Story: Ngā hāhi – Māori and Christian denominations

Page 2. Methodist Church

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Methodist missions

In 1822 Methodist missionaries established themselves at Whangaroa in the Far North. As with the Anglicans, Methodist missionaries took some time to move beyond Northland, but eventually spread down the west coast of the North Island. By 1840 Methodist mission stations were dotted across the country. Māori Methodist communities were still strong in parts of the Far North and down the west coast to Taranaki in the early 21st century.

Colonial continuity

Methodist ministry amongst Māori was often carried out and made effective by Māori themselves. Māori ministers in the church were paid less than their Pākehā colleagues, but had a large effect on its growth, especially after the New Zealand wars, when churches were widely distrusted for supporting the government and its military forces. Work with Māori came under Pākehā structures, and Māori were only admitted to the Methodist Annual Conference in 1919. Constitutional changes in 1874 and 1910 did little to improve the status of Māori in the church.

Interdenominational relations


Although early interdenominational relations were often uneasy, over time strong relationships developed between most churches, often based more on tribal connections than on European-inspired doctrine. The National Council of Churches Maori Section was set up in 1947 and became a strong voice for Māori in society, leading debate on the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in the 1980s.


Māori response

In 1971 Rua Rakena, who later became tumuaki (leader) of the Māori Methodist Church, published The Māori response to the gospel. This was a watershed in the recognition of biculturalism in the Methodist Church. It was written as a response to Māori Methodist expressions of Christianity, and prompted calls for fundamental change in Māori–Pākehā relations in the church, which were acted upon over the following decades.

In 1983 the Methodist Church established a bicultural committee to give Māori and Pākehā an equal voice in the direction taken by the church. By the early 21st century Te Taha Maori, the Māori component of the church, was a significant aspect of the decision-making process of the entire church denomination. In 2013 Māori made up 10.8% of Methodist Church members.

How to cite this page:

Hirini Kaa, 'Ngā hāhi – Māori and Christian denominations - Methodist Church', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 March 2018)

Story by Hirini Kaa, published 5 May 2011, updated 14 Mar 2017