The history of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has seen significant movements of congregations coming into the Church, enriching its culture, enlarging its understanding of the Gospel and contributing to its life. That process continues. Sometimes local congregations that have grown up without a denominational label also consider becoming part of the Presbyterian Church.
Why would one want to do that? What would it look like to consider such a move?
People coming from different traditions or exposed to other denominational identities want to know how Presbyterians are similar and different. Often, but not always, people today are not so concerned about denomination - their identification is with the congregation - but they still want to know that their theology and style of worship is compatible and how the Presbyterian system works. They want to know what the framework is for handling disputes when things go wrong.
1. An independent fellowship may not want to remain on its own. Small groups have freedom, but they may also feel vulnerable. Obviously this is a decision for the group itself. Being part of a Presbyterian Church offers support in governance, in leadership training and settlement, and in congregational troubleshooting. It is a church in which due process is important, but which recognises that those processes need to adapt to changing times.
2. People share in the mission of the church with others by being part of a regional and national body with international links.
3. Presbyterianism is a Reformed church, theologically in the tradition of the Swiss French and Scottish Reformers (particularly Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin and Knox), lead by teaching and ruling elders with a governance system of regional courts. The word Presbyterian refers to rule by elders and the system of organisation involving presbyteries.
4. Presbyterian Churches affirm the integrity of local identities, sometimes cultural, often in terms of style of worship, theological emphasis and spiritual tradition.
Why study Presbyterianism
including the 2008
Book of Order on
What becoming a Presbyterian Congregation means
That the congregation
shares in the Reformed Christian faith and identifies
itself as part of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, and of
the Presbytery of the region where it is located.
The name may reflect connection to the local community, but it should also indicate that it is part of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. It may also state the name of the Presbytery to which it belongs. A congregation may also identify with other recognised Presbyterian bodies and groups including Synods and Councils.
That the ministry leadership
be acceptable to and recognised by
the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and be willing to sign
as is done by all ministers coming into new appointments.
That the congregation
in the Presbytery and General Assembly through its minister and Presbytery
elder or appointed Parish Council member, and share in the mission
of the wider church, including in its costs of administration, and
That the congregation
contribute to the
Presbytery and General Assembly budgets on the same basis as other parishes.
That the minister and
congregation share in the mutual accountability
of the wider Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
That the congregation will help
fellow Christians grow in their understanding of what Christian
faithfulness means in our time and place
That the eldership consider carefully what is involved
in their responsibilities and receive support and training in
That there is a process of discernment for the congregation as a whole, not just its leadership.
Points of clarification
We have a Book of Order to say how we are organised, the Directory for Worship previously called the Book of Common Order or of Common Worship - think of “order of service”), to guide how we may worship, and the Westminster Confession, as a statement of belief. Ministers and elders relate to these documents by signing the Formula (in the light of the "Declaratory Act"), which says they accept these documents with the proviso that they do not have to agree with things in the Westminster Confession that are not part of the fundamentals of the Reformed faith.
We have a mission to plant viable worshipping congregations and to share in God's mission to the community in teaching, evangelism, social justice and pastoral care. We have strong links with overseas churches and facilitate the support of mission globally. We affirm individuals and congregations involved with responsible mission groups internationally.
We seek to be a safe space. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has been concerned to develop robust procedures for handling issues of sexual misconduct, including the abuse of women and children. Presbyterian congregations need to be willing to be compliant with these procedures and provisions and others that may be developed.
If a present leader is in good standing with his or her church, then Presbytery would want to confirm that the congregation wished them to continue in leadership, and that their call to the congregation be confirmed. Ministers may be either nationally ordained and available to call by other congregations, or locally ordained which is geographically restricted. A person's training and ordination credentials are assessed prior to transfer into the PCANZ through a process. Some further training and orientation the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is usually required.
Present and future ministers have to adhere to the requirements for supervision and for certificates of good standing. The terms of call (ie the terms of the "employment contract")have to be approved by Presbytery and meet minimum requirements.
All parishes are visited by Presbytery from time to time in
order to audit their ministry
and mission or to work with the congregation on particular issues. This is a normal and accepted part of congregational life. The presbytery
has authority, but this is exercised with care and respect for the particularity
of congregations provided they are safety-compliant, economically viable, and responsible. These visitations
are normally conducted on a peer-review basis.
During periods when the congregation may be without a minister, the Presbytery will appoint an interim moderator to chair leadership meetings and congregational meetings and conduct communion and baptism. A joint parish-presbytery committee processes potential candidates for consideration by the congregation and recommendation to presbytery.
We seek to share equitably the costs of being regional and national and supporting ministry training. Ownership of property is held nationally and issues involved when different parties have contributed historically to the building of church facilities need to be identified and worked through carefully.
Historically, embryo congregations in process of development are usually part of a larger viable congregation until they are capable of operating on their own.