Leaders of Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches have launched a new platform for conversation and work together, to be known as the National Dialogue for Christian Unity (NDCU).
Meeting in Wellington on February 25, leaders of the three churches said they hope the NDCU will lead to increased ecumenical collaboration among churches and Christian agencies on issues concerning all New Zealanders.
Church representatives used the day-long meeting to set in motion a new structure for dialogue, before joining in a service of celebration at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington.
'The formal establishment of the NDCU represents a significant and very hopeful development in ecumenical relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand,' said Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
'Friendships between churches have been strong, so to give structure and form to these is cause for rejoicing.'
'The ecumenical initiative is a sign of a new hope,' agreed Rev. Prince Devanandan, director of mission and ecumenical relations for the Methodist Church of New Zealand.
'Since the Conference of Churches was abandoned, nearly a decade has passed,' he explained.
'The churches that are committed to Christian unity — Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic — have continued their dialogue to reach this historical moment.'
The Salvation Army and Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand also took part as observers, while ecumenical organisations Christian World Service and Student Christian Movement Aotearoa turned out in support. Formal dialogue between Maori churches continues through the Maori ecumenical gathering, Te Runanga Whakawhanaunga i Nga Hahi o Aotearoa.
Dr Mele’ana Puloka, World Council of Churches (WCC) president for the Pacific, attended the NDCU forum and brought greetings on behalf of the WCC.
'Today is a day of celebration,' she said. 'It is a day of hope. It is a day of new beginning. The God of Life is always at work among us; we see this as the National Dialogue for Christian Unity becomes a reality in this inaugural meeting.'
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit will visit WCC member churches and others in Aotearoa New Zealand in October 2016.