Participating on Sunday morning past in the service of St Luke's in the City (Anglican), Christchurch, it was difficult not to reflect ecumenically ...
Currently, in the Knox Presbyterian church/hall complex, three distinct denominational congregations meet, joining together after their services for morning tea: the Knox congregation itself meets in their splendidly restored church, the Durham Street Methodist church meets in the Knox Hall and St Luke's Anglican meets in the Knox Chapel.
As a dyed in the wool Anglican I am the first to appreciate that our denominational distinctives are valuable and to be cherished. Were it to be proposed that the three congregations 'get over' their differences and merge into one large inner city church, I imagine myself being wholly sympathetic to those who metaphorically wept on my Anglican shoulder about what they would lose by doing so.
There is also the not insignificant treasure that each congregation has a community life of its own. Loss of community has its own griefs. No one would wish further grief on Christians in Christchurch post the quakes!
Nevertheless, I am going to ask the question of all our church(es') life in Aotearoa New Zealand, when are we going to form the 'Church of New Zealand' instead of being a series of Anglican/Presbyterian/Methodist/Baptist/Roman Catholic/etc churches in New Zealand?
What, after all, is the Presbyterian church in New Zealand but a distinctively Scottish version of the Reformed churches of Europe? The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is an English version of the moderately reformed Roman Catholic church. That's just to take up two of the transplanted churches from the northern hemisphere. While we have a reasonable flow of Scottish and English people migrating to NZ and, presumably, glad to find local versions of their respective mother churches, is that sufficient reason to continue to have Scottish and English churches in a country far away?
Is it God's will that Christianity in Aotearoa New Zealand is always a transplant?
Might God have a plan for a truly indigenous Christian church in these islands?
Should we be praying for a prophetic figure to lead us to a truly Kiwi church?
After all, it has been significant leaders whom God has used in past times to initiate new church movements and developments: Luther and Germany, Knox and Scotland, Cranmer and England, Wesley(s) and Methodism. Within Roman Catholicism, significant developments have taken place through the likes of Augustine, Francis (former and present!), Ignatius Loyola, Mother Teresa and John Paul II.
Of course the church is global and we should be at least slightly suspicious about attempts to localise the universal church in a Kiwi way. There is nothing intrinsically virtuous about being Kiwi.
On the other hand, most manifestations of the global church which are embedded in our churches are from other cultures and nations. There is nothing intrinsically superior in those cultures and nations, but an ingrained NZ deference often presupposes that what comes from overseas is better.
Why should differences between churches here be shaped by historic church divisions in Europe?
Why can't we have our own local disputes which determine who we are as churches and why we do what we do? (Mostly kidding with that question: God wants a united Aotearoa church!)
What do you think?
Should we be satisfied with the current state of ecumenicity in these islands?