The most significant all-together gathering each year for Baptist churches in New Zealand is our annual National Hui (aka Assembly), this year being held at Manukau City Baptist Church, 2-4 November. Each local Baptist church around the motu can send delegates as their representatives as we worship God, celebrate, and engage together on issues to do with the life and work of the Baptist ‘tribe’ of Christians in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This year the Hui theme is Baptists shaping our future | ngau nui, ngau roa, hei ngao matariki. Whether it's the next steps on our treaty journey, our young people, the constitution that shapes us, our posture in engaging with difficult conversations, stewarding our assets, ensuring our people and places are safe, or determining our hand-carved mission… it’s time to take some big bites to ensure gospel renewal of people and places in Aotearoa and beyond. The main sessions at Hui have pre-reading to help get Hui delegates up to speed, as well as to keep the ‘Team of 40,000’ Baptists informed on what is happening on their behalf at Hui. Below is the pre-hui read for:

Big Bite 2: A new way of making decisions together

Peter Crow is chair of the Constitutional Review Steering Committee and Wayne Schache is Operations and Finance Director at the Baptist National Support Centre.

The purpose of this Big Bite is to consider the structural foundations for the way we interact and make decisions together.

By way of background, we Baptists operate under the Baptist Union Incorporation Act 1923 (the “Act”), the founding document of what we now know as the Baptist Union. While the Act is enshrined in Law (and changing it is unrealistic), provision is made to adjust the “Constitution and Rules” from time to time, following a majority decision of the National Assembly (at Hui).

The Constitution was first amended in 1970, and has been amended 13 times since, the latest being 2010. Changes have been made because, over time, various provisions and structures described in the Constitution and Rules have become unworkable, for example prior changes are no longer valid, legislative and compliance environments have changed, and the way we do life has changed.

This national Hui is about Baptists shaping our future, especially ensuring we have a suitable framework and structure for effective decision making that enables us to shape our future well. It is what our tūpuna did in 1923 when the Act was first put in place.

Is Hui 2023 as significant a time as 20th August 1923 was, when New Zealand Baptists set about shaping their future? We think it might be.

We first considered this together at the 2022 National Assembly (Hui). Last year, the following resolution was passed:

That the Assembly Council be asked to form a working group to investigate structural and constitutional changes to the Baptist Union to position the movement better for gospel renewal and to ensure better stewardship of our resources, and to bring to the 2023 Hui a proposal with a view to the 2024 Hui approving constitutional change.

On 24 March 2023, the Assembly Council passed the following resolution, to act on the Assembly’s decision:

That the Assembly Council approves the appointment of Dr. Peter Crow as chair of the Constitutional Review Steering Committee and leader of the process, reporting directly to the Assembly Council, and that Rod Robson be appointed as the Assembly Council representative on the committee, and that these nominees, along with the National Leader and the Operations and Finance Director be tasked with pulling together the final members of the committee for approval of the Assembly Council.

A committee has been formed:

Peter Crow – Chair

Jordyn Rapana

Jennifer Boshier

Greg Motu

Rewai Te Kahu

Rod Robson

Charles Hewlett

Wayne Schache

The committee has met several times, and it has agreed to work towards presenting an updated constitution for adoption at the 2024 Hui. As our current rules require any changes to be presented to members at least three months prior to the National Assembly, this effectively means any proposed changes need to be presented to members by the end of July 2024. This is a tight timeframe. The committee needs to work carefully, encourage robust debate and allow time for a detailed legal review to ensure the final proposal is sound.

Currently, the committee is exploring the possibility of a two-step process. Some matters that appear to be straightforward can be resolved in 2024, but several big issues require more considered thought, and therefore more time. The committee wants to do this well, so it may ask for a second Hui in early 2025 to consider the larger issues.

There are five major issues that need careful attention:

1. Consideration of how our Treaty Affirmation Statements shape the new constitution
2. Composition of the Assembly Council

The Assembly Council exercises the administrative powers of the Assembly between the annual Assemblies. It is comprised of members elected by churches. Increasingly it deals with administrative matters that require expertise. We need our Assembly Council to reflect the diversity of the movement, champion the ministry outcomes of the movement, and also have a skill set to effectively and efficiently deal with matters that arise.

3. Role of the Regional Associations

The constitutional role of the Regional Associations is to “act as the local representative of the Union as far as concerns the work of the denomination”. Do we understand what this means? What does it look like for the future? How do we ensure that the Associations function in a consistent way across the motu?

4. Asset Management

Refer the pre-Hui read for Big Bite 4: An alignment of our assets for gospel renewal.

5. Dealing with struggling churches

Last year the Hui expressed concern that the movement is unable to come alongside churches that may be struggling in one form or another, and give guidance and advice. Sometimes this might mean making some difficult decisions. How do we do this well?

Some of the matters that appear to be straightforward include:

> President/Vice President roles

> Moving some of the “Rules” into separate policy documents

> Updating terminology

Starting the conversation

This November, at the Hui to be held at Manukau City Baptist Church, we want to start the conversation around the major issues that have been identified. We will ask some questions and seek feedback. The feedback will be used to start shaping a new constitution. A proposed new constitution (or the work completed by the end of April 2024) will be circulated to member churches, tangata whenua, boards and groups for consultation and discussion. Regional Hui will also be asked to discuss the proposal. Constitutional Review Steering Committee members will attend these to listen.

In parallel, we intend to ask our legal advisors to review proposed changes, to ensure that the initial changes are sound and can be notified to the movement for voting at Hui 2024. The committee will continue to consult on the major issues (above) through 2024 too, with the intention of further discussion at Hui 2024. Feedback from these discussions will be used to produce a second draft, to be put to members for approval in 2025.

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We invite delegates at this year’s National Hui to engage with the session we’re calling: ‘Big Bite 2: A new way of making decisions together’. Over the 100-minute slot on the Friday, Peter Crow will unpack more around this topic. This will be followed by a panel discussion that will approach this from various angles (on the panel will be Peter, Greg Motu, Helen Brereton, Rachel Murray, and Wayne Schache). There will then be conversation together with all Hui delegates. A potential outcome of this will be that delegates go back to their sending churches seeking this commitment:

Our faith community will actively engage in our Constitution Review process for the sake of a better future.

Let us pray together for the wisdom and guidance of God.

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Hui Programme

The Hui programme is online here.

Other Pre-Hui Reads

A posture of humility for difficult conversations (pre-Hui read: Big Bite 1) by Christa McKirland

A mechanism to ensure our people and places are safe (pre-Hui read: Big Bite 3) by Geraldine Crudge

An alignment of our assets for gospel renewal (pre-Hui read: Big Bite 4) by Charles Hewlett and Wayne Schache

A Baptist way to make decisions (pre-Hui read: Big Bites 1-4) by John Tucker

He Koronga Maatou – We have a dream (pre-Hui read: Baptist Māori) by Luke Kaa-Morgan

He Rito: The future of the church (pre-Hui read: Our young people) by Ethan Miller

The morning after (pre-Hui read – Arotahi) by Kelly Enright


Photo: Hui 2023 artwork

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