some of the privileges of the Church of England to New Zealand, they struggled to devise a method of church organisation which took account of their new non-establishment status alongside other churches. In 1857, after 15 years of consultation, a constitution for the New Zealand church was finalised on the basis of voluntary compact. Links with the traditions of the mother-church in England were guaranteed in their worship, ministry and beliefs. At national and regional levels, bishops, and representatives from the clergy and laity met together but voted separately on church matters, ensuring that each group had an equal voice. The constitution resolved problems for the settler church but failed to deal adequately with the administrative and leadership needs of the Māori church.

Regional identity[edit]

Selwyn's diocese was progressively divided into sub-districts, beginning in 1856 when Christchurch became a new diocese; Wellington, Nelson and Waiapu (East Coast) followed in 1858, and Dunedin separated from Christchurch in 1869.

Each diocese developed its own identity. The Christchurch diocese, formed out of the Canterbury Association of colonial settlers, had a strong English element. Under its second bishop, Andrew Suter, Nelson developed an evangelical flavour which continued in the 21st century. Waiapu had missionary beginnings, holding its first four synods (official church conferences) in the Māori language. That missionary influence was overtaken by the New Zealand wars and the growth of settler influence.

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

St Mary's Church was the cathedral of Auckland until 1973

By 1936 the proportion of Anglicans in the total population had dropped from half to 40%. Anglican numbers declined more sharply from the mid-1960s. Around 900,000 people identified themselves as Anglican in 1976, 800,000 in 1981 and 580,000 in 2001. In the 2013 census 12% of the population, or 460,000 people, identified themselves as Anglicans.[10] Anglicanism was the country’s second largest religious denomination after Catholicism. In parishes (local church communities) that no longer had enough church members to financially support a stipended priest, schemes for local people or self-supporting (in part or in whole) priests to take responsibility for the tasks of ministry were developed.

The General Synod of the church adopted a revised constitution in 1992. This introduced the tikanga system. This structure has been criticised by some, with one Anglican priest comparing the tikanga to apartheid or ghettoization, arguing that the system has resulted in churches which are divided along racial lines.[11]

A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, was published in 1989 (after a period of revision starting in 1964).[12] It was received with general enthusiasm and has largely supplanted usage of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) since the 1990s.[citation needed]


The church has decided that three bishops shall share the position of Primate and style of archbishop, each representing one of the three tikanga. These are the three bishops presently sharing the title of Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand:[13]

Tikanga system[edit]


Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa, one of three tikanga, oversees churches for the Māori people of Aotearoa. Aotearoa is made up of five pīhopatanga or regional bishoprics (sometimes called hui amorangi, i.e. synods), each led by te pīhopa o... (the bishop of...):

New Zealand[edit]

The largest religious denomination in each territorial authority at the 2013 census. The Anglican Church is represented by light blue shading.

The tikanga of New Zealand is made up of seven dioceses:

The dioceses in New Zealand are led by a "senior bishop" (previously "Convening Bishop") elected from among the diocesan bishops of the tikanga. In the three-person primacy, that Senior Bishop is ex officio co-equal Primate and Archbishop for the whole province. The current Senior Bishop is Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki.


The Diocese of Polynesia, or the Tikanga Pasefika, headed by Fereimi Cama, serves Anglicans in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. The diocese's first bishop was consecrated in 1908. The diocesan cathedral is Holy Trinity Cathedral in Suva, Fiji. In the province's three-person primacy, the diocesan Bishop of Polynesia is automatically Primate and Archbishop. The Bishop of Polynesia has been supported by four suffragan bishops: Api Qiliho recently retired as Bishop in Vanua Levu and Taveuni; Gabriel Sharma is Bishop in Viti Levu West; ʻAka Vaka is Bishop in Tonga; Halapua led the ministry to Polynesians in mainland New Zealand before he became diocesan bishop — his suffragan post has not been filled since; there are archdeacons of Suva and Ovalau, Samoa and American Samoa, and Tonga.[3]


The Anglican Church embraces three orders of ministry: deacon, priest (or presbyter) and bishop. Increasingly, an emphasis is being placed on these orders to work collaboratively within the wider ministry of the whole people of God.

Theological training[edit]

Residential theological training is carried out primarily at St John's College, Auckland, which is also organised according to the three tikanga approach. Theological training was formerly carried out by Selwyn College, Otago in Dunedin and College House in Christchurch, currently these colleges are hall of residence for students from all faculties of the University of Otago and the University of Canterbury. While the two colleges still fall under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin and Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and have the extensive theological holdings in their libraries, they no longer train ordinands.

Worship and liturgy[edit]

Use of the 1662 and 1928 versions of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of the Church of England are permitted, along with the prayer books of other provinces within the Anglican Communion.

A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, providing liturgy for "a multitude of voices",[12] contains the Calendar of events in the life of the world wide catholic church and this local Church, Liturgies of the Word (such as Morning and Evening Prayer), of Baptism, of the Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion and the Mass), for Pastoral use (in the home), for Marriage, for Funerals, for Ordination and a Catechism (teaching on the faith). All these are central to this Church's worship.

Social and cultural issues[edit]

Ordination of women[edit]

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has allowed the ordination of women as deacons and priests since 1977[14][15] and as bishops since 1988.[16] Penny Jamieson, Bishop of Dunedin from 1990 to 2004, was the world’s first Anglican diocesan woman bishop.[17] Wai Quayle became the first indigenous woman bishop in 2019.

Divorce and abortion[edit]

In 1970 it became possible for divorcees to be married in Anglican churches with the permission of the diocesan bishop; since 1984 this permission is no longer necessary. From the 1980s society's acceptance of unmarried couples living together and the use of secular marriage celebrants further undermined the church's traditional attitude towards and role in controlling marriage.

Anglican submissions to the McMillan Committee on Abortion in 1937 opposed abortion, regarding both abortion and birth control as part of a general moral decline. The church’s submissions to the 1974 Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion showed a considerable shift from this earlier position, with a range of opinions on abortion and an attempt to balance religious care for the mother and the rights of the foetus. This diversity indicated a lack of an authoritative Anglican Church position on issues like abortion and a loosening of traditional attitudes.[18]

Homosexuality and same-sex relationships[edit]

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has no authoritative, definitive position on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.[19] It is one of the many churches of the Anglican Communion which permit (since 2018) the blessing of same-sex relationships, including same-sex civil marriages and civil unions.[20] This followed years of consultations and debates.

In 2011, the Diocese of Auckland voted in favour of ordaining partnered gay and lesbian priests.[21] Congregations in the Auckland Diocese may offer a 'relationship blessing' for two partners.[22] In 2005, a same-sex couple was joined in a civil union at St Matthew in the City in the Auckland Diocese.[23] A gay priest was licensed in the Auckland Diocese as of 2009.[24] The Dunedin Diocese also provides a blessing for the relationship of "two people" irrespective of gender.[25] In the Dunedin Diocese, "Blessings of same-sex relationships are offered in line with Diocesan Policy and with the bishop’s permission."[26] The Dunedin Diocese also ordained an openly gay deacon in "a committed same-sex relationship."[27] Subsequently, the same deacon was ordained a priest.[28] In 2011, the Waiapu Diocese adopted a resolution affirming the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy and asking for an authorised liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships.[29] The Bishop's chaplain in the Waiapu Diocese has also performed a blessing for a same-sex couple.[30] In 2017, the Bishop of Waiapu installed an openly gay priest, who is married to his partner, as the dean of Waiapu Cathedral.[31][32]

In 2012, some bishops and four dioceses supported a rite of blessing for same-sex unions.[33] Motion 30, adopted by the 62nd General Synod on 14 May 2014, designated a working task group with the purpose of creating a "process and structure" that would allow the blessing of same-sex unions, while also upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This proposal drew the opposition of the most conservative factions of the province's clergy and laity, with a submission presented by two clergy and a layman stating that the church's constitution stated that "No doctrines which are repugnant to the Doctrines and Sacraments of Christ as held and maintained by this Church shall be advocated or inculcated by any person acknowledging the authority of General Synod."[34] While the blessing services were being developed and discussed, the resolution said "clergy should be permitted 'to recognise in public worship' a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community."[35][36]

In 2016, the committee responsible for developing the rites of blessing released its proposed liturgies for same-sex couples to be discussed by the General Synod.[37] The General Synod 2016 voted to 'receive' the report on blessings but left the option to "[lie] on the table" and the issue will be reviewed again in 2018.[38][39] The church's spokesperson said that "[the Synod] needs more work and time to create a structure that can allow for blessing of committed life-long monogamous same-sex relationships."[40] "However, Synod did pass a constitutional change allowing bishops the right to authorize (sic) a service for use in his or her diocese".[41] In 2018, the General Synod/Te Hinota voted in favour of approving Motion 29 and allowing blessing rites for same-sex unions.[20][42]

Relation with the Anglican realignment[edit]

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in New Zealand was started in April 2016 with two conferences that took place in Auckland and Christchurch with nearly 500 members of the province. The FCA in New Zealand is the local expression of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), whose chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala from Kenya, sent a message of support read at the conferences. Video greetings were also sent by Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop Richard Condie, of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania and chairman of FCA Australia. The Rev. Jay Behan became the chair of FCA New Zealand. The creation of FCA New Zealand was a result of the passing of Motion 30 by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and the subsequent document A Way Forward, proposing the blessing of same-sex marriages, presented at their general synod in May 2014.[43] Bishop Richard Ellena of Nelson, an Evangelical Anglican, is a supporter of the Anglican realignment, having attended the Global South Fourth Encounter in Singapore in April 2010 and GAFCON II in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2013.[44] FCA New Zealand was represented at GAFCON III in Jerusalem, in June 2018 by a 56 members delegation, plus two from Fiji, led by Jay Behan.[45]

The Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand was created from the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans of New Zealand and was officially established on 17 May 2019. This followed the decision taken by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages and civil unions.[46]

Sexual abuse[edit]

The Anglican Church in New Zealand has historically had instances of sexual abuse of children, adults, and clergy. The abuse took place in church-run schools as well as churches, and the church attempted to cover up the sexual crimes.[47]

In March 2021, the church was part of a nationwide inquiry into sexual abuse in churches. As part of this inquiry it emerged that many documents pertaining to the sexual abuse of people in the church from the 1990s had gone missing, possibly destroyed intentionally by Bishop Allan Pyatt.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia". World Council of Churches. 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Part B", The Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, 2008, p. ii
  3. ^ a b c "About". Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  4. ^ "Primates / Directory / Home - Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia". Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  5. ^ Davidson, Allan K. (5 May 2011). "Anglican Church". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  6. ^ a b "2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights (updated) | Stats NZ". Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  7. ^ Reed, Chris (20 June 2018). "Losing faith: Why fewer New Zealanders are attending church". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  8. ^ McLintock, Alexander Hare, ed. (1966). "The Dioceses". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  9. ^ H. W. Tucker, Memoir of the life and episcopate of George Augustus Selwyn. London: Gardner, 1879, p. 206.
  10. ^ "2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Bishop and the turbulent priest". Stuff. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  12. ^ a b "ANZPB/HKMOA - A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa". Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Primates". Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  14. ^ Proceedings of the Forty-Third General Synod (pp. 1113)
  15. ^ "40 years of women's priestly ministry celebrated in New Zealand". Anglican News. 7 November 2017.
  16. ^ Proceedings of the Forty-seventh General Synod (pp. 8185), Proceedings of the Special Session of the Forty-seventh General Synod (p. S-50) and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth General Synod (pp. 104105)
  17. ^ "New Zealand Vicar Becomes First Woman to Head Anglican Diocese". Los Angeles Times. 2 December 1989. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  18. ^ Davidson, Allan K (5 May 2011). "Church and community". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  19. ^ "Anglican Church around the world". BBC. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  20. ^ a b "Yes to blessings". May 9, 2018. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  21. ^ "Anglican Diocese on Support for GLBT Members | Scoop News". Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  22. ^ "Saint Columba Church - Services". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  23. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Civil union, 2005". Archived from the original on 2017-04-13. Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  24. ^ "Gay minister claims discrimination". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  25. ^ "Liturgical Resources | CalledSouth". Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  26. ^ "Marriages in Dunedin North Anglican Parish" (PDF). 2016.
  27. ^ "Anglican church to ordain gay deacon". Archived from the original on 2016-06-04. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  28. ^ "Gay priest predicts a new conservatism | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  29. ^ Dawson, Jenny. "The Waiapu Journey" (PDF). Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  30. ^ "Gay Marriage Coming to the Bay". BayBuzz. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  31. ^ "Remaining faithful to the gospel in New Zealand - A response to Motion 29 | GAFCON". Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  32. ^ Quiqcorp. "Anglican Taonga : New Zealand's Anglican News Leader". Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  33. ^ "Anglican debate on gays risks splitting church". New Zealand Herald. 2012-06-30. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  34. ^ "Legal challenge filed to NZ gay blessings motion, Anglican Ink, 20 February 2015". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  35. ^ Quiqcorp. "Anglican Taonga : New Zealand's Anglican News Leader". Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  36. ^ "Anglican church approves same-sex relationships, not marriage". New Zealand Herald. 2014-05-15. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  37. ^ "New Zealand working group reports on same-sex relationships". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
  38. ^ " Anglican Church rejects blessings of same-sex marriages". Archived from the original on 2016-05-12. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  39. ^ Quiqcorp. "Anglican Taonga : New Zealand's Anglican News Leader". Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  40. ^ "Anglican priest 'ashamed' of Church's gay marriage decision delay". New Zealand Herald. 2016-05-12. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  41. ^ "Marriage rites (and wrongs)?". 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
  42. ^ "Anglican Church will bless same-sex relationships". Newshub. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  43. ^ "Formation of Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand, Anglican Mainstream", 19 April 2016.
  44. ^ "Gafcon looks to the future", Church Times, 25 October 2013.
  45. ^ "GAFCON III largest pan-Anglican gathering since Toronto Congress of 1963", Anglican Ink, 20 June 2018.
  46. ^ "New Anglican diocese created in New Zealand as wider Province moves towards same-sex blessings". 18 May 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  47. ^ Neilson, Michael (9 December 2020). "Abuse in Care: Anglican Church accused of cover-up over 'sex addict and pervert' priest". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  48. ^ McRae, Andrew (19 March 2021). "Anglican bishop 'embarrassed' by dud abuse hotline number". RNZ. Retrieved 2 April 2021.

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