Posted by: preshist | February 21, 2011

EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE (OTAGO) – A NEW COLLECTION

The most recent collection I have described for the Presbyterian Archives is the Evangelical Alliance (Otago).  This collection came through the estate of the Rev. Roderick McKenzie.  He held office in this organisation while he was minister at St Stephen’s Parish in Dunedin (1958-1977).  When he moved to his last parish at Waikouaiti this collection obviously accompanied him.  The last recorded Minute, the 1976 Annual Meeting, suggests that the leadership of the group had thinned out considerably and although members were appointed to the Council under McKenzie’s leadership the group appears to have gone into recess. 

 A letter from Trustees regarding an Estate indicates that this group incorporated a previous organisation known as the Evangelical Bible League. The first minutes would appear to be the formation of the new group and its initial purpose was the organising a revival campaign held at the His Majesty’s Theatre in Dunedin.  The centrepiece of the revival campaign was the showing of a ‘film’, and it was accompanied by organisation for a community sing and a counselling team, no doubt to support those people who were moved by the revival meeting.  It is not until well after the event that the ‘film’ was actually named.  Souls in Conflict tells of the conversion of various people who were influenced by Billy Graham, the American Evangelist. 

 The group initially called themselves the Otago Evangelical and Revival Fellowship. Soon after the revival of 1956 they began to align themselves with the World Evangelical Fellowship which was formalised at the end of 1957 and they were renamed the Otago Evangelical Fellowship.  By 1971 along with sister groups in Auckland and Canterbury, and later Manawatu, it formed the Evangelical Alliance (New Zealand) part of the World Evangelical Alliance.  It’s first national secretary was Dr Herbert Money, a returned missionary.

 The membership of the group was ecumenical.  It was a fellowship of ministers and laymen who subscribed ‘without any mental reservation to the evangelical creed’.  In the 1970s its secretary was the Rev. Peter  J. Berghouse, vicar of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Dunedin.  The Dunedin Christian Business Men’s Association became a corporate member from early on.  A file with lists of clergy in Otago and Southland including Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army and Catholic indicates their desire to maintain communication across the denominational spectrum.  Already at the beginning of the 1970s the breadth of recognition of creedal orthodoxy was expanding.

 Their subject files show an interest in mission which includes reports from missionary work in Lahore and  the ‘Underground Evangelism’ involved in the communist countries.  This group is now known as ‘Mission Without Borders’ and is still working in Eastern Europe.  Visiting evangelicals to New Zealand are also mentioned with a subject file on the Billy Graham crusade to New Zealand in 1967.  Other visitors include evangelists and a creationist, possibly the first to visit New Zealand in the mid 1970s.  Within New Zealand the Evangelical Alliance was concerned about social values.  It supported the Society for Promotion of Community Standards and brought attention to the spread of pornographic literature and media.

 The New Zealand Christian Network, formerly the Vision Network, includes the Evangelical Alliance (New Zealand) as part of its legacy today. Other references to the Alliance can be found in the General Assembly International Relations Committee, the Overseas Missions Committee, the Council of Mission and Ecumenical Concerns (COMEC), a few parish collections relating to their aid Fund TEAR, and the personal papers of Rev. Malcolm Johnston.

By Andrew

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