Peter Beck (priest)

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Peter Beck
Peter Beck 01.jpg
Beck in 2011
Born1948/1949 (age 69–70)
Sheffield, England
Spouse(s)Gay West
ChurchChristChurch Cathedral
Offices held
Vicar at St Matthew in the city (1992–2000)
TitleThe Reverend

Peter J. Beck (born 1948) is an Anglican priest in New Zealand. He was the dean of ChristChurch Cathedral in Christchurch from 2002 until December 2011 when he resigned to contest a vacancy on Christchurch City Council in a 2012 by-election.

Born in England, Beck has been in New Zealand since 1981 and served in various positions in the Diocese of Auckland before moving to Christchurch. He knew the late Sir Edmund Hillary from his time in Auckland, is a board member of the Hillary Institute and spoke at the state funeral of Hillary in 2008. Since the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Beck has been one of the figureheads of the city.


Beck was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, in 1948.[1] He is a graduate of Oxford University[2] and was ordained as a priest in 1973 in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, England.[3] He served as a team vicar in the Banbury Parish.

New Zealand[edit]

Comes to Auckland[edit]

Beck was the Youth and Community Officer for the Diocese of Auckland, before moving to be City Centre Chaplain in Lincoln. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1981 with his New Zealand-born wife and their three children.[1]


Beck was a member of the team ministry of Glenfield Cooperating Parish on the North Shore of Auckland from 1981 to 1985, and was active in supporting projects for disadvantaged youth. He moved on to be Vicar of St Luke's Mt ALbert in Auckland and Archdeacon of Waitemata. During this time he was appointed to the executive of the National Council of Churches and was their representative on Te Runanga Whakawhanaunga i Nga Hahi o Aotearoa. He was a spokesperson for the N.C.C. in support of the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform Bill.

St Matthew, Auckland[edit]

He became Vicar of St Matthew in the city in Auckland in 1993.[4][5] Here he developed an association with Sir Edmund Hillary and his wife June.[2] He was on the board of the Auckland City Mission as well as serving on the Auckland Diocesan Council and the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui. In 1998 he was a national convenor of the Hikoi of Hope which brought thousands of Anglicans and other supporters to march on Parliament to demand fairer and more just policies for those most disadvantaged in New Zealand. From 1998 he was also the Archdeacon of Auckland.

Vaughn Park[edit]

His next role was as Director of the Anglican Retreat and Conference Centre at Vaughn Park.[3] Since 2002 he has been the Dean of Christchurch.[1] He has been a member of the Christchurch Diocesan Standing Committee and a representative on the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui. He is also a trustee of the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, and an Associate Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management.


Beck has a particular association with Antarctica where he travelled with Hillary to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Erebus Disaster and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Scott Base by Hillary in 1957. He also led the 30th anniversary commemoration of the Erebus crash, when many of the relatives of those killed travelled to Scott Base to take part.

Beck is on the board of the Hillary Institute;[2] the organisation was launched as part of the 50th anniversary visit of Hillary to Antarctica in 2007.[6] Beck was asked by Lady Hillary to speak at the 2008 state funeral of her husband.[7]


Following the September earthquake Beck was invited to become the patron of CanCERN, a network of community groups advocating a stronger voice for local communities.

Following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Beck became one of the figureheads of Christchurch.[1][8][9][10] One of his quotes is often cited:[11][12][13][14][15]

The earthquake was not an act of God. The earthquake was the planet doing its thing the way the planet does. For me as a Christian, the act of God is in the love and compassion that people are sharing among each other.

Beck attending the 2011 Independence Day celebration at the US Embassy in Wellington

It was feared that up to 22 people would have been killed after the collapse of the tower of the ChristChurch Cathedral in the February earthquake. Beck cried with relief when he was informed on 5 March that nobody had been found in the church.[11]

Gareth Farr composed a memorial piece for the Christchurch earthquake, Nor'West Arch, first performed on 25 September 2011. The title makes reference to a particular Christchurch weather pattern, but is also that part of the ChristChurch Cathedral that received most damage in the earthquake. Beck was part of the performance, reading an introduction including the quotation above.[16][17] The concert was one of the highlights of the 2011 Christchurch Arts Festival.[18]

Resigns as Dean[edit]

On 7 December 2011, it was revealed that Beck had resigned from his role with the Anglican Church.[19] His notice period is three months.[20] Disagreement between Beck and Bishop Victoria Matthews was cited as his reason for leaving.[19] There was criticism of Matthews being out of touch with the community on the Cathedral's future from a member of the cathedral's Canons Almoner group, who called for her resignation.[19]

City councillor[edit]

Beck was elected councillor in the Burwood/Pegasus ward by-election Christchurch City Council following the resignation of senior councillor Chrissie Williams.[21][22][23]

Dean of Taranaki[edit]

In May 2016 Beck became Dean of Taranaki.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Beck is married to Gay and they have three adult children. The Becks own a bach at Lake Clearwater in the Southern Alps, inland from Ashburton.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Dudding, Adam (27 February 2011). "'God is in this, weeping with those who weep'". Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Very Reverend Peter Beck". Hillary Institute. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The Very Reverend Peter J. Beck". Wayne Francis Charitable Trust. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  4. ^ "1992-2000 Archdeacon Peter Beck, Vicar". St. Matthew in the city. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Our History". St. Matthew in the city. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  6. ^ "About the Institute". Hillary Institute. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Hillary funeral spot 'a privilege'". The Press. January 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Christchurch griefs, mourns over earthquake devastation". The Brunei Times. 28 February 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  9. ^ "Christchurch mourns quake victims". France 24. 27 February 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  10. ^ Price, Anna (7 December 2011). "Dean to enter by-election race". Christchurch Mail. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Reverend Peter Beck overwhelmed with news no bodies were found in Cathedral". 3news. 5 March 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Act of God". West Baptist Church. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  13. ^ Huriwai, Christopher. "An Act of God?". Christopher Huriwai. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  14. ^ Patterson, Lynda (6 March 2011). "Act of God?". ChristChurch Cathedral. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  15. ^ "Cathedral News" (PDF). Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. March 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  16. ^ "Christchurch Memorial" (PDF). Christchurch Arts Festival. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Works by Farr Feature in Christchurch Memorial Concert". Promethean Editions Ltd. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Christchurch Arts Festival a Success Against the Odds". Ministry of Economic Development. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  19. ^ a b c Gates, Charlie (9 December 2011). "Dean quit after bishop 'made position untenable'". The Press. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  20. ^ Price, Anna (7 December 2011). "Dean confirms he is running for council". Christchurch Mail. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  21. ^ "Beck wins Burwood-Pegasus by-election". 13 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  22. ^ "By-election for City Councillor". Christchurch City Council media release. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  23. ^ "Nominations open for Christchurch by-election". Radio New Zealand. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  24. ^ Stuff NZ

External links[edit]