04 Nov, 2019 How to ensure de-colonisation doesn’t become de-Christianisatian

One way to break down New Zealand’s bicultural journey is through the lenses of colonisation. Through these lenses there are three broad periods of time in our bicultural journey thus far – with a fourth to come. These are:

  • Pre-colonisation
  • Colonisation
  • De-colonisation
  • Post-colonisation.

You’ll pick up quickly that we’re in the ‘de-colonisation’ period of our history right now. For example, consider the way the story of Captain Cook is being reassessed. Is his arrival to be celebrated, or was he the front wedge for an evil crusade?


But it’s more than temporary views on Captain Cook that are at threat here. The place of the Church in the public square of our nation is. Here is an explanation – and a direction that I believe is a key part of the solution to this particular threat (though I pray this isn’t our only motive for supporting Treaty values – but instead a sincere desire to seek out what might be right, true and just).


How could we position Christianity to thrive in the post-colonisation era?


#1 – The pre-colonisation period…

This is the time of the early whalers, sealers, traders, missionaries and later settlers. The goal was a working bicultural relationship that benefitted everyone. Māori were in control.  The Treaty was forged – and our nation then tried to work out what the Treaty meant.


…in which Christianity thrived!

Christianity and it’s ways of peace were broadly embraced by Māori, resulting in a significant end to various violent practices. The Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) was largely forged (in terms of its DNA as a Treaty – as compared to what happened in other nations) due to the efforts of the missionaries and their counter-parts in England. (Certainly Māori also recognised the need for The Treaty/Te Tiriti).  By the mid 1800s more than half of all Māori attended weekly church services – though usually in Te Reo Māori, following Tikanga Māori. This was a season of hope.


#2 – The colonisation period…

This is the time during which Te Tiriti was being betrayed. The Pākehā population grew immensely. Pākehā wanted land. Great injustices resulted.


…in which Christianity thrived!

Christianity teaches us to adapt. We are to become ‘all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some’ (1 Corinthians 9:22).


The unity of the Māori Church and the Pākehā Church certainly did NOT thrive, however Christianity as a whole still did. Various denominations came to New Zealand and planted their churches all over the motu. Various Christian organisations came – and did a lot of good work. Consider the YMCA, or the Women’s Christian Temperance Union which stood for greater rights and opportunities for women. Hundreds – and in fact thousands of charities came about, based within Christianity, or at the very least as a product of its broader benevolent worldview.


#3 – The de-colonisation period…

This is the present period within which our nation has faced up to its sins, and created the Waitangi Tribunal to address them. We are working out what being bicultural means. We aren’t just ‘one people’ – even though we also are. We are ‘two peoples who live as one people’ – very much like in a marriage. The independence and autonomy of both people in a marriage is affirmed – while they also become united. This is what Te Tiriti promised. One Government and law – but that didn’t have to infer the undermining of a high level of Māori independence on their lands, certainly including a retention of various cultural practices and values, the language and more.


 Christianity is under threat!

The problem is that our faith has become connected with the ‘colonisation’ period in the mindset of people today. So to de-colonise for some means to de-Christianise!


This is not a fair view – but it might be the current predominant view!

#4 – The post-colonisation period: What will come of the Christian faith?

How could we change this public perspective, which sees Christianity as part of the problem – not the solution?


The core of the answer is very simple: Firstly, as Christians, we must demonstrate through our lives and words the sincerity of our efforts to understand and honour this agreement (Te Tiriti) which was made before God. Our actions, attitudes and words will help to bring a feeling of  peace with the Christian faith which we represent.


But – secondly, we must WORK to make the history of the pre-colonisation period of our history famous!

This is a tangible strategy – and won’t happen by itself!


If we can help our nation to see how the Christian faith thrived in both of the first two seasons – including amongst Māori, the penny might drop that Christianity didn’t bring colonisation. It was distinct from colonisation; including activity against colonisation; but it’s wider voice of the Pākehā church was also eventually subdued by the pressure of the colonisers (the missionary and clergy voice in support of Māori in the face of the land wars eventually fell silent).


The conclusion?

The future isn’t written yet, but public opinion and thought doesn’t just change – it is changed.

If we are wise, we will work to make our pre-colonisation history known – while concurrently admitting our own sins (including inadequately sustained support for Māori from our small-few missionaries and many later-arriving clergy).


What can you, your family and your church do to make this story ‘famous’?

Please discuss this because, if we are to keep ‘Christianity’ from the grips of ‘Colonisation’ in the mindset of our people, every effort is needed. This question needs a tangible answer from you!


Other blogs by Dave Mann on this general topic

(From oldest to newest)


5 self-print bulletin-booklets for your church 

  • Called ‘Then and Now’ – about outreach and our early bicultural story, to give to church members with the bulletin over a 5 week period here (These booklet also encourager support of the Hope Project – which takes some of these stories to the public square).


An easy-to-read option to educate yourself, elders, children’s and youth leaders – and then all members (children, youth and adults)

  • Consider the illustrated novel series: ‘The Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of  Waitangi Series’. These can be found at BigBook.nz. View a blog with displaying some of its endorsements here.


Waitangi weekend sermon outlines (free)

  • ‘Three Treaties’ (Gibeonites, Waitangi and Jesus) from Dave Mann is (word doc) here, with power point here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Leaving a legacy’ – edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc)  here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Joshua and the Treaty (five treatise)’ –  edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc) here


The Te Reo Pulpit Challenge


DAVE MANN. Dave is a creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing, and also being valued, in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and recently coordinated a 5th nationwide multimedia Easter project purposed to help open conversation between church and non-church people about Christianity take place, including regarding the specifically Christian origins of many of our nation’s most treasured values. Dave is the author of various books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room”, and available for free on this site: “The What and How of Youth and Young Adult ministry”. Married  to Heather, they have four young boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.  

Previous Article
Next Article