Story: Interdenominational Christianity

Christian churches in New Zealand have a long history of cooperating with each other – sometimes through necessity, but usually with a common purpose. Interdenominational organisations include well-known aid agencies such as World Vision, and youth organisations such as Boys’ and Girls’ brigades.

Story by Peter Lineham
Main image: Jesus March, 1972

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Shared churches

In 19th-century New Zealand, several Christian churches, or denominations, often built a church to share between them, as in many places their individual congregations were small. The different denominations, such as Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist, would take turns to run the church service.

Interdenominational organisations

There were several organisations, including the British and Foreign Bible Society, which raised money to distribute bibles and religious literature.

The United Māori Mission was set up in 1936, and later became the Māori Evangelical Fellowship.

Social issues

Interdenominational organisations became involved in social causes, including:

  • temperance – campaigning against drinking or selling alcohol
  • pacifism
  • overseas aid.

Youth work

Youth organisations with a Christian basis included Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Brigade, Scouts, Guides, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

New Zealand state schools are secular, but from 1997 religious education programmes have been taught in some primary schools. There are interdenominational organisations in schools and universities, though these have declined in recent years, as New Zealand has become more secular.

Councils of Churches

In 1941 the National Council of Churches (NCC) was founded by seven Protestant denominations. In 1989 it was replaced by the Council of Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand, and included the Catholic Church. However, it closed in 2005.

Evangelical Christianity

Evangelicalism is the movement to attract new followers through a personal, ‘born again’, experience of religion. Evangelists from overseas have visited New Zealand, including Billy Graham, from the US, who had large crowds at his meetings in 1959. Evangelical missionary work included Missions to Seamen and Open Air Campaigners.

Charismatic movement

The charismatic movement, which began in the 1960s, emphasised gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy and healing. In the 21st century some of the largest churches in New Zealand are charismatic. These ‘mega churches’ have congregations of up to 5,000.

How to cite this page:

Peter Lineham, 'Interdenominational Christianity', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 July 2018)

Story by Peter Lineham, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Feb 2017