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19 Responses to NZ born population drifting away from church

  1. TainuiTony says:

    Kia ora tatou.

    No surprises here really.

    As a baby boomer I can confirm this trend personally although in my case I saw no need to leave the church as such.

    I don’t think it is true that New Zealanders dislike organised religion as much as they dislike dishonesty. Kiwis have always been able to detect credibility weakness in the behaviour of individuals in leadership positions in the church.

    Back in the 90s I remember turning up to my local parish church to see the non-Samoan parish priest decked out in Samoan chiefly dress walking up and down with a misjudged sense of his own importance behaving in a way that is culturally insulting to the people.

    I remember saying to my wife on that occasion that I doubted whether the children of these parish families would tolerate that sort of behaviour.

    It reminded me of the way that we, in the 60s, rejected the bizarre power-behaviour of the parish priests and many simply walked.

    Kiwis have been walking ever since because they do not accept the clericalism of priests as credible or desirable.

    It is not good enough for a representative of the clerical leadership group to cite the “Kiwi drift” phenomenon once more and to again fail to name clericalism as the primary driver of the intergenerational rejection of the church by Kiwis who have been born in New Zealand.

  2. Br. Kieran Fenn FMS says:

    Thank you for your comment Tainui Tony. You are reversing the question of why people leave the Church to why the Church does not attract people. So many issues come to mind. Should we not celebrate those that remain? Every one of us has been blessed by God with the gift of faith, to find our journey to God in the context of Catholic Christian faith. Those who have grown through the encouragement gained through Vatican II but barely touches today's youth – despite the attempts of those in power who sought to stifle the vision – again clericalism in high places.

    Most encouraging is the witness of the lives of priests and religious who are not tainted with the curse of clericalism, called by Pope Francis 'the cancer of the Church'. There are more positives than negatives to staying in the Church but until we squarely face the question of why the Church is bleeding its members, why it is not attracting and holding many of its young despite the heroic efforts of so many dedicated and dynamic teachers of Religious Education, people for whom I have the highest admiration. Let us celebrate every young person for whom the faith takes as a rare and wonderful gift of God, for indeed they are!

  3. TainuiTony says:

    Kia ora Kieran
    I appreciate reading your thoughts on the issue of how to work with those who remain with the Church vs those who leave.

    If there was one thing I could wish for regarding change, it would be that we stop talking and start implementing more cooperative models of leadership at all levels of the church.

    This involves limiting the authority of the clergy. That’s the negative side of things for sure. Positively it involves an active promotion of the leadership role of the laity and an acknowledgement of the authority of the lay person at all levels in church life. I believe that those of us who are still “in” have got to get moving with this and develop lay capacity and self confidence.

    There are clerics who support this direction. However they find it hard to reform a system that defines the scope of their authority as pretty near absolute.

    The importance of this type of reform can’t be overstated when considering the role of parents in their children’s religious education. As a father this is particularly important to me. If a father has a healthy and life giving sense of his role in the life of the church, he can be himself and grow positively in the spiritual life in the immediate and wider family. This eliminates the need for a dualistic approach, i.e. living your life in response to our baptismal call and battling male clericalism in the institutional church in order to maintain integrity.

    If this development took place it would have an important spinoff for the work of the DRS and teachers at schools. Action to develop collaborative relationships and productive working together could mean that what is taught principally in our schools and churches is the same as our practice in those places. This would be attractive not only to those still “in” but also to those who left but still have a faith and a spirituality that is part of who they are.

  4. Br. Kieran Fenn FMS says:

    I completely agree. The Church is the whole people of God. Clergy and religious come from families and their lives are for families – otherwise their lives make no sense. Pope Francis is fighting a brave battle to ensure that clergy have the smell of their sheep on them. Some seminaries are speaking of at last having seminaries that reflect the pope's wishes. At times I wonder if the so-called 'vocations crisis' is God's way of calling for a different Church.

    A clear clarion call from the Pope has been in the area of family life. It is interesting to reflect that in the early Church. Infant Baptism seems to have come into Church practice for the children of faith-filled parents. Not that we should ever stop the practice because there is always avenues for God's gifts. I often reflect on that initial process in the Church. Adults went through a process of Conversion-Instruction-Baptism. Today we do just the opposite in most cases; Baptise-Instruct-and hope to God some conversion process will take place in which young people meet Jesus Christ and wish to make him an essential part of their life. When it happens, God's gift works through good parents and teachers as well as a Church that is alive and touching in to the deepest needs of young (and old) people. All of this is not clergy, religious or laity but church together in action.

    • EllieJo says:

      While I agree in essence with some of what has been expressed, nevertheless I respectfully suggest very strongly that these are peripheral matters which, because of that, are wasted energy. What we need to do, with all our baptised, is to bring each person into the fullness of Life in the Holy Spirit. That experience is/will be a true ‘heart transplant’ and will then give life to all our evangelisation.

  5. Clarice.S says:

    Well certainly women are leaving the church in droves. Why wouldn't they? Girls need female role models. Girls see only men in positions of authority, preaching to them/at them. Why wouldn't they ask "why is this?" "Why am I not, reflected on that pulpit?". Why would they stay?

    • Lynda says:

      The Anglican Church has ordained women. They are everywhere to be found at the altar but sadly the Church continues to have declining attendance.

      I would have to question the object of faith of anyone who left the Church's worship of the Holy Trinity on the basis that they didn't see themselves 'reflected on that pulpit'.

      Surely it is Christ that we follow and Christ that we seek.

      Christ didn't call women to be Apostles and it is Christ who receives us at the altar.

      • TainuiTony says:

        Women have priovided sensational leadership in parts of the Anglican Church. Interesting that Kieran Fenn poses the question about the crisis in vocations being a call from God via Francis for new church.

        • Lynda says:

          Its hard to shore up an argument for women priests on the experience of the collapse of Protestant mainline Christianity.

          God's call is always about fidelity. It is Christ who chose the twelve after the night in prayer to the Father. Bearing in mind Christ's openness to women which was remarkable at that time it seems also interesting that He chose men as His Apostles.

          There is no getting around it that is Christ's call.

          It is Christ we follow and not the times.

  6. David says:

    The Catholic ‘kiwi’ drift stems partly from a collapse in the Irish Catholic parish structures, the sodalities, rosary groups and tennis clubs etc which many Irish Catholics identified with.

    However the 1960’s were, well different.

    Bossy Irish Catholic priests were in fact much loved by large sections of the parish congregations.

    Most of that is all gone for a whole lot of reasons and our parish majorities are now newer migrant Catholics.

    The Kiwi drift cannot be said to have one particular cause.

    Drift is simply part of the faith journey where we encounter deserts in our faith lives.

    The cross quietly removes our unrealistic faith expectations. Parish, family and school are great for launching faith lives but when you become a grandparent you begin to understand that God’s love is greater than cancers, crimes, egos and taxes and whether you are born in New Zealand or elsewhere.

    • Pete says:

      Maybe there is something in this about a rich men getting through the eye of a needle. God and wealth are not easy bed fellows.

  7. Lynda says:

    I think the drift is complex as David says.

    The culture is obstructive to proposals of truth and reality. At the same time it offers freedom only as an arbitrary freedom which is false and disorientating as regards human hearts seeking love and goodness. Happiness is posed as the personal power of choice and not in that which is chosen as good in itself and consistent with truly good human actions. In this way the Church is received as an oppressive power restricting human freedom.

  8. Br. Kieran Fenn FMS says:

    It was once cynically stated that "The Church is an institution supported by the wives of its members." Even to this day one easily observes a gender imbalance is frequent. Much of my teaching life has been on the topic of the Women of the Bible, a paper I brought into Auckland University and one I have just finished presenting to young religious in Fiji. Scripture does help transform tradition. Several women on the AUC course told me that doing it kept them in the Church.

    Culture shapes practice and Jesus had no option but to choose twelve male apostles. Paul, in the expectation of the imminent return of Jesus, could name as deacon and apostle, Phoebe and Junia, and as household heads, Lydia, Chloe, and Nympha. The restrictive texts of the Pastoral Letters (which the majority of scholarship sees as coming from a later source that Paul himself) present a church accommodating itself to the Roman Empire in its attitude to woman. Times change and so should practices.

    From the Church Fathers we learn that right theology leads to right practice. Ordination emerges as ministry through our Baptism. I am waiting to hear a convincing explanation of the difference between my Baptism as a male and the Baptism of a female. Quite honestly the issue is the acceptance by the community. When Pope John Paul II asked the Catholic Biblical Association if there was anything in Scripture that opposed the ordination of women he received the answer from Bishop Richard Sklba, "No," So stop using Scripture as an argument and place the responsibility squarely where it lies.

    • Lynda says:

      I have difficulty with this notion,

      "Culture shapes practice and Jesus had no option but to choose twelve male apostles."

      The statement that culture shapes practice can't be acceptable in all things.

      But mostly, I don't know how one can claim to know the mind of God; that is to know that Jesus had no option but to choose twelve male apostles.

      Jesus as Lord was sovereignly free in all that He did in calling the Apostles. He was and is not constrained by history or culture in His Divine Plan being the Lord of history and the Lord of the Church.

  9. Br. Kieran Fenn FMS says:

    Take the obvious reason Jesus chose twelve male disciples. They were representative of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, all named after the sons of Jacob. No. There was no tribe of Dinah. From Matthew it is evident that Jesus first saw his mission as to the renewal of Israel. When the apostolic group fell to eleven with the defection of Judas, then the Twelve had to be made up. The group were even promised the right to judge the Twelve tribes of Israel on twelve thrones.

    Culture, religion, history and tradition all played their part in Jesus' choice of the Twelve. You are correct, Lynda, in the assumption that God is in charge of history. But God works through history. Wasn't the choice of Matthias elected as 'one who accompanied the group from the time of the baptism of Jesus and was a witness to the Resurrection' (Acts 1:21-22)? Yet the women who meet bath these qualifications (see Mark 15:40-41 and the Resurrection stories of every Gospel) were overlooked.

    The incarnation meant entering the culture and religious beliefs and practices of the people of Israel. It is only through his passion, death and resurrection that Jesus became Lord of history.

    • Lynda says:

      We seem to be getting away from the original subject of drift from the Church.

      I appreciate your insights on Scripture.

      I do love the subject of Jesus and the twelve tribes of Israel – the connection. I came across it through Brant Pitre, 'Jesus, The Tribulation and the End of the Exile'.

      However, I would need more clarification on this statement,

      "It is only through his passion, death and resurrection that Jesus became Lord of history."

      The assertion 'It is only through…' is problematic and could be given an Arian interpretation? Rather I would say that Jesus is Lord of history as Jesus is our Lord and Creator. The Incarnation, Death and Resurrection was the time in history when His Lordship was revealed to us as the way of our Redemption.

      The absolute limit of history is time. Time is part of the created order. Jesus is before all things and our Creator. Creation is through him –

      The decisions of Christ in scripture on his choice of male Apostles is something that can't be changed. This can't be reduced to culture, history etc. Jesus' choice is consistent with a Christocentric reading of creation and Redemption and all that it means which is disclosed as nuptial; it is all this that Scripture and Tradition have consistently upheld. It is this infusion of nuptial mystery which forms the created order and transcends into the order of Redemption that points to union and the profusion of life etc. The world created and redeemed is a wedding! It is the relationship of the created order and the order of Redemption that the Church cannot simply reorder according to any cultural preference. Nuptial mystery also reveals Christ as male as not arbitrary but consistent as Lord of history. We are the Bride called to union.

      It seems to me that it is not women who are unrepresented in the deep realities of the Faith but rather lay men. But there are insights here too….

      There is so much on the subject that could be said…

  10. TainuiTony says:

    Oops I have been a bit out of the loop.

    Seems to me that there is something different going on with this notion of “Kiwi drift”. I recognise the legacy of the Irish priest contribution both good and bad. However does the drift represent anything new or not?

    I think we are shifting away from some of the negative aspects of ecclesial hierarchy and engaging with a theology that is more integrated with cultural and religious difference worldwide. It’s significant to me that the impetus for ecumenical activity is these days in the hands of the laity as the professionals can’t seem to move relationships forward beyond handwringing about how deep the pain of separation is and has been etc etc.

    I see us conecting with the work of Teilhard de Chardin once more and his notion that we are on an evolutionary journey towards Christ who reveals the reality of God throughout the created order of which we are but one part. I see us beginning to write a new story of our relationship with the world around us especially our relationship with the non-human communities that exist. I welcome the leadership of Pope Francis on these matters principally through Laudato Si.

    Is this an evolving story about a new church or a new story about an existing church? Perhaps the debate about that does not matter. What is important, for me at least, is to discern the nature of the shift going on, to assess its dimensions and then to make a contribution. My question, as always, is who’s up for that?

  11. Kieran says:

    One could engage in a discussion of what strictly Arianism is: the assertion that Christ is divine but not actually God – a lesser kind of divinity and the Son was not eternal but came into being when the Father begot him. Where I am coming from is the teaching of the document on Revelation and the Historical Truth of the Gospels, the three stages of the transmission of the Gospels which clearly states that the divinity of Jesus was only recognised by people after his death. That the kenosis statement of Paul in Philippians 2 has to be taken seriously or we have a divine figure pretending to be human.

    I once heard a Monsignor telling a Confirmation class that when Jesus worked miracles he was switching on his divinity; when he wept he switched on his humanity – a travesty of the incarnation. Interpretation of Scripture has t be guided by our highest Biblical authority, the Pontifical Biblical Commission. How poorly understood the three stages are.

    What alarms me is to hear of people who have left our Church to go to another. How right Pope John Paul II was in his assertion that one of our greatest needs was adult education! How sad it is t hear the complaint that other churches offer better Scripture.