Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

ACANZP to send two primates to Canterbury

White and indigenous archbishops to represent the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia at the January primates gathering

Two archbishops will represent the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia at next week’s meeting of the primates and moderators of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury, the church has announced. On 2 Jan 2016 the church’s press office released a note stating “Archbishops Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua will be among 37 Primates at the historic meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.”

Alone among the churches of the Anglican Communion, the ACANZP, is divided along racial lines into separate but equal churches with three co-primates. As the international debate over South Africa’s apartheid policies took shape, the church in New Zealand began an internal self-examination of its own history. Critics of the existing power structures noted that since the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between the British colonial government and the Maori people, the Maoris had been dominated by European culture.

To overcome this political history, the church in 1992 revised its constitution splitting it into three equal partnerships or Tikanga — one for whites, one for Maoris, and one for Polynesians. Each Tikanga was given its own church buildings, clergy, and language for liturgy. The church’s seminary saw the appoint of three co-equal deans, overlapping dioceses in New Zealand (one for whites and one for Maoris), and three archbishops.

The primates gathering in January, though not a formal Primates’ Meeting, will be the first where two ACANZP archbishops are present, but not the first where two archbishops from the same church were invited. At the Alexandria primates meeting, Archbishop Rowan Williams invited the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu to attend the gathering. Asked by Anglican Ink at the time why the Church of England would be accorded two representatives and no other church with multiple archbishops, (Ireland, West Africa, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand) had been so privileged, a spokesman for Dr. Williams said the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to act as chairman of the meeting and not as spokesman for a particular national church.

The New Zealand church was not the first member of the Anglican Communion to experiment with a raced based structure. In 1918 the Rt. Rev. Edward Demby (pictured) was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Arkansas and the Southwest to oversee the church’s “colored work”. However, upon his retirement in 1938 the church abandoned the idea of racially exclusive jurisdictions and episcopal oversight.

At the time of its division, the New Zealand church came under criticism for taking the path of segregation, even if done for benign or paternalistic reasons. Critics cited Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words on division by race and culture: “The only separation the Bible knows is between believers on the one hand and unbelievers on the other. Any other kind of separation, division, disunity is of the Devil. It is evil and from sin.”

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