Christianity in New Zealand

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Christianity in New Zealand dates to the arrival of missionaries in the early 19th century and is the country's primary religion. Slightly less than half the population identify as Christian. Christian organisations are the leading non-government providers of social services in New Zealand.[1][2] A number of denominations are present, with none having a dominant position.

History[edit]

The first Christian missionaries came to New Zealand at the start of the 19th century. The Church Mission Society, an Anglican organisation, established a presence in New Zealand in 1814,[3] 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 Maori 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

Although there was some hostility between Catholic and Protestants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this declined after the 1920s.[7] 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). There is now very little sectarianism in New Zealand and various churches commonly co-operate on issues of common interest,[8] and various ecumenical bodies exist promoting co-operation between Christians.

Demographics[edit]

Denominational affiliation[edit]

In the 2013 census, 49.0% of those who answered the question on religion identified themselves as Christian. As recorded in the 2013 census, 11.8% of the population is Anglican, 12.6% Catholic, 8.1% Presbyterian,[9] 2.6% Methodist, 7.5% other Protestant denominations, and 5.5% Christian with no affiliation specified.[10] 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.[11] 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.[10]

The dominant religious denomination in each territorial authority
Denominational affiliation[12][11] 2013 2006 2001 Trend (%)
Number % Number % Number % 2001–13
Total Christian 1,858,977 47.65 2,027,418 54.16 2,043,843 58.92 Decrease
    Catholic 492,105 12.61 508,437 13.58 485,637 14.00 Decrease
    Anglican 459,771 11.79 554,925 14.82 584,793 16.86 Decrease
    Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed 330,516 8.47 400,839 10.71 431,139 12.43 Decrease
    Christian (not further defined) 216,177 5.54 186,234 4.97 192,165 5.54 Steady
    Methodist 102,879 2.64 121,806 3.25 120,546 3.48 Decrease
    Pentecostal 74,256 1.90 79,155 2.11 67,182 1.94 Steady
    Baptist 54,345 1.39 56,913 1.52 51,423 1.48 Decrease
    Latter–day Saints 40,728 1.04 43,539 1.16 39,915 1.15 Decrease
    Brethren 18,624 0.48 19,617 0.52 20,397 0.59 Decrease
    Jehovah's Witnesses 17,931 0.46 17,910 0.48 17,829 0.51 Decrease
    Adventist 17,085 0.44 16,191 0.43 14,868 0.43 Steady
    Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist 15,381 0.39 13,836 0.37 11,016 0.32 Steady
    Orthodox 13,806 0.35 13,194 0.35 9,576 0.28 Increase
    Salvation Army 9,162 0.23 11,493 0.31 12,618 0.36 Decrease
    Protestant (not further defined) 4,998 0.13 3,954 0.11 2,787 0.08 Increase
    Lutheran 3,903 0.10 4,476 0.12 4,314 0.12 Steady
    Church of Christ and Associated Churches of Christ 2,145 0.05 2,991 0.08 3,270 0.09 Steady
    Uniting/Union Church and Ecumenical 999 0.03 1,419 0.04 1,389 0.04 Steady
    Asian Christian 132 <0.01 195 0.01 195 0.01 Steady
    Other Christian 3,714 0.10 3,798 0.10 3,558 0.10 Steady
Total Māori Christian 52,947 1.36 65,550 1.75 63,597 1.83 Decrease
    Rātana 40,353 1.03 50,565 1.35 48,975 1.41 Decrease
    Ringatū 13,272 0.34 16,419 0.44 15,291 0.44 Decrease
    Māori Christian (not further defined) 222 0.01 219 0.01 237 0.01 Steady
    Other Māori Christian 333 0.01 360 0.01 426 0.01 Steady
Total population 4,242,048 4,027,947 3,737,277

(Note: All figures are for the census usually resident population.
Percentages are based on number of responses rather than total population.
The 2011 census was cancelled due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake
In all censuses, up to four responses were collected.)

Geographic distribution[edit]

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).[13] 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).[13] The average proportion of Christians in the sixteen cities is 50.2%.[13][needs update]

Denominations and organisations[edit]

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.[14] Approximately 11% of New Zealand students attend Catholic schools;[15] the Anglican Church administers a number of schools;[16] and schools administered by members of the New Zealand Association for Christian Schools educated 13,000 students in 2009.[17]

Culture and the arts[edit]

The pohutukawa is regarded as New Zealand's iconic Christmas tree. The Christian festival of Christmas is a major celebration and public holiday in New Zealand.

The Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter are marked by public holidays in New Zealand.[18] 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.[19][20]

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.[21] 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 Maori architect John Scott, fuses Modernist and indigenous design principles.

Christian and Maori 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.[22][23] 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.

Politics[edit]

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.[24] Despite this, each sitting day of the New Zealand Parliament opens with a Christian prayer.[25][26] 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[27] and although many New Zealand Prime Ministers have been professing Christians,[28] the current incumbent, Jacinda Ardern and her two most recent predecessors, John Key and Helen Clark are all agnostic.[29][30][31]

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,[32] Destiny New Zealand, The Family Party and the New Zealand Pacific Party whose leader Taito Phillip Field was convicted on bribery and corruption charges.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35][36]

Controversy[edit]

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.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New Zealand Herald (4 April 2008). "Church actions louder than words". The New Zealand Herald.
  2. ^ "Facts about the sub-sectors of the community sector". OCVS website. Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  3. ^ "MARSDEN, Samuel". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 1966. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Who We Are > History - General". Sisters of Mercy. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  5. ^ "Who We Are > The Journey". Sisters of Saint Joseph. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  6. ^ "The Process of Beatification and Canonisation: The making of a New Zealand Saint". Sisters of Compassion. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Religious intolerance", Te Ara
  8. ^ "Church Leaders Statement on Iraq (Sept 2002)"
  9. ^ Officially recorded as "Pesbyterian, Congregational, and Reformed"; the Presbyterian Church is a major religious denomination in New Zealand.
  10. ^ a b "2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity – Religious affiliation". Statistics New Zealand. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Table 25 in 2006 Census Data > QuickStats About Culture and Identity - Tables". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 14 Nov 2011.
  12. ^ "2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity – tables". Statistics New Zealand. 15 April 2014. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  13. ^ a b c "Table Builder". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  14. ^ "The Works of Mercy". Sisters of Mercy. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  15. ^ "Catholic Schools - Today". Catholic Education Office Ltd. Archived from the original on 26 May 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Schools". Anglican Schools Office. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  17. ^ "A Brief Summary of the History of Christian Schooling in New Zealand". New Zealand Association for Christian Schools. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  18. ^ "Public Holidays". Department of Labour. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010.
  19. ^ "Kiwi Christmas". New Zealand History Online. Ministry of Culture and Heritage. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  20. ^ "Kiwi's attitude to Christmas". New Zealand History Online. Ministry of Culture and Heritage. 16 December 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  21. ^ John Wilson (3 March 2009). "Society - Religion and the churches". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  22. ^ "Whakaria Mai". Folksong.org.nz.
  23. ^ "The Battalion Sings 'Tama Ngakau Marie'". 28th Maori Battalion. Ministry of Culture and Heritage. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
  24. ^ "Majority reject state religion: poll". The New Zealand Herald. 17 June 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ "MPs' new prayer rejected", Dec 9, 2014, NZ Herald
  27. ^ Brian Colless and Peter Donovan, 'Editor's Introduction', in Brian Colless and Peter Donovan, eds, Religion in New Zealand Society, 2nd edition, Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1985, p.10
  28. ^ Including Jim Bolger, Geoffrey Palmer, David Lange, Robert Muldoon, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and Michael Joseph Savage
  29. ^ Knight, Kim (29 January 2017). "The politics of life: The truth about Jacinda Ardern". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  30. ^ NZPA (5 November 2008). "Clark and Key spar in final TV debate before election". Retrieved 2010-06-15.
  31. ^ New Zealand Herald (16 March 2004). "Insults get personal between Clark and Brash". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  32. ^ "Capill sentenced to nine years for child sex crimes". The New Zealand Herald. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
  33. ^ "Guilty verdicts for Taito Phillip Field". The New Zealand Herald. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  34. ^ NZPA (2005-09-08). "Brash knew about Exclusive Brethren pamphlets". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
  35. ^ "Even politicians are popular at huge Christian music fest". New Zealand Herald. 29 January 2007.
  36. ^ "Hindu group accused of 'hijacking' other faiths". New Zealand Herald. 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  37. ^ Hubbard, Anthony (18 October 2009). "'Plague' of sex abuse in church alleged". The Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 24 September 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahdar, Rex (2003). God and Government: The New Zealand Experience. Dunedin: University of Otago Press.
  • Davidson, Allan K. (2004). Christianity in Aotearoa : a history of church and society in New Zealand (3rd ed.). Wellington: Education For Ministry. ISBN 0-476-00229-X.
  • Davidson, Allan K.; Lineham, Peter J. (1989). Transplanted Christianity: Documents Illustrating Aspects of New Zealand Church History (2nd ed.). Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.
  • Harper, Tobia, "'Amen, Amen!'" New Zealand Journal of History (2008) 42#2 pp 133–153. Studies the impact of Christianity on New Zealand society in the 1920s
  • Hoverd, William James (2008). "No Longer a Christian Country? - Religious Demographic Change in New Zealand 1966–2006" (PDF). New Zealand Sociology. Royal Society of New Zealand. 23 (1).

External links[edit]