The stage has been set for the election of a new leader for Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Maori Anglican Church.
The 2017 session of Te Runanganui – the biennial synod of the Maori Church – will convene at Whakatu Marae in Nelson on the late afternoon of Thursday, September 7, and run through till Sunday afternoon, September 10.
By far the weightiest task before its 130 members is the nomination of a successor to the late Archbishop Brown Turei as Pihopa o Aotearoa, or Bishop of Aotearoa.
Te Runanganui will spend the first half of its time as an electoral college, and Archbishops Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua have appointed Archbishop-emeritus John Paterson – who has a long connection with Te Pihopatanga and is a fluent te reo speaker – as commissary, or overseer, for that college.
Archbishop John will deliver his charge to the college, during the kauhau, or sermon, at Thursday evening’s karakia, and he’s expected to reflect on the responsibilities of Te Pihopa o Aotearoa, and on the hopes and dreams invested in that office.
The college’s legal adviser will then outline the process to be followed during the electoral college – and Archbishop John will then invite the five Maori bishops to present their vision statements for each of their Hui Amorangi.
These vision statements will, in effect, also serve as candidate statements – because, according to legal advice sought by Archbishop John, only a bishop within an amorangi can be considered for nomination.
In other words, there are only five possible candidates – Bishops Kito Pikaahu, Ngarahu Katene, Don Tamihere, Muru Walters and Richard Wallace – and not all of these five are expected to allow their names to go forward for Friday’s balloting.
Assuming the college makes a nomination, that name will then be conveyed to Archbishop Philip Richardson. He will contact all the other bishops who, by canon law, must agree to the nomination.
Assuming, too, that their assent is a formality, the members of General Synod will then be polled to see whether they too assent – and if the candidate gets the thumbs up from both groups, the archbishops will declare that person elected.
Should all go to plan, the announcement of the next Pihopa o Aotearoa is expected to be made within two weeks of the nomination.
Archbishop John has asked that Anglicans uphold the election in their prayers:
“I believe it would be good if the whole church prayed for Te Runanganui of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. They are about to consider the nomination and election not only of a very significant leader for Maoridom, but of a primate, an archbishop who must represent this church on the national and international stage.”
Thursday’s powhiri and evening karakia will be held at Whakatu Marae. The remaining
sessions of the college, and the later business sessions of Te Runanganui, will be held in Nelson’s Trafalgar Events Centre.
 Each of the five Hui Amorangi has 26 representatives – lay, clergy and a bishop – giving a total of 130 voters.
 Which includes nine years’ (1978-1987) service as Secretary of Te Pihopatanga.