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Presiding bishop experiences manaakitanga – hospitality – of New Zealand province

[Anglican Taonga] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori arrived in Auckland on June 25 to begin an informal weeklong visit to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Jefferts Schori arrived on a day of persistent, heavy rain, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of some 60 people, including archbishops William Brown Turei and David Moxon, who took part in the powhiri -- a Maori welcoming ceremony -- at the College of St. John the Evangelist.

The presiding bishop was clearly among friends who were determined that she should experience manaakitanga -- a Maori word meaning hospitality -- on her arrival in the country.

Moxon said the New Zealand church had benefitted from three decades of Episcopal Church generosity and hospitality.

Many in the room had personally benefitted, he said, from the higher education they'd received at American universities and Episcopal Church-affiliated seminaries; and when Jefferts Schori had been the bishop of Nevada, he'd been a guest in her own home.

Moxon said the powhiri for the presiding bishop was a gesture of appreciation, a reciprocal token, a small underlining of the bonds of affection that link Anglican provinces. He also said he looked forward to taking part in discussions with her on "a wide range" of issues.

Jefferts Schori thanked Moxon for the welcome, and the New Zealand church for what she said are two gifts to the wider Anglican world: the New Zealand Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, which she said is treasured far beyond these shores; and the three-tikanga model of church governance, which she said is important to the wider communion.

The province encompasses three tikanga or cultural streams: Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Its 1992 constitution provides for three partners to order their affairs within their own cultural context. Thus the province developed a three-person primacy. Moxon and Turei are two of three co-presiding bishops who serve as spiritual leaders of the New Zealand church. Bishop Winston Halapua of Polynesia is the third.

The formal recognition of autonomous cultures within the one body, Jefferts Schori said, could be more significant than is yet realized.

Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, Episcopal Church canon to the presiding bishop and primate, participated in a two-hour forum to discuss Anglican Communion affairs, including the proposed Anglican Covenant, and the pros and cons of local ministry.

The Anglican Covenant, which has been sent to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration, was first recommended as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints, especially on human sexuality issues and biblical interpretation. Some Anglicans, including Jefferts Schori and the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant being used as an instrument of control, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.

During the forum New Zealand clergy present expressed little enthusiasm for the covenant, particularly where section 4 is concerned. Some spoke of their suspicion at the "colonizing" effect a covenant could have, saying it was like the mother country demanding a retying of the apron strings.

Some women clergy suggested that if a covenant had been in place 40 years ago, it could have been used to quash women's ordination.

On Sunday, June 27, Jefferts Schori preached at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland and during Evensong at St. Michael and All Angels in Christchurch about the gift and responsibility of freedom in Christ.

She visited the tiny chapel at Te Hepara Pai in Christchurch, the spiritual home of Maori Anglicans in the South Island.

Although it is not customary for women to sit on the paepae (bench) and speak on the marae (sacred area of cleared land), Bishop John Gray of Aotearoa (South Island) invited Jefferts Schori to do both -- and she spoke briefly of her long-held desire to visit New Zealand, and expressed gratitude for her welcome.

Sunday was a sodden day in Christchurch, and on their way from the car park to Whakaruruhau, people had dodged around the puddles and brushed past the weeds of a small, vacant site where Gray told Jefferts Schori he planned to build his cathedral.

It clearly won't be as big, say, as Southwark Cathedral in London, he said. "But in my cathedral," he told her, "you can wear your mitre," referring to Jefferts Schori's June 13 visit to Southwark Cathedral in London, where she carried her mitre, or bishop's hat, rather than wear it at the request of staff at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

While in New Zealand, Jefferts Schori is also scheduled to participate in three informal gatherings and discussions.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia covers 106,000 square miles and includes nearly 600,000 baptized members in nine dioceses throughout the countries of New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. The province was established as an autonomous church in 1857.

Following her visit to New Zealand, Jefferts Schori will head to Australia. She will preach July 4 at Christ Church St. Lucia in the Diocese of Brisbane, where Archbishop Philip Aspinall of the Anglican Church of Australia serves as bishop.

Before leaving the United States, Jefferts Schori said her intention in visiting New Zealand and Australia was "to speak with people there about their conversations around human sexuality and also about their missionary development work -- not in the sense of finances but in the sense of leadership development and theological education."

Addressing the Episcopal Church's Executive Council meeting in Maryland June 16-18, she said, "We're also going to have a conversation about the work that they're doing around the Millennium Development Goals, and obviously our relationships within the Anglican Communion."

Moxon said recently that the presiding bishop's visit to New Zealand would be low-key and informal.

"Last year the presiding bishop told us that she was planning a visit to Australia, and she asked us then whether she could stop over en route in New Zealand … Reciprocal visits between provinces are a normal part of our Anglican way of life, and we want to extend the appropriate hospitality to the presiding bishop."

Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church's program officer for public affairs, said the trip, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, is all about building relationships.

-- Lloyd Ashton is media officer for the Anglican Taonga. Matthew Davies, editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service, contributed to this article.


Copyright © 2011 Episcopal News Service