A New Church for a New Century
It is not so much the content of this book that is significant to me, but it’s the story behind the story that I consider worth drawing to the attention of readers.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand was established in 2000 during a period of controversy for the Methodist Church of New Zealand related to conference debates on human sexuality. Over a three year period approximately 1200 members and 20 ministers withdrew from the Methodist Church, with some forming the Wesleyan Methodist Church. While the book chronicles this episode briefly, its main purpose is to show the tremendous growth, range of ministries and impact of one new congregation, namely East City Wesleyan Church in Auckland.
The book is very well produced and illustrated, and contains testimonies of a number of the leaders and office holders in addition to the narrative of church development. For anyone considering writing a church history, this text could serve as an excellent model, and the ten year history of the church helps the book avoid the backward looking stance of too much Methodist history. You get the strong impression that while God has clearly blessed this multi-racial congregation in its first decade, its best days lie in the future. The book also succeeds in giving glory to God whilst acknowledging the many individuals who God has used, something not all church histories manage to do.
Endorsements within the text from church leaders, including World Methodism’s Eddie Fox and Keith Rowe, former President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, help to underline that the book is not representing a group who have narrowly reacted against church decisions. Rather we have the testimony of a community who felt their Methodist home was becoming unfamiliar, and have created a new way to live out their faith and values that resonates strongly with Wesleyan emphases.
Overall, it’s an encouraging story of a group of Christians, committed to sharing the Wesleyan holistic gospel, who had the courage of their convictions and have seen great response and growth. For that alone it’s well worth reading.