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New Moderator for the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand

Ady Shannon —

Following on from a Covid-inspired year-long deferral of his appointment, Right Rev Hamish Galloway was installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ on Wednesday 29 September.

Rev Tara Tautari and Rev Andrew Doubleday were amongst the 100 invited guests at Hope Presbyterian, Christchurch, where the ceremony was live-streamed to 215 Commissioners and hundreds of observers. The service, originally planned to be held at St Andrew’s College chapel, opened a two-day General Assembly, reduced from the usual five-day event held every two years.

The programme for this year’s truncated, online General Assembly was limited to core business. Planning is underway for a Special General Assembly to be held over three days in April 2022.

Items on the agenda include a major review of theological education. According to Hamish, it is a contentious issue considering the future of the ministry as there are fewer and fewer candidates coming through. “At present we have only a small number of interns for National Ordained Ministry (NOM) in the pipeline and the majority of our ministers are approaching retirement age. There has been a rising number of people seeking Local Ordained Ministry (LOM). LOM theological/academic training requirements tend to be less rigorous and while these ministers can take their ordination with them to another parish – they need to first undergo a training review process to do so. The review is considering whether there is another ordination stream that needs to be developed to sit alongside NOM and LOM. This “second order” of ordination has lay leaders, mission workers and various specialist roles in view.”

The theology of property and wealth is also up for discussion. “There is a conversation in many reports that are on the General Assembly agenda on how we use our property and wealth better. Many older buildings are no longer fit for purpose as our congregations grow older and smaller. And many of those church buildings are clustered in areas. There are huge new subdivisions with no churches at all.”

Sexual orientation continues to be a contentious issue in the church. In 2014 Hamish led a walkout at General Assembly in response to what he considered to be a process of debate and a vote that was causing hurt and damage to the Church. “The way the system worked at General Assembly meant that voting cards could become weapons. I was more interested in finding more constructive ways for the various factions in the Church to talk about this issue.”

Empowering Generations

Despite some troubled areas, Hamish sees signs of hope. He has had a lot of time to reflect and focus on his theme, Empowering Generations, sharing stories, blogs, and creating a website and a range of online resources. “The emphasis is on what each generation needs and what can they give. The older generations need pastoral care. They are able to give power and resources to the younger generation. Young people need to be trusted with leadership and resourced to do church in a different way. They have fresh ideas. And there are some great signs of hope in the church. I recently visited with ministers from churches in the lower North Island who are shining lights of hope and I am aware of other areas where churches are quietly growing with young families joining parishes and baby boomers coming back to church.”

A Varied Career

Hamish’s career has spanned a range of corporate and church roles. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Canterbury and practised corporate law for a few years before completing a master’s degree in business studies at Massey University. He subsequently studied theology at Presbyterian Theological Hall, graduating in 1983.

In a ministry that has involved service overseas and a variety of parish and leadership roles, his expertise in conflict resolution has been invaluable. “I have always been drawn to conflict resolution and my study in dispute resolution has been helpful. It has taught me not to be scared of conflict. It can be constructive. It is a matter of moving from a damaging to a constructive outcome.”

Hamish spent 21 years as Chaplain at St Andrew’s College where his passion and skill in playing and coaching a variety of sports provided an excellent opportunity to get alongside the students. A call back to parish ministry resulted in nine years at Hope, a position he resigned from in 2020 in preparation for the Moderator’s role. Initially he was disappointed by the delay in the appointment, but eventually found a move to the parish of Cashmere suited. “I saw God’s hand in the warm welcome I found in this nourishing place.”

Although he has relinquished many of his parish functions, Hamish will continue to be based at the Cashmere Parish for his term as Moderator.