Bishop Matthews: Church first cousin to a museum or a place of worship?


“Is the church called to be the first cousin to a museum or is it the place for the worship of a living God?

“To reinstate a very damaged building, so people can say ‘we like the outside of it’, seems to me somewhat misdirected.

“I wonder what an empty cathedral would be an icon of.”

The retiring Anglican bishop of Christchurch New Zealand, Victoria Matthews put these question last year in an interview on National Radio’s Checkpoint programme.

Matthews asked tough moral and theological questions that few in the secular world ever had to confront until earthquakes changed everything in Christchurch, according to an editorial in the Christchurch Press.

She asked how a church should serve its public, what its buildings are for and what its priorities should be.

In announcing her resignation Matthews said, “I’m not retiring and I’m not in ill health, I am merely following where my Saviour is leading me, wherever that may be.”

The cathedral debate has been so dominant that Matthews’ emphasis on community work and social justice has often been overlooked.

She said in 2008 that “it’s all too easy in the First World to live in isolated splendour and I would like every Anglican to be deeply aware that they are brothers and sisters to people living in extraordinarily bad circumstances in other parts of the world”.

A multimillion-dollar youth hub to address a rise in Christchurch youth homelessness and mental health issues is on the cards after years of battling to get the project off the ground.

Anglican Care, the Anglican Church’s social service agency, stepped in to help last year and bought the old bowling club site on Salisbury St in central Christchurch for $4 million.


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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