As Moderator during the covid pandemic, I visited a few places in person – notably Hurstville for the ordination of two elders and New Dunesk for its opening as the centre of the work of the Presbyterian Inland Mission. Then there were the Zoom meetings. But from 3-7 October 2022 I was able to visit the Grace Presbyterian Assembly in Auckland.

            The denomination itself was formed in 2003 when it was realised that the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand had slidden so far down the liberal slippery slope that the truth of God was being woefully compromised and discarded. Two congregations withdrew, and it has grown from there. At the 2022 Assembly there were 21 congregations represented, and there was a personal touch to all that was done. For example, each congregation gave a short report on its work, and there was prayer for each one. This set a helpful and encouraging tone to the Assembly, and could be something the PCA could replicate, albeit in a different way, perhaps by means of a number of small groups.

            The theme of the Assembly was ‘Following Christ in a Challenging Culture’, and the four evening sessions were given over to talks on that topic. I kicked off with ‘The Supremacy of Christ’, from Psalm 2. Andrew Young, Ian Reid, Richard Eyre, Lenny Long, Josh Eyre, and Mark Smith were the other speakers.

            One of the highlights to the Assembly dealt with overseas mission, and particularly the Island to Island Partnership. Covid restrictions have curtailed travel but it is hoped that the four denominations involved in this (including APWM) will meet in Fiji in April 2023, with representatives from eight nations in attendance. In another part of the world – Mali in West Africa – a physiotherapist, Michelle Thompson, has been set apart to work there. Prayer is very much in order. Other works were mentioned, including that of our mutual friend, Rev. Thang Bwee in Myanmar.

            The Women in Grace Taskforce has a better nomenclature than the outcome of its report. There were tensions here, as the ‘giving women a voice’ approach is likely to produce as much angst as wisdom. In addition, a debate over covid vaccines was delayed due to a lack of time.  

            Lesslie Newbigin commented that England in the 1970s was a mission field not unlike India. So too are Australia and New Zealand. How to present Christ in such a culture will require a firm anchorage in Scripture and a discerning grasp of the times. This is itself should drive us to the Word and to prayer.

            It was a privilege and a pleasure to learn something of our Kiwi brethren across the ditch. Let us all be strong before the world and prayerful before God.

– Peter Barnes, Moderator of the PCA,

October 2022