The central North Island hui amorangi (Maori diocese) of Te Manawa o Te Wheke has become the first New Zealand episcopal unit to formally give the thumbs-down to the proposed Anglican Covenant.
It has rejected the Covenant not so much because of the presenting issues, but because it sees the Covenant as a threat to Maori rangatiratanga (sovereignty).
It believes the church in Aotearoa New Zealand should place greater priority on working for the fulfilment of the promises made to Maori in 1840 when New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed.
The Treaty was signed by representatives of the British Crown, and the chiefs of the tribes, who represented the tangata whenua (people of the land).
The Treaty, which was framed with significant input from CMS missionaries, guaranteed Maori, “all the rights and powers of Sovereignty”, and “full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries” so long as they wish to keep them.
The promises of the Treaty were almost systematically broken and ignored by settlers throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, so that by the turn of the century Maori were essentially landless, poverty-stricken and in severe decline.
The three-part resolution also includes a clause that says Te Manawa o Te Wheke doesn’t believe the covenant reflects “our understanding of being Anglican in these islands.”
That “understanding” reflects rights gained by Maori Anglicans and cemented into the revised 1992 constitution of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Under the new constitution, Tikanga Maori (the Maori cultural stream of the Anglican church) is a full and equal partner in the affairs of the church, and no decisions can be taken by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia without the consent of its three tikanga partners: Maori, Pakeha and Polynesia.
There is a concern among Maori Anglicans that the proposed Covenant would lead to an erosion of their sovereignty, and a loss of their hard-won partnership rights. They fear, for instance, that they would have no input into disciplinary hearings.
The Manawa o Te Wheke resolution, which was passed at its annual synod at Rotorua at the weekend, will now be considered by the General Synod of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which meets in Fiji in July 2012.
There are five hui amorangi (Maori dioceses) in the province. Each will hold synods this year, and their resolutions on the Covenant will contribute to the final position taken by Tikanga Maori on the covenant at the 2012 General Synod.
The text of the motion passed in the weekend is as follows:
That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke, for the purpose of providing feedback to Te Hinota Whanui/ General Synod, states its opposition to The Anglican Covenant for the following reasons:
- After much consideration this Amorangi feels that The Anglican Covenant will threaten the Rangatiratanga of the Tangata Whenua.
- We believe The Anglican Covenant does not reflect our understanding of being Anglican in these islands.
- We would like this Church to focus on the restoration of justice to Te Tiriti o Waitangi which Tangata Whenua signed and currently do not have what they signed for.
The motion was moved by the Rev Ngira Simmonds, and seconded by the Rev Moana Hall-Smith.