After a long period of gestation, a new ecumenical body has been born in New Zealand. Representatives of the Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches gathered in Wellington on the 25th February 2016 for the inaugural meeting of the National Dialogue for Christian Unity. The three churches ratified the constitution, accepted a theological statement on Unity and elected officers of the NDCU. Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson will be chairperson, Rev. Prince Devanandan secretary and Rev. Rex Nathan treasurer. Pat Lythe (Catholic), Anne Mills (Anglican) and Cornelia Grant (Methodist) were elected representatives of the executive committee. The Presbyterian Church and the Salvation Army, both of which sent observers, have chosen observer status at this stage. Student Christian Movement Aotearoa and Christian World Service have requested observer status. This request is under consideration.
The previous ecumenical entity, the Conference of Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand was disbanded ten years ago following a loss of confidence in its life by some member churches. The Rev. John Roberts who facilitated the meeting, traced recent history, and challenged the NDCU not to repeat mistakes of the past. He said that a failure to hold together faith and order issues with concern for social justice was a fundamental weakness of the previous body. John Roberts and Prince Devanandan, successive directors of Methodist Mission and Ecumenical Committee, were thanked for their dedication in seeing through the long negotiations that led to the establishment of the new body. A spirit of hope was evident throughout the meeting together with a resolve devote attention to ecclesiology. The meeting was followed by a service of celebration in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington. The Rev. Dr Presbyterian Church, preached the sermon. Church leaders Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop Philip Richardson and Methodist past President the Rev. John Roberts presided and shared messages from their churches.
The Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga represented the World Council of Churches and brought the best wishes of General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fyske Tveit. The National Council of Churches of Australia was represented by General Secretary Sr. Elizabeth Delaney sgs who had a message of support and encouragement.
World Council of Churches reported on 26 February 2016:
National Dialogue for Christian Unity holds inaugural meeting in Aotearoa New Zealand Anglican, Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand are forming an ecumenical entity to pursue closer ties and share understandings. They held an inaugural meeting for the National Dialogue for Christian Unity (NDCU) on 25 February in Wellington. Participants said they hope that the NDCU will lead to formal ecumenical collaboration among churches and other groups in society that want to work together on issues concerning all New Zealanders. In addition to meeting during the day, participants attended a Service of Celebration at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Wellington. The formal establishment of the NDCU represents a significant and very hopeful development in ecumenical relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand, said Archbishop Philip Richardson, bishop of Taranaki and archbishop of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. “Friendships between churches have been strong, so to give structure and form to these is cause for rejoicing.”
The ecumenical initiative is a sign of a new hope, agreed Rev. Prince Devanandan, director, Mission and Ecumenical for the Methodist Church of New Zealand. “Since the conference of churches was abandoned, nearly a decade has passed,” he explained. “The churches that are committed to Christian unity — Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic — have continued their dialogue to reach this historical moment.” Dr Mele’ana Puloka, World Council of Churches (WCC) president for the Pacific, attended the forum and brought greetings on behalf of the WCC. “Today is a day of celebration. It is a day of hope. It is a day of new beginning. The God of Life is always at work among us; we see this as the National Dialogue for Christian Unity becomes a reality in this inaugural meeting,” states the greeting. WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit will be visiting WCC’s member churches and others in Aotearoa New Zealand in October.
(http://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/national-dialogue- for-christian- unity-holds-inaugural- meeting-in- aotearoa-new- zealand)