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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



The Constitution

Autonomy was established on 13 June 1857, when the first Constitution was formulated in the historic St. Stephen's Chapel, Auckland, at a Conference of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity. This first Constitution was revised in 1865 at the third General Synod. Certain of the clauses of the Constitution are termed fundamental and it is not within the power of the General Synod or any diocesan synod to alter, add to, revoke or diminish any of them. Non-fundamental clauses, however, can be altered by General Synod. There is full communion with the Church of England but the ancient see of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Canterbury have no jurisdiction over the Church of England in New Zealand. The Anglican communion throughout the world is held together by common ties and traditions in much the same way as the British Commonwealth of Nations is held together. Under a fundamental clause of the Constitution the management of the affairs of the Church rests with a representative governing body (General Synod) consisting of three distinct orders; viz., the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity, the consent of all orders being necessary to all acts binding upon General Synod or diocesan synods.

The first clause of the Constitution binds the Church to the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and to the Authorised Version of the Bible, and General Synod has no power to make any alteration in these In order to give the Church freedom and to protect the sanctity of trusts of property which is the sole concern of the State, the General Synod promoted a Bill in the New Zealand Parliament in 1928 to give power to General Synod to alter, add to, or diminish the formularies of the Church or to permit the use of any version of the Bible other than the Authorised Version. The result was the passing of the Church of England Empowering Act 1928 under which any person, who feels that the General Synod, in making an alteration, is departing from the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as defined in the Constitution, may appeal to a tribunal which the Act sets up for the purpose. The decision of the tribunal, which consists of the bishops and clerical and lay members appointed by General Synod, is final. In 1958 the General Synod authorised the use in a diocese, with the permission of the bishop of the diocese, of certain parts of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

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