Christianity in New Zealand
This article needs to be updated. The reason given is: more recent data available from 2018 census.October 2019)(
|Christianity by country|
Christianity in New Zealand dates to the arrival of missionaries in the early 19th century. It became New Zealand's largest religious group, but no one denomination dominated and there was no official state church. Today, slightly less than half the population identify as Christian. The largest denominations are Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian. Christian organisations are the leading non-government providers of social services in New Zealand.
The first Christian services conducted in New Zealand were carried out by Father Paul-Antoine Léonard de Villefeix, the Dominican chaplain on the ship Saint Jean Baptiste commanded by the French navigator and explorer Jean-François-Marie de Surville. Villefeix was the first Christian minister to set foot in New Zealand, and he celebrated Mass near Whatuwhiwhi in Doubtless Bay on Christmas Day in 1769. He is reported to have also led prayers for the sick the previous day and to have conducted Christian burials.
The first Christian missionaries to establish permanent ministries arrived in New Zealand at the start of the 19th century. The Church Mission Society, an Anglican organisation, established a presence in New Zealand in 1814, with the permission and protection of Ngā Puhi chief Ruatara. This expedition was led by Samuel Marsden. Later missionaries brought other religious denominations – Jean Baptiste Pompallier played an important role in establishing the Catholic Church in New Zealand. Presbyterianism was brought to New Zealand largely by Scottish settlers. The Māori people also created their own forms of Christianity, with Ratana and Ringatu being the largest.
The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Auckland in 1850 and were the first order of religious sisters to come to New Zealand and began work in health care and education. At the direction of Mary MacKillop (St Mary of the Cross), the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart arrived in New Zealand and established schools. In 1892, Suzanne Aubert established the Sisters of Compassion – the first Catholic order established in New Zealand for women. The Anglican Church in New Zealand recognises her as a saintly person and in 1997 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference agreed to support the "Introduction of the Cause of Suzanne Aubert", to begin the process of consideration for her canonisation as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Although there was some hostility between Catholic and Protestants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this declined after the 1920s. Sectarian groups such as the Orange Order continue to exist in New Zealand but are now virtually invisible. New Zealand's first Catholic Prime Minister, Joseph Ward, took office in 1906. The founding of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in 1941 marked the positive relationships between New Zealand Christians. The NCC was an important voice of the churches in national affairs. The NCC was replaced in 1988 by a new ecumenical body which included Catholics—the Conference of Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand (CCANZ) which was ended in 2005. There is now very little sectarianism in New Zealand and various churches commonly co-operate on issues of common interest, and various ecumenical bodies exist promoting co-operation between Christians.
In the 2013 census, 49.0% of those who answered the question on religion identified themselves as Christian. As recorded in the 2013[update] census, 11.8% of the population is Anglican, 12.6% Catholic, 8.1% Presbyterian, 2.6% Methodist, 7.5% other Protestant denominations, and 5.5% Christian with no affiliation specified. The proportion of New Zealanders who identify as Christian is declining—the figure now stands at around half the census respondents, whereas in the 1991 census, it stood at around three-quarters. Christian groups are experiencing mixed trends. Anglicanism and Presbyterianism are both losing adherents at a rapid rate, while smaller Protestant groups and non-denominational churches are growing.
|Denominational affiliation||2013||2006||2001||Trend (%)|
|Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed||330,516||8.47||400,839||10.71||431,139||12.43|
|Christian (not further defined)||216,177||5.54||186,234||4.97||192,165||5.54|
|Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist||15,381||0.39||13,836||0.37||11,016||0.32|
|Protestant (not further defined)||4,998||0.13||3,954||0.11||2,787||0.08|
|Church of Christ and Associated Churches of Christ||2,145||0.05||2,991||0.08||3,270||0.09|
|Uniting/Union Church and Ecumenical||999||0.03||1,419||0.04||1,389||0.04|
|Total Māori Christian||52,947||1.36||65,550||1.75||63,597||1.83||-0.47|
|Māori Christian (not further defined)||222||0.01||219||0.01||237||0.01|
|Other Māori Christian||333||0.01||360||0.01||426||0.01|
(Note: All figures are for the census usually resident population.
Percentages are based on number of responses rather than total population. These are nominal.
The 2011 census was cancelled due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake
In all censuses, up to four responses were collected.)
The number of Christians in New Zealand varies slightly across different parts of the country – as of the 2006 census,[needs update] the number of Christians in each territorial authority ranged from a low of 43.7% (in Kawerau) to a high of 63.4% (in Ashburton). In general, the tendency is for rural areas, particularly in the lower South Island, to have somewhat higher numbers of Christians, and urban areas to have lower numbers – of the sixteen designated Cities of New Zealand, fifteen have a smaller proportion of Christians than the country as a whole (the exception being Invercargill). The average proportion of Christians in the sixteen cities is 50.2%.[needs update]
Denominations and organisations
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Anglicanism, associated mostly with New Zealanders of English descent, is common in most parts of the country, but is strongest in Canterbury (the city of Christchurch having been founded as an Anglican settlement) and on the North Island's East Coast. It is the largest denomination in most parts of rural New Zealand, the main exception being the lower South Island. The territorial authorities with the highest proportion of Anglicans are Gisborne (where they are 27.4% of the total population), Wairoa (27.1%), and Hurunui (24.9%). The territorial authorities with the lowest proportion of Anglicans are Invercargill (7.7%), Manukau (8.3%), and Clutha (8.5%).
Catholicism, associated mostly with New Zealanders of Irish descent, is the most evenly distributed of the three main denominations, although it still has noticeable strengths in south and central Taranaki, on the West Coast, and in Kaikoura. It is also the largest denomination in Auckland and Wellington, although not by a great extent. The territorial authorities with the highest proportion of Catholics are Kaikoura (where they are 18.4% of the total population), Westland (18.3%), and Grey (17.8%). The territorial authorities with the lowest proportion of Catholics are Tasman (8.1%), Clutha (8.7%), and Western Bay of Plenty (8.7%).
Presbyterianism, associated mostly with New Zealanders of Scottish descent, is strong in the lower South Island – the city of Dunedin was founded as a Presbyterian settlement, and many of the early settlers in the region were Scottish Presbyterians. Elsewhere, however, Presbyterians are usually outnumbered by both Anglicans and Catholics, making Presbyterianism the most geographically concentrated of the three main denominations. The territorial authorities with the highest proportion of Presbyterians are Gore (where they are 30.9% of the total population), Clutha (30.7%), and Southland (29.8%). The territorial authorities with the lowest proportion of Presbyterians are Far North (4.4%), Kaipara (6.2%), and Wellington (6.7%).
Christian organisations in New Zealand are heavily involved in community activities including education; health services; chaplaincy to prisons, rest homes and hospitals; social justice and human rights advocacy. Approximately 11% of New Zealand students attend Catholic schools; the Anglican Church administers a number of schools; and schools administered by members of the New Zealand Association for Christian Schools educated 13,000 students in 2009.
Culture and the arts
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The Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter are marked by public holidays in New Zealand. Christmas Day, 25 December, falls during the Southern Hemisphere Summer allowing open air caroling and barbecues in the sun. Nevertheless, various Northern hemisphere traditions have continued in New Zealand – including roast dinners and Christmas trees, with the pohutukawa regarded as New Zealand's iconic Christmas tree.
The architectural landscape of New Zealand has been affected by Christianity and the prominence of churches in cities, towns and the countryside attests to its historical importance in New Zealand. Notable Cathedrals include the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch and Saint Paul's Cathedral, Wellington and the Catholic St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, St. Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin. The iconic Futuna Chapel was built as a Wellington retreat center for the Catholic Marist order in 1961. The design by Māori architect John Scott, fuses Modernist and indigenous design principles.
Christian and Māori choral traditions have been blended in New Zealand to produce a distinct contribution to Christian music, including the popular hymns Whakaria Mai and Tama Ngakau Marie. New Zealand hosts the largest Christian music festival in the Southern Hemisphere, Parachute Music Festival. The festival is also one of the largest music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere overall.
Christianity has never had official status as a national religion in New Zealand, and a poll in 2007 found 58 percent of people were opposed to official status being granted. Despite this, each sitting day of the New Zealand Parliament opens with a Christian prayer. In contrast to England, where the Anglican Church is the officially established church, in New Zealand the Anglican Church has no special status, although it often officiates at civic events such as Anzac Day.
Most New Zealanders consider politicians' religious beliefs to be a private matter and although many New Zealand Prime Ministers have been professing Christians, the incumbent, Jacinda Ardern and two recent predecessors, John Key and Helen Clark are agnostic.
Christian political parties have never gained significant support and have often been characterised by controversy. Many of these are now defunct, such as the Christian Democrat Party, the Christian Heritage Party which collapsed after leader Graham Capill was convicted as a child sex offender, Destiny New Zealand, The Family Party and the New Zealand Pacific Party whose leader Taito Phillip Field was convicted on bribery and corruption charges. The Exclusive Brethren gained public notoriety during the 2005 election for distributing anti-Labour pamphlets, which former National Party leader Don Brash later admitted to knowledge of. United Future, which although not a Christian party, has had significant Christian backing, has been more successful.
The two main political parties, Labour and National, are not religious, although religious groups have at times played a significant role (e.g. the Ratana Movement). Politicians are often involved in public dialogue with religious groups.
In 1967, Presbyterian minister and theologian Lloyd Geering was the subject of one of the few heresy trials of the 20th century, with a judgement that no doctrinal error had been proved. The Catholic Church in New Zealand had a number of its priests convicted of child sexual abuse, notably at Marylands School. Newspapers have also reported child sex abuse cases within the Exclusive Brethren.
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