Lloyd Geering

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Sir Lloyd Geering
Geering in 2020
Lloyd George Geering

(1918-02-26) 26 February 1918 (age 106)
Rangiora, New Zealand
Alma materUniversity of Otago
Known for1967 charges of heresy
  • Nancy McKenzie
    (m. 1943; died 1949)
  • Elaine Parker
    (m. 1951; died 2001)
  • Shirley Adams
    (m. 2004; died 2021)

Sir Lloyd George Geering ONZ GNZM CBE (born 26 February 1918) is a New Zealand theologian who faced charges of heresy in 1967 for teaching that the Bible's record of Jesus' death and resurrection is not true. He considers Christian and Muslim fundamentalism to be "social evils". Geering is emeritus professor of religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington. In 2007, he was appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest civilian honour, limited to 20 living people. Geering turned 100 in February 2018.

Early life and family[edit]

Geering was born in Rangiora on 26 February 1918, the son of Alice (née Johnston) and George Frederick Thomas Geering.[1][2] The family spent four years in Australia from 1927 to 1930, where Geering was dux of Warrnambool Elementary School, before returning to Dunedin.[3][4] He was educated at Otago Boys' High School between 1931 and 1935, where he was dux in his final year and vice-captain of the hockey 1st XI.[3][4]

In 1936, Geering went on to study mathematics at the University of Otago, graduating Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours in 1940.[3][5] While at Otago, he continued playing hockey and was a member of the university's first-grade team. He was also active in university dramatic productions, debating and the Otago Student Christian Movement, being elected president of the latter in 1939.[4] In 1939, Geering was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship by the University of Otago.[4]

Geering "embraced" the Christian tradition in 1937.[6] After completing his BA(Hons), he entered Knox College as a theological student in 1940, and was exempted from military service in World War II.[3] He later said:[3]

I was a pacifist anyway by this stage. I took my Christian convictions so seriously that I couldn’t reconcile them with being a soldier.

On 22 May 1943, Geering married Nancy Marie McKenzie at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Timaru.[7] The couple had two children before Nancy Geering died from tuberculosis in Dunedin on 4 October 1949.[3][8] On 20 November 1951, Geering married Elaine Morrison Parker, a speech therapist, and they went on to have one child. Elaine Geering died in 2001.[1][9][10] Geering married Shirley Evelyn Adams in 2004. She died at the age of 95 in 2021.[11][12]


Geering was ordained as a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) in 1943 and practised as a minister in Kurow; Opoho, Dunedin (1945-1950); and St James, Wellington (1950-1956) before turning to theological teaching. He was the honorary associate minister of St John's Church in Wellington from 1971 to 1983. He was named honorary assistant at St Andrew's in Wellington in 1989. Geering remains on the register (Fasti) of New Zealand Presbyterian ministers.[13]

Geering has held the positions of professor of Old Testament studies at Presbyterian Church Hall, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (1956-1960), professor of Old Testament studies at Theological Hall, Dunedin (1960-1963), and principal of Theological Hall, Dunedin (1963-1971). In 1971, Geering became the foundation professor of religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington and held this position until his retirement in 1984 when he was appointed professor emeritus. In 1983, he became a lecturer at the St Andrew's Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.[13]

Geering is a member of the Jesus Seminar and a participant in the Living the Questions programme, an alternative to the evangelical Alpha course, which he calls “dangerous indoctrination” growing among mainstream churches.[citation needed] He is also a member of the Sea of Faith Network (New Zealand), and St Andrew's On The Terrace, as well as principal lecturer at St Andrew's Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.

Heresy charges[edit]

In 1967, Geering gained a high-profile when he was charged with "doctrinal error" and "disturbing the peace and unity of the (Presbyterian) church".[14] The case was brought before the 1967 General Assembly of the PCANZ, and dismissed without being much discussed.[15] The charges were brought by a group of conservative laymen and a conservative minister. During his church trial, he claimed that the remains of Jesus lay somewhere in Palestine and that the resurrection had been wrongfully interpreted by churches as a resuscitation of the body of Jesus. He also rejects the belief held by all monotheistic faiths that God is a supernatural being who created and continues to look over the world.[16]

Later life[edit]

Geering's second wife, Elaine, died in Cromwell on 19 August 2001.[10] In 2004, Geering married Shirley Evelyn White (née Adams).[17]

On 26 February 2018, Geering celebrated his 100th birthday, emulating his father who also reached 100 years of age.[18]

Shirley, Lady Geering, died in Petone on 1 October 2021.[19]

In 2021, Geering joined the group Intergenerational Climate Ambassadors, established in 2020 by scientist Jim Salinger and Sophie Handford, a Kāpiti Coast district councillor.[20] At the time, Geering said:

"Fundamentalist Christianity would regard things to be in the hands of a God who controls. That idea of God has just vanished really. We now know that we are in the hands of natural forces in the world, and because of what humans have done to the earth, they have produced a situation where the temperature's going up all the time – and it will reach a limit which we can't survive."[20]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1976, Geering was conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Otago.[3]

In the 1988 New Year Honours, Geering was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire,[21] and in the 2001 New Year Honours he was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to religious studies.[22] In the 2007 New Year Honours, he was appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand. In 2009, he accepted redesignation as a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, following the restoration of titular honours by the New Zealand government.[23]

Geering is a patron of the Coalition for Open Government.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Portholes to the Past: Reflections on the early 20th century (2016). Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand: Steele Roberts, ISBN 978-0-94749333-2
  • On Me Bike: Cycling round New Zealand 80 years ago (2015). Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand: Steele Roberts, ISBN 978-1-927242-93-3
  • Reimagining God: The Faith Journey of a Modern Heretic (2014). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 978-1-59815-156-5
  • From the Big Bang to God: Our Awe-Inspiring Journey of Evolution (2013). Aotearoa, NZ: Steele Roberts, Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 978-1-59815-139-8. Ebook ISBN 978-1-59815-140-4
  • Such Is Life!: A Close Encounter With Ecclesiastes (2010). Aotearoa, NZ: Steele Roberts, ISBN 1-59815-023-5
  • Coming Back to Earth: From gods to God to Gaia (2009). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 1-59815-016-2
  • In Praise of the Secular (2007). St Andrews, ISBN 0-9582880-0-3
  • Is Christianity Going Anywhere? (2004). St Andrews, ISBN 0-9583645-8-3
  • Wrestling with God: The Story of My Life (2006). ISBN 1-877242-36-5
  • The Greening of Christianity (2005) ISBN 0-9583645-9-1
  • Christianity without God (2002). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 0-944344-92-5
  • Christian Faith at the Crossroads (revised 2001). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 0-944344-83-6
  • The World to Come: From Christian Past to Global Future (1999). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, ISBN 0-944344-76-3
  • Tomorrow's God: How We Create our Worlds (1996). Salem, OR: Polebridge Press reprint 2000, ISBN 0-944344-81-X
  • In the World Today (1988)
  • The World of Relation: An Introduction to Martin Buber's I and Thou (1983)
  • Faith's New Age: A Perspective on Contemporary Religious Change (1980)
  • Resurrection – A Symbol of Hope (1971)
  • God in the New World (1968)


  1. ^ a b Traue 1978, p. 120.
  2. ^ "Birth search: registration number 1918/12317". Births, deaths & marriages online. Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Wright 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Otago Daily Times 1939.
  5. ^ "NZ university graduates 1870–1961: G". Shadows of Time. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  6. ^ Morris & Grimshaw 2008, p. 277.
  7. ^ Otago Daily Times 1943.
  8. ^ Otago Daily Times 1949.
  9. ^ "Geering, Elaine Morrison, 1927–2001". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  10. ^ a b The Dominion 2001.
  11. ^ "Lloyd Geering Marriage Info". Strictly Weddings. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  12. ^ "Lady Geering Obituary". The New Zealand Herald. 5 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  14. ^ Lloyd Geering speaking at Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, in October 2004: "In 1967, Lloyd Geering's writings on the resurrection of Jesus and the immortality of the soul, resulted in his being charged by the Presbyterian Church with "doctrinal error" and "disturbing the peace of the church" – which is more or less the same thing as a heresy charge – and we'll shortly be hearing about what happened there. Since then, he's gone on to challenge Christian orthodoxy perhaps even more profoundly, by questioning the distinction between the religious and the secular worlds."
  15. ^ Geering says: "But before there had been very much time for any adequate discussion of the real issues, a motion was put to the House, and later carried firmly on the voices – and it said that “the Assembly judges that no doctrinal error has been established, dismisses the charges and declares the case closed”". Lloyd Geering speaking at Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, in October 2004
  16. ^ The Last Western Heretic, produced in 2007 in New Zealand and Israel, aired on TV ONE, 12 January 2008 (Press release)
  17. ^ "Lloyd Geering". Bridget Williams Books. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  18. ^ Boswell, Ryan (26 February 2018). "'I have a great deal of optimism' – famous Kiwi atheist Sir Lloyd Geering celebrates 100th birthday". 1NewsNow. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  19. ^ "Lady Geering death notice". New Zealand Herald. 5 October 2021. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  20. ^ a b Green, Kate (22 November 2021). "The last heretic Lloyd Geering, now 103, has a message of support for the fight for the climate". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  21. ^ "No. 51173". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 31 December 1987. p. 34.
  22. ^ "New Year honours list 2001". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 30 December 2000. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Special honours list 1 August 2009". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2020.


External links[edit]