The Council of Assembly met at the Mary MacKillop Centre, Mission Bay, on 18 March and at St Heliers Presbyterian Church on 19 March.
The Council began its meeting with a time of prayer and reflection led by the Convenor, the Rev Emma Keown, which focused on the people and churches of Christchurch.
The Rev Martin Stewart, who is both a member of the Council and Moderator of Christchurch presbytery, provided the Council with an update of the situation. Everyone has been affected by this disaster. Not only in the damage and disruption created, but also because of personal relationships with those who have helped in the rescue effort or who have been injured or killed.
Several Presbyterian and Uniting church buildings have been destroyed. Others, like Knox, have been badly damaged, and many with more minor damage are not able to be used until assessments are made and repairs have been undertaken. For many churches in the eastern suburbs there will never be a return to what it was like before the quake. A presbytery team led by Martin Stewart and Dugald Wilson is working with churches and insurers to develop a long term plan for redevelopment.
In the meantime, church members are working through the disruption to provide care and support. Martin spoke with great appreciation for the overwhelming outflow of support received from individuals, churches, and presbyteries from around New Zealand and overseas. Money donated through the church appeal is being used to meet the immediate needs of congregations who are either most affected and/or most involved in relief and support work. In the medium term, it is likely that a special ministry role will provide pastoral support for ministers and other leaders and some coordination of mission and outreach work.
Te Aka Puaho
Te Aka Puako has recently inducted their new Moderator, the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa. Te Aka Puaho has led our church at several national events including Ratana and Waitangi Day celebrations. Te Aka Puaho is also planning and coordinating work to upgrade our national marae at Ohope. This work is expected to begin in August and take about 6 months.
Moderator, the Rt Rev Peter Cheyne, provided a summary of the various duties he has fulfilled since the Council’s previous meeting. These have included participation at the Waitangi Day service, joining in the Going Further event for young leaders, various ecumenical national Church leaders’ meetings as well as supporting the Christchurch Presbytery.
In her report Emma Keown included suggestions about our church’s relationship with the interdenominational New Zealand Christian Network. The Council supported further inquiry into participation with the NZCN as well as encouragement to the Moderator to participate in an ecumenical group to provide resources for church renewal and growth coordinated through NZCN.
Martin reported on the new PresCare initiative launched in March, which aims to address the challenges of family violence. PresCare represents the coming together of the Church and Presbyterian Support’s Family Works. The joint initiative centres on providing resources for congregations through the period of Lent and provides opportunity for individuals and congregations to support Family Works by becoming a “Guardian Angel”.
PresCare has a strong synergy with Kids Friendly and PYM and represents a historically important joint commitment between Support and the Presbyterian Church. The launch of PresCare has been overshadowed by the earthquake; however, the focus on addressing the reality of family violence is a key concern for Support and the Church, and will be a focal point for our shared work over the next five years.
The National Mission Resourcing Task Group commissioned by the Council last July, brought a number of recommendations to the November Council meeting. The task group, who focused its attention on the ways the national church supports mission, recommended the creation of a role specifically focused on providing resources and support for the mission and ministry of Pacific Island churches. After discussion held by Martin with the Pacific Island Synod, the Council supported the report’s recommendation that a role, Missionari Pasifika, be created and funded from national resources.
The General Assembly agreed that we should investigate the need to establish a northern hub which would provide a centre for the work of regional, national and cultural-specific ministries centred in the Auckland region. After an initial meeting with representatives from groups identified as having a possible interest in such a centre, a planning day is going to be held where the issues can be further explored.
Ministries with Asian congregations
The Council received a report from the Rev’s Stuart Vogel and Hyeeun Kim from the Asian Advisory Committee. A great deal of work has been undertaken developing relationships with Korean congregations interested in joining the Presbyterian Church.
Eleven congregations, representing over 1000 men, women and children, have now fulfilled Book of Order requirements and have been accepted by the Northern Presbytery. They will be welcomed at a celebration service to be held at Forrest Hill Presbyterian Church on Saturday 2 April at 7.30pm. This is an historically important occasion as it marks the single largest welcoming of congregations into our Church since Pacific Island congregational churches joined in 1969. The Council warmly welcomes these new congregations and encourages the whole Church to provide the support and hospitality that will witness to our shared future together.
The Council also endorsed an agreement document describing the mutual recognition of ministry between our church and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK).
Pacific Island presbytery work group
After receiving a report from the Nominating Committee the Council appointed the following members to the workgroup: Right Rev Dr Graham Redding (Convener), Rev Asora Amosa, Rev Sa Si'itia-Asi, Margie Apa, Rev Phil King, Rev Ma'afala Koko, Colin. Pidgeon and the Rev Ngatoturu Ine (Toko). This group has the task of investigating the feasibility of the Pacific Island Synod being granted the status of a Presbytery.
Involving presbyteries in the processes of the General Assembly
Following the request from the General Assembly, Martin Stewart led a discussion on the ways that presbyteries might be involved in setting the agenda and engaging more directly with future Assemblies.
As an initial response, the Council intends to invite Presbyteries to provide the Council with a written update of what’s going on in their work. The Council will also look at ways to gain views from Presbyteries about how they would like to be involved in the Assembly.
The Council welcomed Forbes Worn who is working for the Northern Presbytery to facilitate the transition of the three presbyteries and Churches Together in Northland, into the new presbytery. A service of inauguration for the Northern Presbytery was held on 26 February. Forbes provided an outline of the challenges involved within this geographically and culturally diverse presbytery of over 100 congregations.
The Council enjoyed a presentation by Kids’ Friendly coach Jill Kayser. Council members were greatly encouraged to hear of the work of Kids’ Friendly. There are increasing demands for Kids Friendly resources being made by other churches here and overseas. The Council is working with Jill to formulate possible options on how to share Kids Friendly.
The Council accepted the resignation of Olinda Woodroofe from her role as CWM Trustee because of the demands of family and work commitments. Olinda has fulfilled this very time-demanding voluntary role for the church since 2009. The Council acknowledged Olinda’s contribution to this work as well as the support she has provided to the Pacific Island Synod. The Council will appoint another trustee who will represent the church up until the tri-annual CWM assembly later next year.
Committee Convenor, the Rev Helen Harray spoke about the work of this subcommittee and provided an update on reviewer training for ministry development as well as bringing to the Council a suggestion for a Minister’s Symposium to be held next year.
Convenor Cunny Aitchison reported on the work of the subcommittee and provided the Council with financial updates. The Council endorsed the subcommittee’s recommendation that they should be represented on the Presbyterian Insurance Board. Later in the meeting Cunny also presented a paper outlining various scenarios relating to the financial impact the Christchurch earthquake would have on the Church.
A small Council work group has been processing the feedback received at the General Assembly to develop a longer term strategic view of the Church’s future directions and priorities. The group’s work is focusing on the institutional role of the Presbyterian Church in supporting mission. The work group will be providing further opportunities for input into what they see as very much a living document that will help guide national budget setting and management processes.
The next Council meeting will be held in Wellington on July 22nd and 23rd.