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Presbyterian Church General Assembly 2002

Media Pack

Presbyterian Church General Assembly 2002

September 22 – 27, 2002


Key Facts About Assembly p2
Media Release for New Moderator p4
Key Proposals & Events p5
Overseas Guests p6
Photo Opportunities p6

Media contacts:
Communications manager, Mary Macpherson, Mob 021 353 020, email
Communications advisor, Richard Davis, Mob 027 404 8656, email

Presbyterian Church General Assembly 2002

Key Facts
Up to 500 Presbyterians will gather in Upper Hutt, Wellington from 22-27 September for their biennial Assembly. Both ministers and lay people from parishes around New Zealand will participate in deciding the future direction of their Church.

Reflecting the ethnic diversity of the Church, representation will include Pacific Island Maori and Asian representatives. The cultures represented in the Church include Samoan, Niuean, Cook Island, Tuvuluan, Tokelaun; Korean, Chinese and Indonesian; and the Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Ngati Maniapoto tribes.

The venue for Assembly is St Patricks College, Silversteam, Upper Hutt.

What is Assembly?
The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has a hierarchy of governing bodies - session (local congregations), presbytery (regional) and Assembly (national). Assembly is the top governing body of the Church. All parishes are entitled to send representatives (commissioners) to Assembly. The commissioners discuss and vote on the recommendations and proposals brought to Assembly. This participatory style of decision making is a feature of the Presbyterian Church and runs right from the local to national level.

Assembly’s three major functions are:
- Legislative – making the regulations that give order to the life of the Church
- Administrative – exercising general oversight of the Church. Assembly is the major policy-making body of the Church. In an ongoing way it establishes the basic beliefs, overall strategies and direction for the whole Church
- Judicial – deciding appeals and complaints. In recent years the Assembly has delegated its judicial function to Judicial Commissions. Reports from Commissions may be lodged with Assembly, but Assembly does not debate them.

There is also a Council of Assembly that implements Assembly decisions.

The Moderator
Every two years the presbyteries and parishes of the Presbyterian Church elect a national Moderator.

Once installed, the new Moderator presides over and chairs Assembly. The Moderator also is the spokesperson for Assembly decisions, represents the Church nationally and within the Church has a nationally-focused pastoral role.

The Moderator-elect for the 2002 Assembly is the Rev Michael Thawley of Christchurch. Once elected he will become known as the Right Rev Michael Thawley.

The pilot Pacific Island Synod of the Church also has a moderator, the Rev Uea Tuleia who is Niuean. There are approximately 35 Pacific Island parishes and ministers in the Church with about 4,000 members. An important proposal before this Assembly is to permanently establish the Pacific Island Synod.

The Moderator of the Maori synod, Te Aka Puaho, is Mrs Moana Riini (Tuhoe).

The Council of Asian Congregations brings the Church’s Asian congregations together to discuss issues facing Asian people and communities, to help Asian congregations play a full part in the Church and for worship and celebration.

Assembly Papers
Assembly papers are available on request, under embargo until Sunday 2pm, Sept 22.

12 September 2002

Media Release for Immediate Issue

Community Focus for New Presbyterian Moderator

Incoming Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the Rev Michael Thawley, practices his philosophy of ‘the church going to people where they are’ in his own parish where church-run computer courses have helped groups such as the unemployed and the profoundly deaf.

Rev Thawley will be installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand for a two year term, on Sunday 22 September at St Patrick’s College Upper Hutt. He succeeds the Right Rev Rob Yule.

For the last three years, Mr Thawley’s Christchurch congregation, has helped fund a ‘computer in the crypt’ program (FamilyNet) which sees church volunteers teach computer skills to anyone from the community who wants to learn. The computer suite is also made available during the week for people to use for their own purpose.

“I believe the church must come out of its doors and be involved in its community in real ways, whether that’s offering social service, ministry or support,” he said.

“ Our ‘computer in the crypt’ programme has over 100 active members, more than half of whom are not church members. The programme has seen profoundly deaf people learn to use email as a means of communication and helped unemployed people who were unable to learn skills in larger groups.”

In addition, Mr Thawley’s congregation who are committed to ministry with children and families, have made regular grants to local primary and high schools, and a large part of their recently appointed young minister’s time will be spent working with local schools.

Mr Thawley began his work as a Presbyterian minister over 34 years ago, coming to the church from a career in pharmacy. Apart from 12 years as Assembly Executive Secretary, he has worked as a local minister in places such as Invercargill, Stokes Valley, his home town of Havelock North, and Christchurch. He also has a keen interest in ecumenical organisations overseas, stemming from volunteer work in Indonesia in the 1960s.


For further information please contact: Rev Michael Thawley, ph 03 337 5695, email
(note: from 22 Sept Michael Thawley will become the Right Rev Michael Thawley)

Media liaison: Mary Macpherson, ph 04 381 8284, mob 021 353 020

Key Proposals and Events at Assembly

Installation of New Moderator (national Church leader)

In a colourful historic worship service involving the transfer of a ceremonial cloak (te Korowai Tapu) and the laying on of hands by past moderators, the Rev Michael Thawley will be installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church for the next two years. The service starts at 2pm in St Patrick’s College Chapel, in Silverstream, Upper Hutt.

Resolutions on International and Social Issues

The Overseas Mission and Partnerships policy group will bring a paper and propose ways Assembly might express its deep concern about the proposed military strike against Iraq and for the Israel/Palestine situation.

Assembly will be asked to express continuing deep concern to the Prime Minister about the extent of poverty that persists in New Zealand. The Churches Agency On Social Issues report says that in spite of professed good intentions from the Government and a much improved economic situation, there has been little improvement for the poorest in our community, many of whom are children.

A resolution will also be put to Assembly to ask the Government to take measures to ensure that vital social and community services are not dependent on gambling for their income.

A proposal to establish a Pacific Island Synod to oversee the Pacific Island section of the Church

With Presbyterianism the most common religious denomination for people of Pacific ethnicity (2001 census), the Pacific Island section of the Church plays a key role in the Presbyterian denomination. Currently there are about 35 parishes and 4,000 members.

After a trial of four years, the Assembly will be asked to approve a Synod to oversee the Pacific Island side of the Church. The Synod would be made up of the different fono or ethnic groups within the Church. It would allow Pacific Island voices and aspirations to be heard and addressed.

Lay People May Gain More Prominence in the Church including:
- A proposal to appoint a lay person as Moderator at least every second election. In 101 years only 4 lay people have held the position of Moderator. The Church believes that as it aims to reach a wider proportion of New Zealanders it needs the skills of its outstanding lay people, many of whom have proved themselves in fields beyond the Church environment. The proposal, if adopted, could see more ethnic groups such as Pacific Islanders and Maori represented in the Moderator’s role.
- Varying the ways people are recognised as ministers. The proposal would allow locally ordained ministers and ministry teams to work in their local areas where congregations do not have, or prefer not to use ministers of word and sacrament.

Assembly Process
As part of the open participatory style of Presbyterian Assemblies any congregation or presbytery may bring proposals or questions to Assembly. These are a little like private members bills. This year there is a diverse range of topics, including two groups questioning the direction of homosexuality in ministry. It will be up to Assembly to decide if it wishes to discuss any proposals and what happens to them.

Overseas Guests
Rev Wang Kuang-syh, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, leads the largest Church on the island of Taiwan. As a majority of the indigenous, tribal non Chinese people of Taiwan are members of the Presbyterian Church, the PCT has been able to exercise considerable influence in bringing about basic human rights on the island for these groups.

Rev Prof James Haire, President of the Uniting Church of Australia is a Queenslander with impressive academic credentials. He co-chairs the National Dialogue between the Uniting Church in Australia and Catholic Church in Australia.

Photo Opportunities

- The opening worship service where the new Moderator is installed. This starts at 2pm on Sunday 22 Sept at Patrick’s College Chapel. A Powhiri will precede the service, outside the Chapel at 1.15pm.

- A multi cultural concert at the State Opera House on the evening of Sunday 22 Sept. Start time 7.30pm

- A lively interactive Children’s Assembly that runs throughout the main Assembly.

- The new Moderator, Michael Thawley, has commissioned a set of four colourful banners illustrating his theme of Many words, one Word. The Association of Presbyterian Women will also present banners in a tribute to the women who have served the Church for the past 100 years.

Media Contacts
Mary Macpherson, Communications Manager, Mob 021 353020, email
Richard Davis, Communications Advisor, Mob 027 404 8656, email

Prior to Assembly the Church’s national spokesperson is the present Moderator, the Right Rev Rob Yule. Once installed on Sept 22, the spokesperson will be the new Moderator the Right Rev Michael Thawley.


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