New Zealand Methodists and church union : an historical and sociological survey
Thesis DisciplineReligious Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis discusses Church Union, or ecumenicalism, with special reference to the Methodist Church of New Zealand. It approaches the subject from two different viewpoints. First, by means of an historical survey of both the reunion of Methodism and the Church’s subsequent involvement in wider union negotiations. Second, by an analysis of a sociological survey, in which Methodist participants in the 1972 referendum on the “Plan for Union” were asked to respond to questions relating to their referendum vote. Central to the thesis is a critical evaluation of conclusions made by Robert Currie in Methodism Divided, which is an historical survey of the causes of Methodist division and reunion in England. Because Currie sees English Methodism as a “microcosm of Christianity”, he believes his conclusions have “considerable general relevance” or ecumenicalism. The thesis argues that if Currie is correct, then, given the heritage, history, and general social environment, of New Zealand Methodism, the validity of his conclusions ought to be confirmed in this instance. New Zealand Methodist history appears to give some, albeit qualified, support to Currie's conclusions. But how does the ordinary Church Member view these conclusions? The respondents to the survey (the survey was processed at the University of Canterbury Computer Centre) indicate that his conclusions have limited relevance for New Zealand Methodists. In particular, his emphases on numerical decline, and conflict between the ministry and the laity, in relation to ecumenicalism, appear to be relatively unimportant for the majority of respondents. Consequently, it may be that the historical method, necessarily employed by Currie in dealing with events in the past, is unable to reflect accurately the views of ordinary Church Members. If so, then Currie's belief that his conclusions have “considerable general relevance” for ecumenicalism needs reappraisal.