Wednesday 9 February 2011

Presbyterian Developments

Via Lesley's Wednesday blog entry and then to Bosco Peters' on liturgy this Covenant, listed outside a South Island (near Christchurch) New Zealand Presbyterian Church at Akaroa, is highlighted:

Our Covenant

Banks Peninsula Presbyterian Parish

We covenant to respect the diversity of belief among ourselves as together we grow in understanding of God and of our own lives.

Respect means that we will surround the other person with appreciation, seek to understand their point of view, and allow them to disagree.

This is the sort of Church we hope to be.

Feel welcome to join us!

I am wondering if this church is one of those in New Zealand that has taken the pathway under the influence of Presbyterian theologian Sir Lloyd Geering, writer of Faith's New Age (London: Collins, 1980) and who is New Zealand's Don Cupitt and in some ways continuous with Jack Spong. Indeed, with a Covenant like that, which would happily be part of any Unitarian notice board, I can't see how else it has arrived there. Lloyd Geering is now something of a New Zealand grandee, a large figure in the religious scene there and thus of influence, and therefore some of the developments seen in England in past history can be seen happening now in New Zealand. It interests me that New Zealand Presbyterianism comes in a line from Scotland, whereas in England Scottish Presbyterianism was imported precisely to encounter developments like this in Presbyterianism!

Go north a bit from Akaroa and as part of ANZUUA you find one webpage about a small gathering:



Unitarian Universalism is a liberal Christian-based religion which has its roots in non-conformism. There is now a total absence of dogma and the most important tenet of Unitarians is that one's spiritual growth is one's own responsibility. UU's have a common concern with Social Justice and the Welfare of our Planet. This is the Affirmation we usually say near the beginning of each service:

As Unitarian Universalists we believe in:

  • The worth and dignity of every person,
  • Justice, equality and kindness in human relations,
  • Accepting and encouraging each others' religious growth,
  • The freedom to search for what is true and right in life,
  • Using the democratic process as a fair way of making decisions,
  • Working to create a peaceful, free and just world,
  • Respecting the connectedness of all life on our planet earth.

Our religious inspiration comes from:

  • Our own experience of wonder,
  • Words and deeds of loving and courageous people,
  • Our Jewish and Christian heritage,
  • Wisdom from other world religions,
  • Scientific truth and our own reasoning.

On the Fellowship's own website it says:

With openness and in accordance with Unitarian Principles, we come together to share in our continuing commitment to a free and loving search for spiritual meaning and to the expression of that meaning in our community and in our lives.

And those seven principles are nearly repeated:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

So a bit of competition from the Presbyterians then! Nothing new there at all, indeed rather old. And today elements of the British United Reformed Church, of that once Scottish corrective import plus orthodox Congregationalists, are not so far behind.


Hugh said...

Lloyd Geering has undoubtedly been an important figure in providing the strength of liberal religion in New Zealand over the past 30 years or so . That he has done so without falling into some of traps that have marginalised Don Cupitt in this country is especially noteworthy.

To have a Sir Don Cupitt would indeed a stretch of the imagination . :)

An illustration of the good work being done by liberal theologions in New Zealand is this rather incisive doctoral dissertation by Ruth Walker :-

With the usual caveat that I don't necessarily agree with all the assertions made . I do think it gives a valid option for the wider flourishing of theological non realism in todays increasingly conservative religious atmosphere .

Regards ,


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Appreciated and yes I take a more practical view of non-realism too - more specifically religious and allowing science and its method to speak for itself, including naturalism. Cupitt the philosopher has in one sense overdone it; that all the objections to scientism doe not turn science into a form of fiction (as some might see it).