29 September 2023
The Rev Peter Dunn of Invercargill will be the next leader of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Peter has been elected Moderator designate and will take up the role of Moderator in late 2025. The result of the election was announced at the Church’s General Assembly, held at Saint Kentigern College in Auckland on 29 September 2023.
Peter is the senior minister of Windsor Community Church in Invercargill where he has served since 2012.
Born in Dunedin, he studied at the University of Otago and graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts. From 1987 he studied at the Presbyterian Theological Hall, completing a Bachelor of Divinity in 1989.
Peter ministered at the Waipu Presbyterian Parish in Northland from 1990, where he served for 22 years. It was a significant ministry experience that offered many joys and challenges.
Prior to being called to ministry, Peter was a carpentry apprentice at age 17 in Gore and gained an Advanced Trade Certificate in Carpentry. He took his skills to Invercargill and joined the large workforce constructing the Third Potline at Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter.
Peter has served on the Presbyterian Church’s Council of Assembly; as Co-convenor of its Resourcing for Mission Policy Group; as Synod of Otago and Southland Moderator; on the leadership of the Northland Uniting District Council - later renamed Churches Together in Northland (CTN); was a member of the group that worked to form the Northern Presbytery; and was on the board of Presbyterian Support Northern. He currently represents the Synod on the Southern Presbytery Council, and is a Co-convenor of the Synod Executive.
Peter is humbled and honoured to have been elected Moderator designate, following on from several other Southern Presbyterians in recent years. Having previously worked with the diversity of the Church locally, regionally, and nationally he looks forward to sharing his missional mindset, his skills in conflict resolution, and to being a good leader and preacher. While it is too soon to know what his focus will be as Moderator, he looks forward to discovering the meaning of "you were made for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) as his call to ministry enters a new chapter.
Peter is used to taking time and space for deliberate spiritual inquiry and growth, as this form of study leave is an essential aspect of his ministry. He is a follower of the Celtic model of spiritual exploration that finds the thin places where heaven and earth meet through prayer, contemplation and listening for the voice.
Two periods of study leave that changed Peter's view on “the meaning of life and everything” were: in 2008, a solo retreat for 40 days and nights in the depths of Fiordland “finding nature is amoral, and God is Creator”; in 2015, five weeks in Jordan on an archaeological dig on the site of ancient Sodom, “myths fall as biblical clues and scientific endeavour hold a conversation”. Followed by 10 days on Patmos Island “having deep discussions with a Greek Orthodox Priest in the Monastery of St John the Theologian, and being able to sit for hours most days in the Cave of the Apocalypse where traditionally John received the vision that became the Book of Revelation. The Christian faith has a deep heritage that speaks into modern times”.
Looking back on his ongoing faith journey, Peter can see the strong foundation in his childhood. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his early life was in Owaka, followed by 10 happy years in the thriving rural parish of Knapdale-Waikaka. Here he was nurtured in faith through family, Sunday School, Bible classes, youth group, and a significant spiritual time at the Mataura Presbytery Bible Class Camps at Camp Columba, Pukerau. From age 15, Peter was encouraged into youth group leadership by senior Bible Class leaders at East Gore Church.
Another support is wife Helen. They were active members of St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Invercargill, where they had married in 1981, when Peter felt a call to ordained ministry and Helen supported him. Together, with church and community support, they raised a family of three girls and two boys. Now grown with families of their own (grandchild number 13 is due to arrive in 2024) they are involved in local churches in New Zealand and Australia, with one serving overseas with a missionary organisation in Asia.