The Rock of Ages or the Winds of Change? The Impact of World War Two on the Anglican Church in New Zealand
This thesis examines the impact of World War Two, a period of dislocation and turbulence, on the Anglican Church in New Zealand. It does so in terms of the tension between a desire to defend and preserve the Church's assumed identity and role, and a positive acceptance of the possibilities for change that the war brought. This tension, between "holding the line" until peacetime, and welcoming changes that might benefit the Church's role and image in the community and witness to the "unchurched" is examined in a number of key areas of the Church's life.
Wartime brought both challenge and opportunity to the Church in the areas of leadership, military chaplaincy, the Church Army, the role of women in Church and society, ecumenical initiatives, the regular life of parishes and other ministry units, pacifism, and endeavours to reflect theologically. In each area, the Church was facing questions about its identity, and therefore about its role in society.
This thesis examines the thematic tension between the forces of stasis and of change with regard to the social backdrop of contemporary New Zealand society, where wartime was stimulating both a climate of change, and an attitude of resistance to change. Voices within the Church echo this ambivalence. Comparisons are also made with the wartime Church in England, which to most Pakeha New Zealand Anglicans was still the "Mother Church", and to some extent with the Church in Australia. Part of an emerging debate within the Church concerned whether it should continue with its self-identification as a quasi-English ecclesiastical outpost, or become a Church with a distinctive New Zealand identity, able to acknowledge and value its bi-cultural nature.
This thesis concludes that, during the war and in the five years afterwards, the voices promoting stability and "business as usual" in existing structures and functions usually prevailed over those advocating structural and attitudinal change. Like the rest of the country, the Church was reacting to more than a generation of instability. After two world wars and the Great Depression, for the most part the Church wished to present itself as a "Rock of Ages", symbolising continuity, authority, and close identification with the political status quo. This self-image was challenged by those eager to see wartime developments become part of long-term change. When the war ended, the Church was not ready to fully face the implications of these factors for change. Until the 1960s and 1970s, an era of social upheaval, the Church wished to expand its existing operations to cope with population increase, rather than to question and redefine its own structures and identity.