Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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In This World: Baptist and Methodist Churches in New Zealand 1948 to 1988

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posted on 2021-11-08, 02:12 authored by Bolitho, Elaine Elizabeth

New Zealand Baptist and Methodist Churches' growth and decline between 1948 and 1988 was caused by the manner of their involvement in this world, in their roles of experiencing and telling about God in word and action. These roles link with the three factors - secularisation, evangelical theology and practice and the Charismatic movement. The roles and factors are encompassed within the context of change and discontinuity. 1. The impact of secularisation showed in declining religious profession and membership, yet also in greater involvement in this world through experiencing God immanent within it. 2. Commitment to evangelical theology and practice led to short term Baptist success, but in the long term triggered membership losses. Methodists without this emphasis showed even greater membership decline. 3. The Charismatic movement which was initially divisive holds within it potential for experiencing God in this world, and for dynamic continuity to make sense of the changing world scene. The relationship of the context of change to the three major factors was that the greater the degree of responding to discontinuity with creative dynamic continuity, the greater the growth of the churches. Increasing the degree of static continuity induced decline. The absence of any form of continuity resulted in even greater decline. The Baptist Churches successfully increased membership through relating well to the post-war generation. Through social service and outreach ministries they became more involved in this world. Evangelism, through a variety of methods, provided continuity in sharing the God news. The Charismatic movement as catalyst for church change in times of societal change brought the potential, through emphases of servant theology, to channel God experience into relational outreach. This led to its meshing with the positive effects of secularisation and evangelism. Methodist church growth was restricted by suspicion of the Charismatic movement, loss of evangelical focuses and recruitment programmes. Social action continued to be the Methodist way of being involved in this world. Profiles completed by 200 Baptist and 168 Methodist churches demonstrated the interplay of these factors. These were complemented by surveys completed by 106 resigned ministers, over 170 interviews, 6 case studies, 46 church visits and extensive reading. Analysis of profiles and membership statistics showed that Baptist churches did not do better because of short term ministries, Pastoral terms, membership and evangelical theology. But without evangelical theology and practice Methodist membership declined more. For every 12 members welcomed Baptists would lose 8 and Methodists 15. This indicated that churches not retaining members and clergy needed a balance of evangelism and whole-of-life theology with longer term focuses to provide dynamic continuity in the discontinuity of life.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Religious Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Veitch, James