• Carol Barron

Te Tiriti O Waitangi

This article was first published in eMessenger in June 2021.

The theme of the Methodist Alliance Forum this year is Te Tiriti o Waitangi - Kaore mā te waha engari mā te ringa - Don’t tell me, show me. We will be looking at how the history of Methodism in Aotearoa is connected to Te Tiriti and how we as Methodist Alliance members have progressed Te Hāhi’s bicultural journey over the last 40 years.

I have found researching the history of the Methodist Church - Te Hāhi Weteriana’s bicultural journey very informative. The special report to Conference in 1993, written by Bruce Gordon from the Tauiwi perspective, about the bicultural journey ten years on, reflected that we need to “work more confidently together in our commitment to power sharing, re-theologising, restructuring, and social justice.”[1] The report noted that the power sharing seminar in 1983 was a “challenging experience that discussed goals and hopes.”[2]

We are now nearly 40 years on from the landmark decision made at the 1983 Conference. Subsequent decisions made over the years to ensure power sharing have been embedded, like consensus decision making and the 4+4 committees.

The Treaty of Waitangi underpins legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand and the principles of partnership, participation and protection are more and more specifically referenced in new legislation and in the way government is working.

As Weteriana, we also have obligations to the same principles of partnership, participation and protection under Te Tiriti. Therefore we need to continue to grow and change the way we work to ensure we honour these principles. The Methodist history of responding to social need and justice, makes us more able to make these changes than other organisations, and more comfortable in advocating for change in our society.

In 1981, Rev Ruawai Rakena posed some big questions including the disproportionate representation of Māori in our prison population, unemployment statistics, and school leavers without qualifications.

Rev Ruawai Rakena asked why Māori made up 46% of the prison population when they are only 8% of the total population.[3] Today, Māori make up 52% of the prison population but only 16% of our total population.[4]

He also asked why 40% of the 50,000 people that were unemployed in 1981 were Māori or other Polynesian.[5] Today, we have 135,000 people unemployed and 26% are Māori and 14% are Pasefika.[6] This totals 40% so there has been little to no progress in addressing these two inequity over the 40 years. So what should our response as Weteriana be to this?

At Conference 2020, the Methodist Alliance asked about the Gospel imperative to be the “Good News to the Poor” and we asked this question of all Synods, Missions, Trusts and Committees. One of the Synods suggested the Micah mandate would be helpful in answering this question.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.

Micah 6:8[7]

These three things are actions, behaviours and attitudes. How we act and think defines how we relate to others.

To “do justice’ is to act justly, which is not confined to judges, politicians, economists – social justice is something we all have responsibility for. Justice includes equality, equity, impartiality, inclusion and diversity. It is not only giving a voice to those that do not have one, but also doing something tangible to address the injustice. It is about being active – finding the inspiration, taking the time to reflect on it, and then seizing the opportunity to transform that inspiration into an action. Acting justly is living a life with integrity, and actively righting the wrongs and inequalities in our organisations, structures and society.

The members of the Methodist Alliance work with people who are marginalised and vulnerable, those people described as “the poor” in the Gospel. These “poor” are the priority for our members as they work with them to identify their needs and how to address them. Our staff and volunteers are being the Good News to the Poor by doing justice, showing loving kindness and walking humbly.

If you would like more information about how you can support the Methodist Alliance, or the Methodist Missions, please contact me.

Carol Barron, Methodist Alliance National Coordinator

[1] Gordon, W, The Bicultural Journey Ten Years on….A Special report to Conference from the Tauiwi Perspective, MCNZ Development Division, 1993, p14. [2] Ibid. [3] Joint Working Committee on Biculturalism, Towards a Bicultural Church, Resource Booklet, Te Hāhi Weteriana O Aotearoa, 1983, p64. [4] [5] Joint Working Committee on Biculturalism, Towards a Bicultural Church, Resource Booklet, Te Hāhi Weteriana O Aotearoa, 1983, p64. [6] [7] New International Version

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