Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Me pēhea e pai ake ai | Improvements

Here is the list of recommendations for organisational and structural change at St John's Theological College proposed by the 2021 Independent Review into the culture of the College.

Arotakenga Motuhake | Independent Review   |  15 Sep 2021

Tūngia te ururoa kia tupu whakaritorito te tutū o te harakeke. 
In order to change, we may need to leave some ways behind.

Kupu whakataki | Introduction 

Our review revealed shortcomings in numerous aspects of the college’s culture and operations. However, we are confident the following 15 improvements can correct these deficiencies. 

We devised them taking into account numerous factors: the complaints about the college and the way it responded to them: the college’s culture, systems and policies; its theological education and ministry training objectives; and the alternative models and strategies discussed in part four. 

Our focus has been on pragmatic solutions. 

The improvements that follow are intended to work as a package. For that reason, we advise against picking and choosing among them. Some measures can be implemented quickly and easily, and some will take longer and require consultation within the college and also with the church. 

Some will require investment in the short and medium term. Some may need outside help because making significant change at a workplace requires expertise that only skilled external specialists can provide. Several improvements, we are pleased to say, are already in the pipeline. 

We are confident the foundations are there for the college to make meaningful change. Crucially, we know the college’s heart is in the right place, and with appropriate support and guidance from the church, and expert help where needed, it will be able to realise its full potential to be a world-renowned college in the South Pacific. 

Whakarite i tē tahi ahurea kotahi mō te whānuitanga o te kāreti katoa | Establish one college-wide culture 

The college – more particularly Te Kaunihera and the manukura – should be empowered to carry out and lead a modernisation of the college culture. Some pockets need more attention than others – particularly Tikanga Pākehā and staff operations. Aided by the results of the culture survey, the college’s leaders are well placed to begin this task. We suggest external assistance to lead culture change. 

This should start with a clear alignment between the college’s board and leadership team about how to respond to our findings, along with preparation of a short, simple implementable plan to improve culture. 

This must be done with the involvement of all who work or study at the college – probably starting with a series of facilitated workshops. 

They are, after all, the ones who experience the culture on a daily basis. Good co-ordination of the various initiatives to change the college’s culture is essential. Many of the improvements detailed below flow into this change, which must be the college’s number one priority. 

Whakatakotoria he tikanga whanonga | Develop a code of conduct 

The college should develop a code of conduct that applies to all those at the college – from top to bottom – as soon as possible. Such a code is essential so everybody knows what standard of behaviour is expected of them, and also so the college – and a human resources officer – has a standard against which to monitor behaviour. Students, staff and faculty members should be involved in setting agreed standards of behaviour. 

Kia whai mana ā-ture te kāreti | Establish a legal status 

The college should be given legal status. The church should take appropriate advice, although two options could be: incorporation as a limited liability company with a constitution or as an incorporated trustee with a modern trust deed. Although tax advice would be required, either structure should allow registration as a charity and be efficient from a tax perspective. 

Other entities within the church, such as the St John’s College Trust Board, have incorporated status, while other theological colleges, such as Carey, Bishopdale and Laidlaw, have a legal status that offers the obvious advantages of clarity of roles and functions and limitation of legal risk. Incorporation of Te Kaunihera, like the St John’s College Trust Board, might potentially make it unnecessary to rewrite Canon II Title E to include detailed provisions to relate to either because their constitutions or trust deeds would deal with such detail. 

Kia noho ko te Kaunihera anake hei mana whakahaere | Make Te Kaunihera sole governor 

Te Kaunihera should be the only board that governs the college. Neither Te Kotahitanga nor St John’s College Trust Board should have any governance role. Canon II Title E would need to be rewritten as a result. 

This would also provide an opportunity to clarify the precise roles of St John’s College Trust Board and Te Kotahitanga (bearing in mind a very different legal landscape exists now compared with that prevailing when the canon was written). 

If the St John’s College Trust Board focused solely on funding-related decisions (along with monitoring the use of its funds), and Te Kotahitanga concentrated exclusively on oversight of the church’s education and training needs, this would create a clean separation between the roles of funder, provider of services, and education and ministry training oversight. It goes without saying that the three boards would need to build strong collegial and collaborative relationships and work together in the interest of the college and the church. 

Special attention should be given to the composition of the Te Kaunihera board – and, we would add, to the make-up of Te Kotahitanga and St John’s College Trust Board. Te Kaunihera needs a stronger mix of governance, financial management, education, human resources and theological expertise and experience. 

Change management experience would also be helpful, at least for a time. More than a few interviewees suggested it be a secular board. Views were divided on whether a bishop should sit on the board. One view was that inclusion of a bishop helped to bring to the board the views of the church and enabled input into the college’s academic programme. Another view was that this could be achieved via the Board of Studies, which already has input into the college’s academic programme. 

One interviewee observed that, more generally, the church needed to “redefine episcopal leadership so it is more about spiritual leadership, not administrative leadership”. This is a decision for the church. All we will say is that, provided the bishop has the requisite governance skills, he or she could have a useful liaison role with other bishops. 

On a similar subject, the college needs to think about appointing a student representative and a faculty member representative to the Te Kaunihera board. 

This is a common feature of some educational institutions. These individuals need not necessarily be board members, but both must be consulted on matters affecting their colleagues and both must be regularly invited to board meetings. 

The canon stipulates that Te Kotahitanga has the role of appointing directors, and that three Te Kaunihera board members be Te Kotahitanga representatives. We have already said it is inappropriate for Te Kotahitanga representatives to sit on the Te Kaunihera board. Pending change to the canon, we suggest Te Kotahitanga agrees not to appoint Te Kotahitanga members to the Te Kaunihera board, and that it consults Te Kaunihera and appoints the people with the right skills to lead transformational change. 

An alternative to Te Kotahitanga making these appointments is for the General Synod Standing Committee to do so. Yet another alternative is for Te Kotahitanga and the General Synod Standing Committee to make the appointments together. Some consistency of board make-up is required. Our suggestion would be to retain at least two of the current board members. There would be immediate vacancies if the three roles filled by Te Kotahitanga were disestablished. 

Some suggested an interim board to lead transformational change. There is merit to the suggestion because some hard work will be required if the college and church decide to implement our recommendations. 

Monthly, not quarterly, meetings will be necessary. If there is resolve to commit to, and get on with, meaningful change, we are not sure this interim step is necessary or desirable (although that does not exclude the option of short-term appointments for some directors to help bring about transformational change). It should be possible to make new appointments quite quickly and allow a reinvigorated Te Kaunihera to lead transformational change without delay. 

Given the importance of the role of governor of the college (and the commitment in time it entails), we suggest the church considers paid appointments. 

As an aside, we suggest the General Synod Standing Committee may want to consider setting up an appointments advisory committee that would make governance appointments to church-related boards. Given the number of such boards, it may be time for the church to appoint people to boards with the necessary expertise to do the job, rather than to represent particular stakeholders. Such a committee could also have a mandate to improve gender diversity on boards. 

Whakatakotoria he mahere rautaki | Develop a strategic plan 

The college must develop a new strategic plan that clearly states its vision, mission (or purpose), values, goals and desired outcomes – in other words, a high-level plan or framework of the sort most organisations formulate so everyone in the organisation understands the strategy and their role in its implementation. 

The desired outcomes should be measurable and provide the basis for monitoring the performance of the college. 

Such a plan would help all those at the college – whether faculty members, staff or students – to truly feel personal involvement in the college’s success, as well inform decision-making at all levels. It would also give the church a clear written understanding of the college’s strategy. 

Involving everyone in creating the plan’s vision, purpose, goals and outcomes would send a strong message to all – both those at, and outside, the college – that serious steps are afoot to build a revitalised college. 

We urge the college to adopt a vision that is pithy and inspiring and has a new long-term focus – not a continuation of the status quo. It must resonate with all at the college and the church and excite faculty members, staff and students to strive to achieve it. It also needs a clear articulation of its kaupapa – the all-important why. 

Exactly who is the college ultimately serving – the church as an institution, the students, the Anglican/Mihinare congregations or all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand? It is far from clear to us – or to many students – what the answer is. 

Plainly, the strategic plan would first require a decision about what model of theological education and ministry training the college should adopt to meet the church’s future needs, and the church would necessarily have a significant role in setting that new strategy as part of Te Pae Tawhiti. However, there appears to be a broad consensus on the future direction of the college within any wider strategy that is ultimately adopted as part of the work associated with Te Pae Tawhiti. 

Nonetheless, we are concerned about a real risk of delay if the college has to wait for the church to decide what model and strategies it should follow before it can begin developing a strategic plan. Such a delay would not be in the interests of students or the church. 

Furthermore, it is likely that involving too many stakeholders would, as more than a few interviewees noted, result in a vision that was anything but pithy and compelling. Rather, it would be a “pureed” vision to accommodate a myriad of competing views, and as such it could mean anything and therefore nothing. 

As Davidson observes, the college has had to contend for much of its history, with “competing visions, parochial politics and differing understandings about the nature of the ministry”.

It is time to put an end to this debilitating tussle. Moreover, there is also the practical matter that senior leaders of the church are simply too busy to get involved in evaluating alternative models and strategies and developing a new strategic plan. Besides, the church still would have the final say on any new strategy. 

We therefore suggest that a common sense and practical process would be for a new Te Kaunihera to: 

• meet, perhaps via a hui (or series of hui), with relevant stakeholders – bishops, ministry bodies, St John’s College Trust Board, Te Kotahitanga, Anglican Women’s Studies Centre and others – to get their views on our options for theological education and ministry training 

• prepare a draft strategic plan with input from all those at the college – students, faculty members and staff 

• work with Te Kotahitanga and the St John’s College Trust Board as the college’s two most important stakeholders to secure their support for the draft plan, taking account of any early themes emerging from the Te Pae Tawhiti work 

• submit the draft plan to either Te Kotahitanga (an option under Canon II Title E) and/or the General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui (when it meets in May 2022) for approval. 

If, as we believe and as outlined earlier, there is reasonably broad consensus about the college’s future role, then it should be possible with collaborative and constructive input to prepare a new plan in the next six to nine months. It can always be adjusted later to fit within the Te Pae Tawhiti strategic framework, although close collaboration now with those involved in that work may minimise the need for any adjustment. 

The college and the St John’s College Trust Board should also start discussions on long-term strategic planning for college accommodation. We were told of a proposal mooted some years ago for the trust to fund modern apartment housing on the campus. This would benefit students and also enable the trust board to sell some of its residential accommodation in Meadowbank, to the obvious financial advantage of the church. The college and trust board could also look at including accommodation suitable for those attending block courses as part of a distance programme. 

Āta tirohia te tūranga o te amokapua | Review the role of dean 

The role of the Tikanga deans needs to be reviewed for the reasons set out in our report. In short, the question is whether the appointment of deans to head each Tikanga is the best way to embed the three-Tikanga structure in the life of the college. 

If the role is to remain, the appointment process should be reviewed. This could happen at the same time as Canon II Title E is rewritten. The manukura alone should appoint deans, although he or she should be required to consult each ministry body on any appointment. The current process impedes the college’s ability to choose the right person, who must be able work collaboratively and effectively with the senior leadership team – a consideration the ministry bodies may not fully appreciate. 

The pastoral component should be removed. It is simply a conflict of roles. A very small number of interviewees said one option might be that deans keep the pastoral role only and lose the roles of teacher and supervisor. But that would be a very costly option. Almost all other interviewees said that what was needed was a chaplain – or a dean of pastoral care. 

Whakatūria he minita motukahe mō ngā ākonga me ngā kaimahi | Appoint a chaplain 

The college should appoint a chaplain or dean of pastoral care ready to begin next year. We are confident that in today’s bi-cultural world it should be possible to appoint a person who can meet the needs of all three Tikanga or at least Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pākehā. 

A small group of additional chaplains could be on call to provide pastoral care where a student wanted, say, a female or Pasefika chaplain to provide pastoral care. The college should consult the ministry bodies but must have the final say. 

We could not do better than recommend what the 1984 review said about the appointment of a chaplain to the college. It said such a person would: 

• be responsible for the welfare – physical, emotional and spiritual – of students and their families 

• respond to the needs of the community 

• lead community events 

• assist with spirituality and worship. 

Those needs remain as true today as they were in 1984. 

In our view, the role is as important as any Tikanga dean role. Indeed, the appointment of the right person would considerably improve the college’s culture and add to the vibrancy of community life. 

A chaplain would also make sure worship at the college fully reflected the diversity of theological beliefs, cultures and gender. And finally, students especially need not be fearful or uncomfortable approaching the chaplain to air grievances or share wellbeing issues. 

We acknowledge the college currently has a chaplain, but her role does not include providing pastoral care. Again, we draw on the 1984 review, which suggested that such a chaplain would need to have good “organisational skills as well as the qualities of warmth, openness and empathy”. 

A chaplain and human resources officer together would, alone, go a long way to addressing the cultural problems we have identified. 

Whakahoutia te rōpū whakahaere mahi | Restructure the operations team 

The college should restructure its operations team (and this is already under way). This would provide an opportunity to reset the team’s culture so it is a safe, healthy, collegial and happy workplace. It would also produce immediate cost savings. 

Administrative costs (staff costs and other overheads) were 38 per cent of total costs in 2020, which is high, even allowing for the extra costs associated with residential services. Cost savings can help fund other initiatives, such as employing a human resource officer and communications advisor. 

This measure is already under way. As part of this restructure, the college and the St John’s College Trust Board should also improve processes for maintenance work. 

Tono kia hōmai he pūtea mō ngā tau maha | Seek multi-year funding 

The college should apply to the St John’s College Trust Board for multi-year funding. It should do this in time for the start of the next financial year. Other colleges – and dioceses – have already taken advantage of the ability, introduced by the board in 2018, to apply for such funding. It should – in discussion with the St John’s College Trust Board – consider applying for either three or five years of funding. Multi-year funding would allow the college to manage its own funds and plan long-term. It would also give the college an incentive to cut costs and use the savings to fund further initiatives. 

The college would report regularly to the St John’s College Trust Board on key performance indicators that the college and the board agree on. It must be fully accountable to the board for use of church funds. 

We note that a new governance structure – along with three or five-year funding – could avoid the current problem of overlapping responsibilities for approving student scholarships. This responsibility should best sit with the college and Te Kaunihera, although there could be real merit in the appointment of one or two independent members to a college scholarship committee to provide a useful outside perspective. That committee could also provide the St John’s College Trust Board with the requisite confidence that the students meet all scholarship – including legal – requirements.


Whakatūria he kaiwhakahaere pūmanawa tangata | Appoint a human resources officer 

The college should appoint – possibly full-time at first and then part-time – an experienced human resources practitioner skilled in people management and culture more widely. This person’s role would be to: 

• help the college with a restructure of the operations team 

• help the college, with assistance from AskYourTeam, to begin a programme of rebuilding the college’s culture 

• work with the college’s lawyers to redraft its complaint policies and implement well-designed and documented processes for handling complaints (see below) 

• triage, and in many cases, handle complaints and avoid escalation 

• establish a register for tracking and monitoring complaints to help discharge the college’s health and safety obligations. 

The independent support officer role should be disestablished once the appointment is made. The college could usefully explore, however, appointing a student from each Tikanga to be available as a support person for students wishing to discuss any matter, including complaints, before going to the human resources officer. 

Other organisations have such support people, and they often have a real and effective role to play because people generally prefer to talk “sideways rather than upwards”, that is, to discuss troubling behaviour with their peers rather than their superiors. It would be important, however, that each of these students had appropriate training for this role. 

Whakatakotoria he rautaki whakawhitiwhiti korero | Develop a communications plan 

The college should appoint a skilled communications advisor (it could be part-time) and prepare a communications plan so all those in the college, and indeed in the church, are kept abreast of plans, decisions, events and so on. 

The college is already taking steps to appoint such a person. 

Good communication is vital to a positive culture. Communication should be simple and clear. Too many of the college’s documents are long and opaque. It should identify the college’s key stakeholders and who within the college would be responsible for communication with which stakeholders (and how often) to streamline engagement and take some of the weight of this work off deans. 

The college and the church must commit to improving communications with each other. 

As part of such a plan, the college should establish an alumnae network, something that is long overdue. It should also consider a regular newsletter – it might be only six-monthly – to this network and indeed all key stakeholders in the church so they are kept regularly informed of college-related developments. Such a newsletter could also help re-establish the networks that so many clergy said they missed when they left the college 

The college should also develop a marketing plan. This would be critical if the college opened up to more non-residential students. 

Whakahoutia ngā kaupapa here | Redraft policies 

One of the first tasks for the newly appointed human resource officer should be to draft, with assistance from the college’s lawyers, a single clear complaints policy applicable to everyone. A draft policy should be the subject of consultation with faculty members, staff and students. 

Such a policy should deal with complaints about bullying, harassment, discrimination and other behavioural matters that might arise (apart from academic complaints, which require a specific process). 

A well-designed complaints policy should be flexible, easy to understand and apply, and have informal and formal resolution processes. It should also allow a person independent of the college to investigate and determine complaints, where necessary. 

We would recommend no appeal by complainants to Te Kaunihera. 

A governance board is not independent, does not necessarily have the skills to investigate and determine complaints, and does not have the time for such a function. The church may wish to review whether the visitor process is appropriate for the same reasons. 

The college must also develop a clear policy for termination of scholarships that is consistent with natural justice and gives students the opportunity to respond to a proposed termination before a final decision is made. Minimum notice periods are also essential. 

Longer term, the college should review its many other policies to significantly reduce their number and make them clear and simple. They should also reflect an implicit trust in the behaviour of those to whom they apply. 

Whakatakotoria ngā paearu me mātua eke i ngā ākonga kia kōwhirihia ai | Set minimum standards for student selection 

The college should set minimum academic and psychological standards for students to meet before they can be considered for admission. The college must interview prospective candidates put forward by their sponsoring bishops. 

The final say on admission should rest with the college after consultation with the sponsoring bishop. Prospective candidates should ideally attend an open day at the college where they can meet faculty members, staff and students. This would also be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the college’s expectations of students, including the covenant they would be asked to sign. 

Whakaaro he whare | Consider a whare 

The college should consider building a whare on the campus. This would be a visible representation of, and commitment to, its three-Tikanga structure and also give Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasefika, we were told by many, a “place of belonging”. The college should consult Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasefika beforehand. 

The idea of a whare, or a marae, has long been proposed, and indeed it is part of the current strategic plan. 

Some consider the idea a “placebo” that does not confront the excessive Western focus of the curriculum, but almost all participants were in favour of it, pointing out that other educational institutions have a whare/ marae. 

A handful of participants queried, however, whether a whare/marae was appropriate, because it would belong to the iwi with mana whenua, and would not be one for all Hui Amorangi and the wider church. 

Given the need for the college to be truly a place of the Province, we think this concern has some substance. These participants considered that what was primarily required was that the college be a “welcoming” and “sharing” place for all Tikanga and that a marae or whare was not the only way to achieve this. 

Their suggestion was that rather, the college look to incorporate various physical representations of both Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasefika on the campus in its various buildings as well as erecting a kuaha and/or pou. 

An option is to follow the approach described to us as “maata waka”, that is a whare representing all peoples of the church. 

A senior church leader told us there were three reasons for favouring this model: “First it would be a whare for the Province – not just one diocese or Hui Amorangi; second, it is a very Māori precedent; and third, it would provide a wonderful opportunity for Māori (and Pasefika) Christian art.” He said such a whare would be one “not just for the campus but the whole Anglican Church/Te Hāhi Minihare”. 

This option will require investment but it would have the added attraction of opening up the campus – which, in our view, is underused – for the benefit of all. And this option might go some way towards balancing the competing concerns, and needs, of both sides of this debate. 

This topic has been debated for many years. It is not for us to decide what is the best visible representation of, and commitment, to the college’s three-Tikanga structure, but it is, in our view, a debate that needs to be resolved once and for all. 

Tīmataria he kaupapa e whakangungua ai ngā wāhine hei kaiārahi | Start a women in leadership programme 

The college should commit to a tangible programme to address gender bias issues. Its faculty needs more women, and its education and ministry training programmes must pay more attention to the needs of women in ministry and, moreover, to train female students so they are well placed to take up senior leadership positions in the future. The college should work with the Anglican Women’s Studies Centre to help achieve this.


Mātauranga me te whakangungu minita | Suggested considerations 

We have recommended no alternative models and strategies since this is a decision for the college and church, although we suggest they take account of the following in making their decision: 

• The college can accommodate all three purposes – education, ministry training and personal formation – provided it is clear about its vision, purpose and goals.

• The composition of the student body should be widened to include those training for lay and clerical ministry, as well as those looking for both theological and vocational education and training. 

• The Diploma of Christian Studies and the Diploma in Anglican Leadership should be reviewed to make them more applicable to lay roles. 

• The formation programme should be reviewed, taking account of the feedback we heard about the need for cross-Tikanga formation, more practical training and an increased focus on liturgy. 

• There should be more focus on indigenous theology, more focus on programmes incorporating te reo and tikanga Māori, and a greater demonstration of commitment to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Mahere whakatutuki | Implementation plan 

We have given the archbishops – who commissioned this review – and the college a step-by-step plan for implementing our 15 recommendations, along with suggested timeframes, should the college and church choose to adopt them. The college and the General Synod Standing Committee may wish to consider appointing a small working group to monitor implementation of the plan to ensure the meaningful change required is brought about both in policy and practice.

To read these recommendations in the context of the review (with all citations and footnotes) you can download the full 40-page review below (these improvements form section five: pages 53-60):