New Zealand Christian Network (NZCN or ‘the Network’) was launched in September 2002.
We are a network of churches, organisations, and individuals, who want to be connected and who subscribe to an orthodox biblical (evangelical) Statement of Faith.
We are the NZ member of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and are committed to representing evangelical faith positions. But we recognise also that the term ‘evangelical’ has different meanings in different countries and contexts, so we are very careful in its usage. NZ evangelicalism seeks to be faithful to scripture and is broad politically and socially.
We offer an opportunity for a visible expression of unity which connects us beyond ourselves, across ministries, towns, cities, local churches, and denominations.
Reliable figures suggest 14.5-15% of New Zealanders attend church weekly. 18-19% ‘regularly’. Approximately 500,000 of these Christians are evangelical. This represents a significant constituency that NZCN seeks to serve and represent in different ways.
Because of Jesus’s prayer ‘may they be one that the world will know’ (Jn 17) there has always been some level of networking among evangelicals and between evangelicals and other streams of Christian faith.
In the 1980s there was a network called Evangelical Fellowship of New Zealand (EFNZ). John Fulford, Brian Hathaway, Ray Windsor, and Bruce Patrick were some of the names involved with EFNZ.
In the 1990s EFNZ morphed into Vision New Zealand (VNZ), which began running Congresses – gatherings of evangelical and other Christian leaders. Brian Hathaway and Bruce Patrick were key leaders in this development. Congresses were held at Waikanae near Wellington in 1993, 1997, and 1999. Books were published titled New Vision I, II, III (editor Bruce Patrick), and the Heads of Churches 6-monthly meeting grew out of these Congresses.
In 2001 Bruce and Jinny Patrick and Graeme Lee attended the WEA General Assembly in Malaysia. They came back to New Zealand with the idea of setting up a network in New Zealand that could help network and be a voice for evangelicals – a voice that many felt was sadly lacking in public debate – and which could be formally part of the WEA.
Meetings were held with around 70 evangelical leaders at the New Life Church in Palmerston North, chaired by John Walton, and with a sense of general if, not unanimous agreement, the network was launched in September 2002 with a Council of more than 100 leaders and an Executive team. John Walton became the first Council chairman, Bruce Patrick was chairman of the Executive, and Graeme Lee served as interim National Director.
On 3 March 2003, Glyn Carpenter began working as the first full-time National Director. Bruce Patrick served as Executive chairman until March 2011, when the position was taken over by Martien Kelderman. In April 2017, Glyn stepped down from the role of National Director and Rev Dr Stuart Lange took on the role as the Interim National Director. Janet Tuck, current Chair of the Board, is leading the Board’s search for a new National Director.
The motto which was adopted from the very beginning was Gather – Build – Speak. We exist to help evangelical Christians in New Zealand gather (with other evangelicals and beyond), to build resources, networks, and collaboration, and to speak an authentic, well-researched, non-strident voice into the Church and the public sphere.
This motto aligns well with the WEA motto which is Represent (or Identity) – Equip – Voice.
Since the launch in 2002 NZCN has organised, and participated in, and resourced many groups and conversations. We have run 5 further Congresses (2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017). We have given and mobilised significant support for several large and small evangelism campaigns (Impact World Tour, Greg Laurie, Power to Change, Jesus – All About Hope).
We are active in helping evangelicals network in areas such as prayer, marriage, sanctity of life, evangelism, business, and politics.
In 2006 NZCN’s National Director was asked by the Heads of Churches group to be a representative Christian voice in interfaith dialogues which were very active between 2005-2011. NZCN has issued many media releases and made submissions to government select committees where a biblical/evangelical voice was needed. Leaders within the Network have also been on radio and TV and participated in public and university debates and forums on important topics.
Between 2009-2011 we surveyed evangelical and other Christian leaders about the biggest issues facing the Church and society in New Zealand. Out of that has come four key focus areas – secularism, marriage and family, value of life issues, and missional living (previously called ‘All of Life Faith’).
In 2012 and 2013 NZCN was well placed to play a key role in preparing for the Gospel Bicentenary which was commemorated in New Zealand in 2014.
In 2016, NZCN partnered with Auckland Church Leaders in organising the annual Auckland Prayer Breakfast, which has grown from 400 to 700 people attending the event held at Eden Park over the three years it has been held.
NZCN is the New Zealand member of the WEA. The WEA was formed in 1846 and today is one of the three main global bodies representing Christians (approximately 650 million) along with the Catholic Church (1 billion) and the World Council of Churches (400 million). Pentecostals have a global body but their faith position overlaps significantly with evangelicals and the two groups often merge together.
The WEA has two main branches – (a) alliances, and (b) commissions, initiatives, and task forces (CITs). WEA also has affiliates – significant bodies that affiliate directly to WEA outside of the two main branches.
NZCN is one of 129 national evangelical alliances (NEAs), many of which do not include the word ‘evangelical’ in their name, even though this does describe their core faith position. NEAs are grouped into 8 regional alliances (REAs). Some of these (e.g. Africa and Europe) are well established, others (e.g. the South Pacific ) are not.
In 2006 at a meeting of South Pacific evangelical leaders in Vanuatu, NZCN’s National Director was asked to be the point of contact for the South Pacific region.
There are around 20 commissions, initiatives, and task forces. These include theology, women’s, missions, and religious liberties commissions, and task forces on creation care, nuclear weapons, and peace and conflict resolution.
As the regional contact person (‘chairman’), NZCN’s national director attends an annual International Leadership Forum with leaders from the REAs, CITS, and Global Executive Team.
When the Network was launched in 2002, the name was Vision Network of New Zealand. But because of confusion with similarly named organisations and a growing sense that the name should show clearly that we are a Christian network, the name was changed in 2008 to New Zealand Christian Network.
There was considerable discussion at the time about whether the Network should have been called the New Zealand Evangelical Alliance. Although there are many good reasons why this would have been appropriate, the issue of different understandings about what is meant by the term led those making the decision to leave the term evangelical out of the name.
See Starting and Strengthening National Missions Movements (WEF 1999) for an excerpt from a 1999 publication by the World Evangelical Fellowship about Past History of National Missions Movement…
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