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
Submission from the NEW ZEALAND CHRISTIAN NETWORK on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, including a suggested additional clause
What we can agree with in the Bill:
The promotion of “respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”.
Affirming “the dignity of all people”, and upholding “the human rights of all New Zealanders, including rainbow New Zealanders, to live free from discrimination and harm”.
A ban on “therapies”, “treatments”, and “conversion practices” for LGBT people which are “harmful”.
The values and practices of most Christian churches:
We disavow any pastoral or counselling practices with regard to gay or transgender people (or anyone else) that are uninvited, coercive, unloving, harsh, or disrespecting of people’s freedoms.
We agree that pastoral counselling and interaction should always be compassionate, gentle, and respectful of everyone’s personal worth, dignity, and freewill.
The core element of this submission is our proposal that the Bill be amended with an additional clause in Section 5 (2):
[in this Act, conversion practice does not include— ]
(g) respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender, and advice, guidance, prayer, or support given to anyone by anyone else including parents, family members, friends, counsellors, religious leaders, or health professionals, when such advice or support is requested, and is respectful and non-coercive”.
We believe such a clause would give effect to the Bill’s second stated purpose (“respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”), and would address the majority of concerns being expressed about the Bill.
Our reasons for proposing this additional clause 5 (2) (g)
The proposed additional clause would not detract in any way from the first of the two stated purposes of the Bill, i.e. “prevent harm caused by conversion practices” [Part 1, 3 (a)]
The Bill would still clearly criminalise any “harmful” practice, “performed with the intention of changing or suppressing the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” [5 (1) (b)].
But, outside of any such harmful practices, the proposed amendment would clarify that “respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender” and expressions of opinion, advice, and support would not be criminalised, if “requested”, “respectful” and “non-coercive”.
The proposed additional clause would give effect to the second of the two stated purposes of the Bill i.e. [Part 1, 3 (b)] “promote respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”
There appears to be nothing in the Bill as currently worded that would address or facilitate that stated purpose of the Bill.
Instead, we believe the Bill as currently worded and without our proposed amendment would have the effect indicated in Crown Law’s advice to the Attorney General: “a significant limitation on freedom of expression” and “a potential chilling effect on legitimate expressions of opinion within families/whānau about sexuality and gender”. That “chilling effect” would also extend to every other societal context.
The Bill of Rights (Clause 14) is also clearly relevant: “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 proposed additional clause would allay the considerable public concern about the Bill interfering with the rights and responsibilities of parents to give guidance and counsel to their children.
Most parents know their children very well, and are eager to do whatever is best for them.
Most parents are also sensitive about the State inappropriately infringing on their own rights and responsibilities as parents.
The proposed amendment would help clarify what is legal and what is not, and prevent the law having an inappropriately restrictive effect on what Crown Law refers to as “legitimate expressions of opinion within families/whānau about sexuality and gender”.
The proposed additional clause would address legitimate concerns that the Bill would deny people the freedom to seek and receive whatever advice or support they themselves desire.
Sexuality and gender identity are often less than clear-cut matters, and choices can be difficult. In reality some people do sometimes wish to change the way they live or self-identify. Movement can occur in all directions: from heterosexual to homosexual or bi-sexual (and vice versa), or from male gender identity to female gender identify (and vice versa).
Those exploring any such change may often seek input or assistance from those around them or from professionals (including counsellors, mental health practitioners, religious leaders, youth workers), and should have the freedom to seek advice or support from anyone they choose, with all options open for discussion and exploration, providing that advice is respectful and non-coercive.
Without this proposed amendment, it is likely that those (professionals or otherwise) who could offer appropriate listening, discussion and support to those who request such help would be very wary of saying anything, out of fear they could be criminalised for any words or actions which could possibly be construed as “intended to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”. The law would thus prevent some people from receiving the support they themselves want.
The proposed additional clause would also address concerns that the Bill would inappropriately compromise religious freedoms.
We believe the church should certainly repudiate or avoid any pastoral practice which is coercive, disrespectful, or harmful, and we must emphasise that our point here is not to make space in any way for such practices.
The New Zealand Bill of Rights guarantees:
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,” 15 “Manifestation of religion and belief: Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private”
On the other hand, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill allows only for “the expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”.
This is too narrow a freedom that is being permitted by this Bill. Religious groups do not state their doctrinal beliefs in isolation from life and practice, but legitimately commend them as a basis for life. Doctrine divorced from life is deeply inconsistent with Christian “observance” and “practice” as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, and the State should avoid any undue interference in such matters.
Our concern is simply about the likely constricting effect of this Bill on legitimate and un-harmful religious practices, i.e. the appropriate exercise of respectful pastoral advice, counselling, and prayer in church contexts.
Caution about those effects was expressed by Crown Law, which noted that “the broad definition of those [conversion] practices creates the risk that it could extend further, to the exchange of thoughts or opinions about sexuality and gender that occur within the family/whānau or religious groups that do warrant protection and where the limitation could not easily be justified”, and that “There is no doubt that as expressed the prohibition will extend to activities and communications that occur within families and within religious groupings”.
We are particularly disturbed that the State could take any interest in the content of private pastoral discussions and prayer. We would consider that an inappropriate breach of the Bill of Rights clause 15, which asserts “Manifestation of religion and belief: Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private”.
The adoption of the amendment we propose would likewise largely address our concerns in the area of religious freedom.
Thank you very much for your work, and for carefully considering this submission.
Rev Dr Stuart Lange (National Director), on behalf of the New Zealand Christian Network
The New Zealand Christian Network is a significant inter-church organisation with member churches, individuals, and Christian organisations from a very wide range of church affiliations. It represents a moderate, orthodox Christian perspective. NZCN’s National Director is also a member of the Executive of the National Church Leaders Aotearoa New Zealand (NCLANZ).
The Select Committee’s online submission form takes you through the simple steps, and the only part that you really have to take time to consider is the important section onwhy you oppose the bill as it currently stands, and whether you want to make an oral submission. If you prefer, you can upload your submission if you’ve already done it as a document or PDF.
The wonderful ZOOM-based nation-wide prayer gatherings which began last month, and which many hundreds of people participated in, begin again this Monday night, with a weekly 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. prayer gathering.
The New Zealand Christian Network team were heavily involved in the formation of the Pray As one NZ prayer movement, and have been very pleased to be associated with it. A wider advisory group (including representatives of other prayer networks) will continue and has accepted NZCN’s offer to take overall responsibility for Pray As One NZ.
There is no denying the current significant health and economic threats to societies all around the world, especially in many less well-resourced nations. In the past, societies and churches have many times suffered catastrophes, through war, famine, natural disasters, plagues, and persecution. The season of Easter, though, is a great time to recall and celebrate Christ’s redeeming death and life-giving resurrection.
These Easter events usefully remind us of a bigger, more enduring picture than COVID-19. That God remains our everlasting Rock. That on the Cross, God in Christ has demonstrated his great love for us, and made possible our salvation. That God has granted his Spirit to all who believe. That God is always watching over us. That one day God will restore his broken creation, and make all things new. May God inspire us afresh as we focus on him, this coming weekend – and beyond.
It has been so very encouraging for the New Zealand Christian Network to be very closely involved in the new Pray As One NZ initiative, which began last Tuesday (1 April) with a 12-hour national on-line day of prayer for New Zealand and a special one-hour national prayer and worship service live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook followed by eight consecutive prayer sessions, from 8.00 to 9.00 pm.
What has been so pleasing is the gathering of hundreds of Christian believers from every corner of New Zealand, and from many different church denominations and flavours, and the thousands of faithful, passionate prayers for Aotearoa New Zealand. On average, there have been 140 people online at any one time. The two overarching themes have been the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual health and wellbeing of New Zealand.
This series of prayer gatherings end tonight (Thursday 9 April, 8.00 pm). It is not too late to participate. If you would like to join, visit Pray As One NZ for details. Almost certainly, Pray as One prayer gatherings will resume on some basis, sometime after Easter. Watch this space…
Which is the deeper problem: the spiritual blindness and sins of secular New Zealand society as a whole, or the blind spots and spiritual listlessness of the New Zealand church?
I posed this question during devotions in Pray As One NZ earlier this week, before reading that magnificent prayer of repentance, Psalm 51.