The essence of church is about gathering together as the Lord’s people, for fellowship, worship, prayer, proclamation of Christ, the teaching of the word, encouragement, and serving others.
Through the pandemic, most churches have continued to function, using online options, small groups, and different types of church services, but it has undoubtedly been challenging.
The easing of gathering limits (25 March) this week) and the end of vaccination passport requirements (4 April) will be a welcome relief to most churches. Larger gatherings will be possible, and the church can begin to put behind us some of the complexities and consternations of the last few months.
Let’s pray that, in this new and different phase of Covid, Christians may relate to one another with grace, respect, and humility, that churches may steadily recover their life together, that churches may reach out to those members who have become less connected or have felt disaffected, that we may discern what God has been showing us in these difficult times, and that we may more effectively communicate the hope and truth of Christ around us who those who are spiritually adrift.
His Holiness Kirill
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Russian Orthodox Church
We write to you as brothers and sisters in Christ and as national leaders of most church denominations in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We are deeply disturbed by what is happening in the Ukraine at the moment, the bombings, the civilian deaths, the major refugee crisis.
We are fearful of further escalation of the situation that would put even more people in danger. We are united in our request that you use your voice and significant influence to call for an end to the hostilities in Ukraine and intervene with authorities in your nation to do so. We make this appeal with no political agenda but rather in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love transcends the narrow claims of all nations and ideologies.
We are in the season of Lent. In that Lenten spirit, we ask you to prayerfully consider the steps you can take to influence peaceful solutions.
As the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, you have the holy opportunity to play an historic role in helping to bring a cessation of senseless violence and a restoration of peace. We pray you will do so, and our prayers will accompany you, as together we yearn for the biblical vision of peace that is found in Isaiah 2:4:
Then He will judge between the nations
and arbitrate for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer take up the sword against nation,
nor train anymore for war.
Respectfully Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Members of National Church Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand
Rev Andrew Marshall National Leader – Alliance Churches of New Zealand
Archbishop Phillip Richardson
Archbishop Don Tamihere
Bishop Justin Duckworth Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
Pastor Illiafi Esera National Superintendent – Assemblies of God in New Zealand
Pastor Charles Hewlett National Leader – Baptist Churches of New Zealand
Pastor Steve Burgess Senior Leader – C3 Church
Pastor Brent Liebezeit President – Christian Churches New Zealand
Rev.Roland Hearn Interim National Superintendent – Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Peter Mortlock Senior Pastor – City Impact Church
Rev Moegauila Lasei Chairman – Congregational Union of New Zealand
Pastor Sam Monk National Leader – ACTS Churches New Zealand
Pastor Boyd Ratnaraja National Leader – Elim Church of New Zealand
Bishop Mark Whitfield Lutheran Church of New Zealand
Rev Andrew Doubleday President – Methodist Church of New Zealand
Pastor Adam White Leader – New Life Churches International
Pastor Eddie Tupa’i President – New Zealand Pacific Union Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church
Rev Hamish Galloway Moderator – Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Anne and Alistair Hall Yearly Meeting Co-Clerks – Religious Society of Friends, Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri
Cardinal John Dew Roman Catholic
Commissioner Mark Campbell Territorial Commander – The Salvation Army
Pastor David MacGregor National Director – Vineyard Churches
Rev Brett Jones National Superintendent – Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand
Rev Dr Stuart Lange Director – New Zealand Christian Network
Glyn very capably served as National Director of NZCN from 2003 to early 2017.
Coming to Christ as an adult, Glyn was a man of convinced Christian faith. He had a strong Gospel focus, and a keen social conscience.
Glyn was personable, a superb networker, and was well-known among a great many Christians the length and breadth of New Zealand. He had a gift for connecting people, and for getting them to work together on important projects. He was always eager that the church in New Zealand should conduct itself well in a secularising and increasingly un-Christian society, and had a heart for Christians to work together well, and for reconciliation. Glyn was well-read, thought matters through deeply, and had a good eye for different sides of various issues. He was not afraid at times to speak up for a minority viewpoint.
Glyn became closely involved in the National Church Leaders’ gatherings, where his wisdom and bridge-building was much valued. Glyn was also very supportive of New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey. He vigorously supported the Te Rongopai video documentary, and was also the driving force behind the Gospel Bicentenary Statement.
Glyn’s thoughtfulness, networking skills, and wide vision also saw him become very involved internationally, through the World Evangelical Alliance as the Secretary General of the South Pacific.
Finally, the strength of Glyn’s Christian faith and character shone through as he bravely and prayerfully fought terminal cancer. We know he is now with the Lord, and Christine and family are in our prayers.
The funeral service for Glyn Carpenter will be livestreamed from 2pm on Friday 17 December at https://youtu.be/tPhJNwjgzW4
A Christian response to suggested “Hate Speech” law changes, and some proposed re-wording
byDr Stuart Lange, on behalf of the New Zealand Christian Network
Some principles we begin from…
Nobody comes to any issue without some preconceptions, and it can be helpful to state where we are coming from. So, as people of Christian faith…
We are deeply committed to God, to love for all, to God’s truth revealed in Christ and the scriptures, to the intrinsic God-given equality of all people, and to justice, righteousness, grace, mercy, and peace.
We absolutely reject all racism.
We deplore all abusive language, name-calling, hatefulness, and violence – by anyone, and to anyone.
We believe that, ideally, all people should relate to one another with gentleness and respect, even when they strongly disagree. Secular people should respect religious people, and vice versa. People of faith should relate respectfully to people of other faiths.
We believe that, if we are to remain a free society, our freedoms of religious belief (or unbelief) and of expression must be carefully and unequivocally protected.
We believe that a wide diversity of viewpoints and freedom to debate important issues is extremely important, even though it is at the cost of most people sometimes being exposed to views we find objectionable or offensive.
We believe that the State should avoid all attempts to control the thoughts and speech of its citizens, except where the beliefs and opinions of people are unquestionably inciting extreme hatefulness and violence.
What is behind the proposed “hate speech” laws, and why do they matter?
The Government consultation document has presented the proposed “Hate Speech” law changes as a revision of existing legislation to help restrain extreme racism, and as extending protections against “hate speech” to “groups” defined by sex, sexuality, religion, and disability, and thus to build a “greater social cohesion”. But many people see what is proposed as a dangerous limitation of public debate and freedom of expression, in which constant pressure from some groups could lead to a growing censorship of public debate.
A key question is around the precise scope and wording of the proposed changes, particularly in relation to exactly what is meant by the words “hate” and “hatred”. For different people, and in different contexts, these words carry a range of meanings and implications.
In existing legislation it is already a civil offence (see Section 161 (c) of the Human Rights Act 1993) to use “words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting, being matter or words likely to excite hostility or ill-will against, or bring into contempt or ridicule, any such group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons”. This prohibition on incitement only applies to racism. We agree that for the sake of public safety this existing law is appropriate, to help restrain those ranters who spew forth appalling racist rhetoric, stirring up disharmony and violence. We also fully agree that the law should be extended to electronic communication.
Because of the significant risk of the proposed law changes increasingly suppressing freedom of expression, however, we have some caution about the list of groups covered by incitement provisions being extended from just race and nationality to also include groups based on religion, disability, sex, and sexuality. We could accept that, though, if (1) the threshold of criminality remains very high and (2) the nature and limits of “hate speech” are clearly defined.
The key problem with what is proposed
We agree in principle that it should be criminal to stir up extreme animosity and/or incite violence towards any group in society.
The core problem with the wording proposed in the consultation document, however, is that it removes the definitions of incitement that are in the Human Rights Act (see above) and instead substitutes the very elastic term “hatred” – with no adequate definitions.
We believe the word “hatred” is too broad and subjective, and – in the absence of very clear definition – is worryingly vulnerable to freedom-stifling misapplications.
In our societal context of increasingly clamorous identity politics, the word “hatred” is highly loaded. Why not stick with incitement to “hostility”, or change it to “extreme hostility”? Across the western world, the introduction of “hate speech” laws is primarily driven by the desire to restrict the expression of views which disagree with LGBT ideologies. Is that what the Government primarily has in view here?
Our concern grows when we read that it would not only be a crime to incite “hatred”, but also to “maintain or normalise hatred”. This too (especially the “and normalise” phrase) is capable of many interpretations and misapplications, and we believe this proposed wording should be dropped.
Over time, we fear, the wording of the proposed law changes would make it all too easy for various secular, religious, and sexuality activists to hunt down any expression of viewpoint that does not support their own views, or which they find offensive, and to claim that it is “hateful” to their group and therefore unlawful. The police and law courts may end up very busy.
All this poses some significant risks for the freedom of our society, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights:
“13 Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.
“14 Freedom of expression: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
The only way to avoid oppressive outcomes with the proposed law change is for there to be included some extremely clear explanations of what inciting “hatred” does and does not mean.
Some sample questions…
Under the proposed law changes, could anyone be prosecuted for denying a core belief or doctrine of any religion, and thus potentially causing offence?
Could it become criminal for anyone to say that they do not believe in sex transitioning for children and adolescents?
Could it become criminal for anyone to say that they do not believe it is fair for “trans” people born as males to compete in women’s sport?
Could it become criminal for someone to say that they do not personally believe that same-sex relationships or same-sex marriages are intended by God? (This is not “hatred”, but just a matter of religious belief and expression)?
Could anyone be prosecuted for reading out or referring to – in public, or even in a religious gathering – any passage or verse in the Bible, Qur’an, or any other sacred religious writing that asserts a doctrinal belief about Allah, Jesus, or salvation, or against unbelief, or against any behaviour, and thus will likely offend someone somewhere?
If the answer to any of those five questions is “yes, or maybe”, then for the sake of everyone’s freedoms the proposed law changes must be worded so as to avoid that.
If the answer is, “no” (or as it says in the consultation document, “only extreme hate speech is criminalised, and that there must be an intention to cause others to develop and strengthen hatred towards a group”), then we need to see that protection clearly reflected in the actual wording of the proposed law changes.
If the answer is, “we don’t know, and we won’t say, but over time we will see how the police and the courts interpret this law in relation to society’s changing thinking”, then we can rightly be very concerned, and may want to ponder what sort of oppressive, thought-controlling Orwellian society our children and mokopuna may inherit.
In our view, the only way for society to protect itself against unjust and tyrannical outcomes through its proposed “hate speech” laws is to state as precisely as possible exactly what “hate speech” is, and exactly what it isn’t.
“In the context of this law, “inciting hatred” means to incite extreme hostility, to deliberately and maliciously vilify with the clear intention of stirring up loathing, hostility, contempt, or violence towards a group; it does not mean to express disagreement, criticism or caution in relation to any of the views of a group, or simply to express beliefs and views which members of any group may consider objectionable or even offensive.”
We believe the Government’s forthcoming Bill must clearly provide some such explicit clarification and balance, and should drop the “maintain and normalise hatred” line. If it does so, these law changes may yet possibly be safe, and may prove acceptable to most people. Nevertheless, whatever our religion (or our lack of it), all New Zealanders need to remain highly vigilant in protecting critically important human freedoms of belief and expression.
New Zealand is currently rolling out its COVID vaccine to frontline workers and medical personnel. This means that the general population will soon be in line to receive the vaccine en masse.
At the same time, much anti-vaccination material is swirling around in society. In my research, I’ve seen that Christians – along with everyone else in society – have a range of thoughts about whether they will take the vaccine. Their thinking falls into four broad categories.
There are those who don’t like any sort of vaccine, believing them to be at best ineffective, and at worse dangerous.
There are those who feel that this vaccine is an overreach of the government, a violation of individual rights. (Some might also worry that the vaccine is possibly linked with the “mark of the beast”).
Then you have a third group, who like many of their secular counterparts, have concerns about taking a vaccine that was produced so quickly, without the normal lengthy trials. “Are we sure this vaccine is safe, how can we know what the long-term side effects might be?”
Finally, there are those, and this is no doubt the largest group, who are confident that despite the compressed time-frames in formulating and testing the anti-Covid vaccines, and the possible risks, it is still highly likely to be safe for most people, and that out of love of self and neighbour one should in due course receive the vaccination.
Christians do need to respect the rights of that minority of people who decide not to take the vaccine, but we are not obliged to agree with their thinking. However, it does seem the best way for this and other societies to defeat this virus is to vaccinate as much as possible of the population. If you want to see more information in support of this approach, see the links below.
Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.
On 28 February 2021, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, of Germany, began his tenure as the Secretary General of the WEA. Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019 and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD.
In his inaugural speech, he talks about the DNA of being evangelical.