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Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) is the main Presbyterian church in New Zealand.


  • History 1
  • Debate over ministers in non-marriage relationships 2
  • Statistics 3
  • International connections 4
  • Breakaway groups 5
  • Social involvement 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Saint Andrew’s (First) Presbyterian Church, Auckland, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Presbyterian Church of New Zealand formed in October 1901 with the amalgamation of churches in the Synod of Otago and Southland (which had a largely Free Church heritage) with those north of the Waitaki River.

Presbyterians had by and large come to New Zealand as settlers from Scotland, Ireland and Australia. Dunedin (founded in 1848) and Waipu (founded in 1853) were specifically Presbyterian settlements, but significant numbers of Presbyterians settled in other parts of the country, including Christchurch, Port Nicholson (Wellington), and Auckland. Ministers came with the first European settlers to Wellington, Otago and Waipu, but generally nascent congregations called ministers from Scotland. Missions to the Māori people focused on the Tuhoe people and led to the establishment of the Māori Synod, now known as Te Aka Puaho.

Ethnic diversity grew after World War II with the arrival of Dutch and European settlers and more recent Pacific Island and Asian migrants. In 1969 the majority of Congregational churches joined the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. The word "Aotearoa" became part of the title of the denomination in 1990, affirming the treaty partnership between the indigenous Māori and the subsequent settlers. As of 2014 PCANZ has 419 congregations.[1]

Debate over ministers in non-marriage relationships

In 2003, the Church decided to allow ministers in sexual relationships other than marriage. This was overturned in 2004, and in a meeting of the General Assembly of the Church on 29 September 2006, this was confirmed by 230 votes to 124 (a 65% majority). This prevents people in de facto or gay relationships from becoming ministers in the church. It does not apply to people ordained before 2004.[2]


The denomination has 30,000 members and 430 congregations and 400 pastors in 2006.[3]

International connections

St John's in the City, Wellington

Breakaway groups

Several groups have broken away from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand because of its liberal theology.

In the late 1940s migrants from the Netherlands settling in New Zealand expected to find their spiritual homes in existing churches of Reformed persuasion, particularly the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Instead they found departures from Reformed doctrine and practice that they could not overlook. A study committee traced the problem to the Declaratory Act of 1901,[4] which made a distinction between the traditional understanding of the Bible as being the word of God and newer view which sees the word of God being contained in Scripture. It was this act which, the committee believed, allowed the Church to accept as office bearers, those who did not believe in a literal virgin birth of Christ (for example) when they subscribed to the Westminster Confession.

As a result, the Reformed Churches of New Zealand were officially established in 1953 at a meeting (synod) in Wellington where churches from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were represented. One congregation in Bucklands Beach in Auckland left the denomination en masse and joined the new Church. Over the years further congregations have been established, and the denomination now comprises about twenty congregations.[5]

One group under George Mackenzie left in the 1960s and formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

Often confused as a breakaway church is Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, which was actually a group of pre-existing independent churches that united into a new denomination. There is sometimes confusion because the church contains a significant number of former members of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand who have sought a more theologically conservative alternative.

Social involvement

The Presbyterian Social Services Association (PSSA) - subsequently known as "Support" - began operating in the early 20th century.[6]


  1. ^ [2]
  2. ^ Collins, Simon (2002-09-29). "Presbyterian Church votes to exclude gay ministers". New Zealand Herald. 
  3. ^ "Presbyterian Church of Aoteroa New Zealand — World Council of Churches". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  4. ^ """It was this section in particular which drew their attention: "That this Church disclaims intolerant or persecuting principles, and does not consider her office-bearers, in subscribing the Confession, committed to any principles inconsistent with liberty of conscience and the right of private judgement. That while diversity of opinion is recognised in this Church on such points in the Confession as do not enter into the substance of the Reformed Faith therein set forth, the Church retains full authority to determine, in any case which may arise, what points fall within this description, and thus to guard against any abuse of this liberty to the detriment of sound doctrine or to the injury of her unity and peace.. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  5. ^ "Reformed Churches of New Zealand Homepage". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  6. ^ Vine, Gillian (December 2006). "Presbyterian Support Otago marks 100 years". Spanz Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-30. At the beginning of the 20 th century, life was harsh in Dunedin for those on the margins. [...] The plight of orphaned and neglected children moved a group of deaconesses, headed by Sister Mary McQueen, to open a series of children's homes under the banner of Presbyterian Social Services Association (PSSA), now Support. 

External links

  • Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand - website
  • Presbyterian Youth Ministry - website
  • St Andrew's on The Terrace, Wellington (Progressive and inclusive community) - website
  • Reformed Churches of new Zealand
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