The work of the Reverend James Buller in the Methodist Church of New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The tapestry of history is composed of myriad threads and colours, each of which must be examined separately before the finished pattern can be rightly understood. While any biography is necessarily very limited in scope, and by centering in one individual tends to distort the ordinary pattern of human relationships and the relative importance of men and events, it nevertheless provides a valuable insight into the interaction of circumstance and human character, which is the basis of all history. This study seeks to show the work of a Wesleyan minister during critical years in the establishment of his church, and to examine his connection with and influence upon Wesleyan development. It is a study of personality, and of the growth of a church whose contacts with Maori and European have been extensive. An examination of the past achievements and weaknesses of that church is not only full of interest, but can throw considerable light on its present position and problems. Trustworthy fact is the essential pre-requisite for any reliable historical interpretation or study, and considering the absence of any accurate and well balanced account of the events outlined in this thesis, it has seemed advisable to make it more factual than might otherwise have been necessary. To avoid the inaccuracies, if not grave errors, of most secondary sources, extensive use has had to be made of existing primary material and in this there are regrettable gaps. The Wesley Historical Society in England has been unable to provide any additional material; an advertisement for information in the British “Methodist Recorder” brought no response; the Mitchell Library in Sydney harbours no documents unavailable in New Zealand; and the Buller family owns no private papers. In the library of Trinity College in Auckland there lie many manuscripts, but probably few relevant to this thesis, and all uncatalogued, unsorted, and often packed securely away. It is to be hoped that this valuable material will soon be made available for study. The originals of the Wesleyan Missionary correspondence, which have been extensively used in the first half of this thesis, were sent to New Zealand from England a few years ago, were hastily typed here and never corrected. Thus the copies are full of mistakes of greater or less consequence. It is also understood that some letters had “disappeared” in England before their value was recognised. Such research as has been done for this thesis has served to suggest many more questions than can possibly be satisfactorily answered in so limited a scope, and yet all of which have their interest and importance. Yet is not this call to continue following after truth part of the challenge of history?