tokerauRev.  Tokerau Joseph is the Presbyterian Church’s newest Doctorate.  He completed his Ph.D. this year.  His accomplishment was celebrated by his Cook Island community and his Church community at First Church of Otago.  These communities are not exclusive.  They overlap each other in his ministry.  His thesis is a study of the ethnic communities in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand at their broadest level: European, Maori, Polynesian, and Asian.  Each community participates in the Church’s symbolism of the Burning Bush, none of us are consumed in the fire.  I am reminded of a thought I had recently after a sermon: Our Unity is in Perichoresis, the dynamic dance that can never end in existence.

What sort of body is the Church?  What are Presbyterian congregations like in our sect?  We allow for ethnic representation from congregations with significantly large ethnic groups represented within them to our regional courts.  There is no ruling in the Book of Order for representation within the congregational courts.

International studies define a multi-cultural congregation as one where no ethnic group is greater than 80% of the membership.  The total membership of the sample surveyed in this study was 71% European.  However 83% of the congregations are homogenous.  Presbyterian congregations are more homogenous than the societies in which their churches are planted.  Moreover Pacific Island congregations may be homogenous to one Island group.  All of the diverse multi-cultural congregations in the Presbyterian Church include European New Zealander groups.

The clergy usually share the same ethnic matching as the majority of their congregation.  At the time of the survey two of the Pacific Island Churches had retired European ministers serving in an interim ministry, which they valued.

People go to the services to which they are aligned, most people belonged to a congregation and a minister to which they match ethnically.  Ministers relate to the same ethnicity in their theological or ministry training, and their congregations in ministry.  They continue the same experience from the congregations from which they came into ministry.

43% of ministers expected to work in majority-matched congregations; 70% of them did.

15% of ministers expected to work in diverse congregations; 15% of them did.

6% of ministers expected to work in minority-matched congregations; 12% of them did.

We believe the church to be diverse.  In reality it is homogenous.  This is a challenge to our confession: One Cup, One Bread, One Body.  Grace becomes important in the life of multi-cultural congregations like First Church of Otago with European and Pacific Island congregations.  There has to be room to talk to each other.  It involves hard work.