An anatomy of antipodean Anglicanism : the Anglican Church in New Zealand 1945 to 2012 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
This thesis explores the structures of the Anglican Church between 1945 and 2012 at parish/local, diocesan/regional, and national/provincial levels and considers how they have evolved in the context of social life in New Zealand since the Second World War.
The period is divided into two parts, before and after 1975/1976. The first thirty years were ones in which the role of the church was largely accepted within the community. Prosperity in the 1950s and the baby boom benefited local congregations and parishes recorded higher levels of activity. Every parish was led by a resident priest who also discharged certain functions in the wider community. The dioceses were the major units of church life. They and their bishops jealously guarded their domain and the church resembled seven mini-denominations. The church was weak at national level: its general synod a small body which met only every three years. Its function as the ‘representative and governing body’ was interpreted narrowly. The primate’s responsibilities were restricted. The church saw itself as part of the Church of England and, although constitutionally separate from the Mother Church, looked to it not only for guidance but as a source of supply for its bishops.
Societal changes beginning in the 1960s had a profound impact on the church, and statistical indicators moved downwards. Some sensed that the church had lost its way. That was reinforced by the conclusions of an international consultation in 1976 which highlighted the need for change and acted as a catalyst for many of the changes that followed. Belich’s ‘recolonising’, ‘Better Briton’ and ‘tight society’ motifs are useful tools for interpreting the changes that took place. The church became more aware of its location in the Pacific, it asserted its independence, and was less reliant on ties with England. New models of ministry and parish life emerged as parishes found it more difficult to support stipendiary clergy. Parishes were given more authority although this threatened diocesan unity; a new form of ‘congregationalism’ emerged.
Demands for greater biculturalism led to a major revision of the constitution in 1992: a Three Tikanga church emerged. This gave the church a new shape, one that was significantly different from other national churches in the Anglican Communion.
Another debate followed: should the primate be one person or an instrument of diversity (shared by three archbishops)? This thesis focuses on the Pakeha stream of the church which struggled with its identity and failed to develop robust instruments of cooperation.
Anglican affiliation (measured at the census) declined from 37 to 14 percent between 1945 and 2006 but this was a measure of identity rather than involvement. Between 1976 and 2006 attendance declined by 15 percent but this was much lower than the 39 percent decline in affiliation. Attendance declined particularly in areas of population loss and where major immigration had taken place. Auckland suburbs became enclaves of various ethnicities with rates of Anglican affiliation ranging from three to 30 percent. The thesis introduces an ‘attendance quotient’: a measure of attendance related to census affiliation.