The following open letter has been circulated in the church over the last few week. In an effort to provoke discussion, Candour is publishing the letter and has solicited several responses from people around the country which will be offered as separate responses. Any other comments are very welcome and can easily be offered by clicking ‘leave a comment’ immediately under the title of the article and the responses. Ed.
E te whanau Ihu Karaiti tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa
Greetings, Kia Orana, Ta Lofa…
At the reunion of ministers celebrating the 50th anniversary of their entry into the Theological Hall, at Knox College, Dunedin, it was agreed that we should raise with the whole church our concern that the current structure of five Regional Presbyteries is failing the church.
We urge that a review of that structure be undertaken that addresses at least the following concerns:
- The size of the new Presbyteries and the distances to travel limits the opportunities to meet and discuss the issues facing parishes, the Presbytery itself, and the church as a whole.
- There is a loss of knowledge of the local parishes and their appreciation of the role of Presbyteries and the contribution the Presbyteries might make to the encouragement and development of the mission of the church at the local and national levels.
- The infrequency of meetings has led to a loss of collegiality and sense of involvement of all commissioners and the acceptance of the diversity and equality of all commissioners.
- An over reliance on the use of email and the internet to inform, discuss and make decisions is neither efficient nor inclusive of all those who should be involved and can reduce the ability of clergy and laypeople (especially those with limited computer access, skills or time) to participate fully.
- Face to face encounter is a prerequisite for the development of real understanding and leads to more informed decision-making.
- The expected cost efficiencies have not been realised as the Regional Presbyteries have had, for example, to employ administrators and pay larger travel allowances to those who serve on councils or coordinating committees.
- While it is appreciated that annual gatherings of what were called ‘Regional Conferences’ can provide encouragement, stimulation and inspiration for those seeking to improve the mission of the local church, their use as annual meetings of the Presbytery do nothing to improve the quality of the methods by which business is conducted, fellowship is deepened and trust built.
- When meetings of ministers are added as a compulsory beginning to the annual (or biannual) meeting of the Presbytery, the character of Presbyterianism is destroyed because lay people are not present.
The Rev Merv Aitken, The Rev. Des Botting, The Rev. Laurie Chisholm, The Rev. Dr. Allan Davidson ONZM, The Rev. Glenn Duncan, The Rev. Ian Haszard, The Rev. Neil Lambie, The Rev. Dr. John McKean, The Rev. John Niven, The Rev. Lester Simpson, The Rev. Reg Weeks, The Rev. Roger Wiig, The Very Rev. Peter Willsman