Opinion: Te Runanganui 2013


The Upside

The Whanaungatanga

It is always a great experience to catch up with others from across Aotearoa and this is one of the few chances to do that. It reaffirms the deep connections across the Haahi and the depth of our people on the ground. It’s also great to meet new people, and this year the new arrivals from our Australian faith communities were particularly exciting.

The Theology

There were some amazing theological insights during the hui. This was not part of the official programme, but during reports and discussions and during the breaks the depth of our Mihinare theological base was reaffirmed. Herewini Parata singing ‘Ka Noho Au i Konei’ as a response to one korero was one of the highlights, along with Don Tamihere’s challenging Bible Studies.

Nga Pakeke

We have some beautiful kuia and kaumatua in our Haahi, who live out their faith and provide inspiration for us younger ones.

Te Aute me Hukarere

There was good news over the financial rescue of our schools that will enable them to become once again educational and formational leaders for our people. Now our challenge is to make them Mihinare schools, not just generic ‘Māori’ and/or ‘Christian’ ones.

The Downside

What about the Flaxroots?

There was very little discussion around the impact of decisions on the flaxroots ministry of our Church where the real action takes place. We have ageing and struggling ministry teams and a declining congregational base which puts further pressure on our finances and organisation on the ground where the St Johns Trust funding doesn’t reach directly. And there was little or no discussion of these issues.

Disorganised Unity

A strong theme of the hui and a strong push amongst many of the people was for a unified Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. Unfortunately the agenda led to the presentation of 5 completely unrelated Hui Amorangi (regional) plans of hugely varying quality and scope with no feedback, analysis or attempts to bring them together. So not only will we duplicate work amongst the Amorangi but we will be less than the sum of our parts.

Loss of Te Reo

Our hui nowadays are normally conducted in English, partly because many of our people aren’t fluent. However it was particularly noticeable at this hui the lack of te reo. If it wasn’t for Herewini Parata in particular there would have been next to none at all outside of formal situations. The lack of te reo is a good sign how far off we are from the Maori renaissance and the new generation of those confident and comfortable in te reo.

Too Few Voices

One of the best recent developments in Maoridom has been the rise of a public diversity of voices. Witness for example the young women driving the ground-breaking Native Affairs current affairs programme on Maori television. Unfortunately however our Haahi is still stuck in a rut. Over the course of debate in the hui, outside of reports, there were four men who dominated 90% of the discussion. We had sitting in the hui amazing men and women, both lay and ordained who had much to share but could not force their way into the traffic. And of particular sadness was the absolute lack of rangatahi voice. There were lots of rangatahi present but none spoke to the issues that will affect their future.

In fact, it was disconcerting to see the bishops so physically dominant in the hui, sitting in their purple clerical garb on a raised dais – a physical indication of who was in charge. Increasing numbers of decisions are being made for us all within the Māori House of Bishops, This is a worrying trend across the whole Church and a reflection of, say, the Iwi Leaders’ Forum. Our Haahi was established by the people, is driven by the people, and the people must be heard.

Lack of a Prophetic Voice

The whole hui was, once again, a navel –gazing exercise. Although it is important that we organise ourselves so that we can be effective in our communities, it was very sad that we had nothing to say to our people about their concerns, hopes and dreams. Two motions were put at the last minute on supporting iwi fighting against mining and drilling, and supporting the release of Teina Pora. Both were dismissed as not following procedure. So we had, it seems, nothing to say.

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