Saints and Stirrers

Saints and Stirrers

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Subtitle: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814–1945              

New Zealanders, while generally peaceable and tolerant people, have seldom shied away from war. Even in the current era, Anzac Day is a major event here, and the haka performed by our national rugby team is one of our most recognisable cultural exports. But throughout New Zealand’s history there have also been frequent efforts to oppose war and promote peace, and these have often drawn upon traditions within the Christian faith. New Zealand Christians were not uniformly or impeccably peaceable; pacifists were usually either a minority in the more established churches, or members of smaller denominations that were firmly anti-war, such as the Quakers. It took strong convictions and a good deal of bravery to question war when the majority favoured it. Those ‘saints’ who pushed for peace were invariably stirrers. This book focuses on Christian peacemaking and opposition to war in the period from the nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War. It provides critical insights into New Zealand Christianity, as well as peace activism, politics, and New Zealand society more generally.

Geoffrey Troughton
Peter Lineham
Stuart Lange
John Stenhouse
Harold Hill
David Tombs
Allan K. Davidson
Peter H. Ballis
David Grant

From: Saints and Stirrers, edited by Geoffrey Troughton

Chapter 1: Christianity, Peace and Opposition to War

Geoffrey Troughton

The question of peace has long haunted Christianity in New Zealand. Throughout the nation’s history there have been frequent efforts to oppose war and promote peace based upon Christian convictions, often drawing upon longstanding traditions within the faith. Despite such impulses, refusal to participate in war has never been the dominant stance in New Zealand. Activist commitment to peace has been a remarkably consistent but largely marginal concern within the church as a whole. This book brings new attention to the relationship between Christianity and peace in New Zealand. It focuses on Christian peacemaking and opposition to war in the period from the nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War. In so doing, it provides critical insights into New Zealand Christianity, as well as peace activism, politics and New Zealand society more generally.

This book has been written during a period of extended commemoration of the First World War, when questions of war and peace have taken on especial significance. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, the centenary of the Great War has stimulated a remarkable range of public exhibitions, activities and projects designed to mark key events and promote reflection on their ongoing importance.1 Anzac Day and other occasions for remembrance have received substantial support from government, media and the wider community. Many historians have been kept busy. Their labour has yielded evaluations of diverse issues—from the wartime home front, to aspects of the memory, material culture and social and cultural history of the war.2 Yet more militant emphases have also been apparent. Campaign histories and studies of hardware, technology and strategy have proliferated and still tend to predominate within the war history market.

Arguably, one effect of all this memorialisation has been a sharpened emphasis on war as a maker of national unity and identity, and a related strengthening of New Zealand’s Anzac civil religion—a form that has been shaped in part by Christian symbols and imagination.3 In this tradition, war is ultimately regarded as a unifier and peace-bringer, however much the costly destruction and sacrifices involved may be lamented. Counter-traditions of opposition to war fit uneasily with such outlooks. They raise questions about the shape of nationalist mythologies, and implicitly challenge deep-seated ideologies of redemptive violence. Yet such questioning is important in liberal democratic societies.

War resisters and opponents of militarism have received some recognition during the centennial commemorations.4 The harsh treatment of Archibald Baxter, Mark Briggs and others of ‘the 14’ objectors who were sent to England and the Front has attracted renewed attention.5 Such stories have become a little better known, and helped to illuminate the societal hostility that has often been directed towards those who failed to participate in the nation’s wars. Yet the space for questioning of war is still narrow. The propriety of honouring war service is relatively uncontested, but the lines between remembering and celebrating war remain fraught. There is an awkward relationship in New Zealand between pride in the nation’s reputation as a peaceful country and contributor to global peacemaking on the one hand and a chariness about anti-war campaigns on the other. Civil religions have their saints, and they are not usually the doubters, critics or war resisters.

Questions about the peaceable character of Christianity have taken on renewed urgency in recent times, though it seems strange in some ways to even pose them. After all, peace was established as a central ethical norm in early Christianity, and remains a significant theme for Christians. Jesus taught his followers to love their neighbours (including their enemies); he blessed the peacemakers, and promoted non-violence. Christians worship Jesus as saviour and hail him as the prince of peace. And for many years the earliest Christians held to pacifist ideals.6 Yet such ideals were clearly not sustained as central emphases throughout subsequent Christian history. Since the eighteenth century, a key dimension of the Enlightenment critique of religion has been its purported complicity in conflict and violence. Far from being regarded as peace-bringing, Christianity has been imagined as a breeder of violence and division. This polemical characterisation has been widely criticised, but it continues to hold sway in much contemporary thinking. It has been taken up, for example, as a central factor in ‘new atheist’ claims and calls for a ‘new Enlightenment’.7 Such sentiment is now sustained in large part through concerns about global terrorism and religious nationalism.

In New Zealand, concerns about a nexus of religion and conflict have had some purchase, despite the nation’s relatively peaceable reputation and longstanding secular political arrangements. Religious commitments—and differences—have frequently been viewed with anxiety as potential sources of division, threatening social order and the body politic. Thus, while sectarian tensions between Protestants and Catholics were never as sharp in New Zealand as in many other parts of the world,8 they have featured as a staple of discussion on religion in national histories.9 Religion, often of a detraditionalised kind, has also been deployed in the cause of national unity, with God put to work in service of the national interests during war and at other times. In the political theology of patriotism, the ‘lord of battles’ has always been more important than the ‘prince of peace’—as a seldom-sung third verse of the national anthem, Thomas Bracken’s ‘God Defend New Zealand’, makes clear:

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles, in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.10

Such language suggests that religion has been deeply entwined with nationalist feeling and the projection of State power. Yet generalised assumptions about the interplay of religion, conflict and violence need to be tested and carefully examined. To date, there have been few attempts to do this in New Zealand.

Christianity and New Zealand peace traditions

The essays that follow focus on Christian peacemaking and opposition to war. For reasons that will be addressed below, the book focuses on the years from 1814 to 1945, a timespan that incorporates the beginnings of organised Christianity in New Zealand through to the end of the Second World War. Christian peacemaking and opposition to war is addressed in this period through a series of case studies drawing from an array of Christian traditions. There are stories of various Māori and Pākehā saints from mainline denominations through to those from an assortment of smaller and lesser-known groups, and also from independent types who eschewed institutional affiliation but were nevertheless believers.

Through these various accounts, this book seeks to provide fresh perspectives on the histories of peace activism and Christianity in New Zealand. There is much to be explored in both of those domains. For while New Zealand enjoys a contemporary reputation as a peaceable, peace-loving country, analysis of the nation’s peace traditions has been surprisingly limited, and partial in certain respects. There have been relatively few studies of anti-war and anti-militarist traditions,11 and those that do exist have tended to focus particularly on pacifism and conscientious objectors. There have been even fewer examinations of religion-based anti-militarism, or the application of Christian commitments to peace conceived in broader terms. Studies of Christian opposition to war have generally focused on individuals, and organisations such as the New Zealand Christian Pacifist Society and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.12 No broad, single-volume examination of Christian peace traditions in New Zealand has previously been undertaken.

The focus on opposition to war in New Zealand is restricted in this book to the period up to 1945. The post-Second World War era was a crucial time in the crafting of New Zealand’s contemporary image as a tolerant, liberal, independent and peaceable nation. It was also the period in which a distinctive post-war peace movement emerged. That movement focused initially on issues related to nuclear weapons, disarmament and related Cold War era concerns. As the movement broadened in scope, the framing of peace also changed. Considerations of peace and justice became more explicitly aligned so that issues such as racism, women’s liberation and human rights all came to be viewed as part of a wider peace agenda. There is a story to be told about the place of Christianity in post-1945 peacemaking, peace activism, and peacebuilding more generally—not least because this has been largely neglected in existing accounts.13 That later era warrants its own analysis, however, and another forthcoming volume will attend to this time period.14

The limited attention afforded to Christianity in the period following the Second World War is consistent with analyses of earlier opposition to war. In important works on opposition to the South African War and on early twentieth-century women objectors, for example, Malcolm McKinnon and Megan Hutching respectively recognise the Christian commitments of some of their key subjects, but provide little exploration of relevant religious and theological factors.15 McKinnon’s analysis discusses five categories of opposition to the South African War; interestingly, religious opposition does not feature as a distinct or particularly significant form. By contrast, the Labour leader Harry Holland’s well-known tract, Armageddon or Calvary, famously noted four somewhat overlapping types of conscientious objector during the First World War: religious, socialist, Irish and Māori.16 Holland listed religious objectors first, and deployed powerful Christian symbolism and rhetoric in framing his entire work. As his primary purpose was political— the volume was consciously written as a polemical pre-1919 election statement—emphasis was placed upon socialist and labour-based opposition, even where Christian and socialist commitments cohered. This orientation, and Holland’s focus on conscientious objectors, characterised much subsequent thinking about opposition to war, though it represents only a very particular strand of criticism and a narrow strain of peace commitment.

The question of peace in New Zealand has been shaped by participation in conflict and war. In the period to 1945, these conflicts included some wars that were fought on New Zealand soil and others that were waged elsewhere. In the nineteenth century, intertribal warfare among Māori (including the ‘musket wars’ of the 1820s and 30s), and wars fought between settlers, the Crown and Māori, were key instances of conflict. From the end of the nineteenth century, imperial connections led New Zealanders to participate in wars in other parts of the globe, beginning with the South African War of 1899–1902, and then more extensively in the world wars of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945. New Zealand’s contributions to these wars were relatively small in the context of the conflicts as a whole, yet the impacts upon New Zealand society were extraordinary. The advent of modern industrial war, mass conscription and deployment of total war in the twentieth century enmeshed all of society, reconfiguring New Zealand life. Understandably, these moments of conflict also shape the contents of this book, forming key focal points for many of the case studies that follow.

The nineteenth century

This collection of essays addresses a broad range of Christian engagements with peace and opposition to war, cohering particularly around three key nodes. These relate to the nineteenth century, opposition from within sectarian Christianity and case studies of individuals associated with the mainline denominations. With respect to the nineteenth century, one key focus concerns the development of peace ideals within missionary and Māori Christianity. Nineteenth-century Māori had well-established peacemaking protocols and procedures.17 Nevertheless, evangelical Christian missionaries regarded their message as a gospel of peace that spoke generally to the needs of all humanity, and directly to Māori circumstances. An emphasis on peace teaching and peacemaking developed; this came to feature prominently in characterisations, particularly of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and a number of its leading figures.18 A peace emphasis thus became strongly associated with the earliest forms of Christianity in New Zealand.

The first chapter in this volume examines the character of peace ideals in the earliest years of the CMS mission, which was established under Samuel Marsden’s direction in the Bay of Islands from December 1814. Beginning with Marsden himself, the chapter confirms that peace teaching and anti-war advocacy were evident from the outset, before the beginnings of the musket wars. The mission’s peace gospel sat within an evangelical theological framework of salvation and redemption. In this, peace was set forth as a gift of the gospel—spiritually, but also in temporal terms, as a requirement and outworking of true faith. The CMS did not advance an absolutist pacifist message, but its peace gospel did entail renunciation of retaliation, principled commitment to peacemaking and pursuit of non-violent conflict resolution. These elements were closely tied to notions of Christian law and civilisation, and were characteristic of a broader pattern that became more obviously influential by the 1830s.

Two subsequent chapters explore the development of this peace tradition in connection with the CMS. In the first of these, Peter Lineham examines the place of peace in the CMS mission of the 1830s as it spread southward from Northland and into the Waikato and surrounding regions. This area was embroiled in a complex set of conflicts, and was also the setting of one of New Zealand Christianity’s most famous stories—the story of the young girl Tārore, and the extraordinary instances of forgiveness and reconciliation that followed in the wake of her murder.19 Lineham’s account is not principally concerned with Tārore, but teases out essential elements of the context in which those events occurred. He demonstrates the centrality of peace to the CMS mission, and clarifies the logic and shape of the teaching, indicating ways in which the demand for peace became established within various expressions of Māori Christianity in the region.

Stuart Lange’s careful account of the deaths of two Christian Māori, Te Mānihera Poutama and Kereopa Hemi Patene, in 1847, illuminates precisely this dynamic in another setting, further to the south. Te Mānihera and Kereopa were Ngāti Ruanui Christian converts from southern Taranaki who were killed in the process of seeking to evangelise their tribal enemies, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, in the central North Island. In the period following their deaths a commitment to non-retaliation prevailed as Ngāti Ruanui worked together with the Pūtiki-based CMS missionary Richard Taylor to pursue reconciliation with the evangelists’ killers. Lange sees in this story an almost paradigmatic case of the embrace of Christian reconciliation—from the initial risky evangelistic mission to the subsequent peacemaking expeditions. Evangelistic considerations remained a core dimension of the evangelical peace message; the implications were never seen to be merely ‘spiritual’, however, but were also social and political. The story illustrates the interweaving of those elements, and the way that new Christian understandings came to be expressed within Māori norms and expectations. It also demonstrates the pivotal role that Māori Christians played in extending this peace ethic, and some of the costs and risks associated with doing so.

Similar stories abound, as Māori and missionary Christianity emphasised peace in different settings around the country, from Northland to the deep south.20 Commitments to peace and reconciliation were complex, however, and the legacies of this earlier intense emphasis on peacemaking need to be carefully probed. The embrace of a kind of Christian peace ethic was part of a broader engagement with Christian modernity— including dimensions such as law, education and economy.21 Like missionaries, and Pākehā Christians, Christian Māori responded in different ways to the conflicts of the nineteenth century.22

Nevertheless, remarkable instances of peacemaking and nonviolence emerged out of this milieu. Some later examples, like the Parihaka story, are relatively well known, though many are not. Oddly, many accounts emphasise the non-violent resistance of Parihaka, but downplay the ‘religious’ dimensions of the story and the intense spirituality of Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi.23 Evaluation of the significance of Christian influences also tends to be limited. Danny Keenan’s recent account notes Te Whiti’s early interactions with the Lutheran missionary Johann Riemenschneider, but his overall interpretation emphasises the repudiation of missionary authority in the development of the Parihaka settlement.24 Yet it seems more than incidental that Riemenschneider, and Wesleyan teachers including John Whiteley, were active promoters of a Christian peace ethic on the North Island’s West Coast,25 and that leaders like Te Whiti, Tohu and Te Ua Haumēne all interacted closely with them. The movements they initiated seemed to work creatively with multiple traditions—including a Christian peace tradition.

Elsewhere, at Ōtaki, the CMS missionary Octavius Hadfield emerged as one of the main voices of humanitarian opposition to the Taranaki War. His criticisms of the war were not overtly founded on a pacifist ethic so much as on a basis of justice, rights and objection to settler acquisitiveness.26 A Christian peace ethic was, however, promoted and Christian Māori connected to the Ōtaki mission became influential advocates in different parts of the country. In 1843, Tāmihana (Katu) Te Rauparaha and Hēnare Mātene Te Whiwhi went to the South Island with the aim of evangelising and brokering peace between Ngāti Toa and Ngāi Tahu. Both were influential in the development of the Kīngitanga (Māori King movement), and in seeking to establish the Wellington area as a peace zone during the 1860s—though they did not prohibit participation in fighting in the wars being waged further north. In the Manawatū, another Christian teacher, Hoani Meihana Te Rangiotū, actively mediated between iwi and between Māori and settlers. He built a church in the style of a marae, calling it Te Rangimārie (peace), to commemorate an accord established between Rangitāne and Ngāti Raukawa. With Te Peeti Te Aweawe, he agreed with Te Whiwhi’s suggestion that the new town square in Palmerston North be named Te Marae-o-Hine (the Courtyard of the Daughter of Peace), in honour of one of Te Whiwhi’s ancestors and as an expression of desire for peace between Māori and Pākehā in the district.27

The complex relationship between Māori, Christianity, conflict and the State persisted into the twentieth century. In 1919, in the wake of the First World War, the report of the Religious Objectors Advisory Board to the Minister of Defence commented on the fate of imprisoned Māori objectors. None of them had objected on ‘bona fide religious grounds’, but the Board argued that their cases warranted ‘most earnest attention’. The report highlighted one particular reply from a Māori objector who had been interviewed in Auckland, and whose arguments the Board took ‘fairly to represent the Maori Objectors point of view’. That reply highlighted not only the emphasis on peace within the Christianity of the missionary era that Māori had received, but also the discrepancy between this Christianity and the later demands of the State: ‘At the Treaty of Waitangi we signed to make peace and they put a Bible in our hands. They have now taken the Bible away and put a sword into our hands and wish to make us fight.’28

Smaller and sectarian denominations

Prior to the twenty-first century, the vast majority of New Zealanders identified, at least in census terms, with Christianity. Historically, affiliation was concentrated in four main denominational groupings. The 1901 national census, for example, reported that 89% of New Zealanders affiliated religiously as either Anglican (41%), Presbyterian (23%), Catholic (14%) or Methodist (11%). By 1945, affiliation with these churches remained high at 81% of the population.29 Yet an array of smaller and sectarian Protestant groups also flourished, and it was within these communities that the strongest cultures of pacifist and anti-war sentiment tended to exist. Surprisingly, there have been relatively few studies of these smaller churches and denominations.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is perhaps the best known of the smaller groups, due in part to its prominence in regulations about ‘exemption’ from war service—notably with respect to section 18 of the Military Service Act 1916, which allowed for the possibility of exemption from combatant service on religious grounds. Quakers were one of the few religious groups recognised under the narrow provisions of the Act, and so became widely identified as a key example of religious opposition to war.30 Indeed, religious opposition to war has sometimes been taken to indicate allegiance to the Friends. There certainly is a long tradition of Quaker opposition, dating back to the founder of the movement in the seventeenth century, George Fox. Fox considered war to be incompatible with the Holy Spirit and the ‘Inner Light’, and the Society’s ‘peace testimony’ became associated for many Friends with repudiation of the ‘carnal weapons’ of warfare.31 Quakers were instrumental in the development of the first British Peace Society in 1816, known as the Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace. They also became prominent in later antiwar campaigning.

New Zealand Quakers were a tiny minority group, however, and their attitudes to war can be easily misrepresented. Between 1881 and 1916, the number of Quakers nearly doubled according to census figures, though the numbers remained small—rising from just 232 to 431. Affiliation actually declined as a proportion of the population during that time, from 0.05% to 0.04%. Furthermore, Quaker attitudes to war were ruled by a doctrine of conscience rather than commitment to absolute pacifism. In England, some Quakers were conscientious objectors during the First World War. Yet the brothers Laurence and Egbert Cadbury, sons of the Birmingham cocoa and chocolate maker George Cadbury, famously exercised their consciences in different forms of war service—Laurence serving in an ambulance unit, Egbert fighting as a pilot. Similar diversity could be found among New Zealand’s Quakers. We should not assume, therefore, that the Quaker peace testimony was always expressed in outright objection.32 Nevertheless, the Society of Friends did make significant contributions to anti-militarist activism in New Zealand from the nineteenth century.33 It produced leaders such as Egerton Gill who founded the New Zealand Freedom League, an organisation that received support from Friends in Auckland and Wellington as it campaigned for repeal of the Defence Act 1909.34 Another important early New Zealand peace organisation, the National Peace Council, was founded in 1911 and apparently financed in part by English Quakers.35

One of the founders and leading figures of the National Peace Council was actually a Baptist, Charles Mackie, the leader of the Canterbury Baptist Lay Preachers’ Association. A number of Baptist colleagues supported him in this endeavour, as well as in his pacifism and opposition to militarism within the churches.36 The Baptist Church was the largest of the smaller Protestant denominations in New Zealand, accounting for about 2% of census respondents in the early twentieth century. Baptists, like Quakers, emphasised freedom of conscience; they also brought to New Zealand a long history of critique of the State and dissent from State interference in religion. Such priorities often aligned with anti-militarist conviction, and for a number of radical Baptists they did. J. J. Doke and A. H. Collins were among a relatively small group of Christian ministers to articulate strong opposition to the South African War of 1899–1902, and to criticise atrocities. Other Baptists expressed similar views before and during the First World War, while pacifism and social gospel Christianity also proved attractive to some in the interwar period.37 Baptist opinion varied, however, and the Church never developed a strong radical tradition in peace activism or the social gospel. The radical Baptist tradition was always remarkably thin in New Zealand.38 Mackie and Thomas Nuttall discovered this in their pacifist campaigning during the First World War. Their attempts to enrol the support of the newly formed Linwood Baptist Church in Christchurch backfired as the majority of Church members remained committed to militaristic patriotism and an imperialist outlook.

This volume contains ground-breaking studies exploring the tensions and challenges that faced a number of smaller and sectarian Protestant groups, in relation to the First and Second World Wars. Less well known than the Quakers or the Baptists, these groups were nevertheless often either as active or unified in their opposition to war (if not more so). They consequently experienced greater hostility and were typically more prone to being misunderstood. A number of the issues highlighted above were critical for smaller Christian groups as a whole. Even within relatively unified sectarian forms, diverse opinions and theologies created internal tensions and contestation. There were also tensions generated by commitment to doctrinal and ethical purity, set against the desire for influence and respect within the community. The requirements of religious distinctiveness sometimes clashed with hopes for social peace and security, as did competing claims for loyalty to God and to the State. The ways that groups responded to such challenges often had profound implications.

Harold Hill’s analysis of the Salvation Army during the First World War provides a rare insight into attitudes to war and peace within that movement in New Zealand. Curiously, given the organisation’s martial name and styling, its founder William Booth and many of his family had pacifist sympathies. Though the movement never formally adopted a pacifist stance, this instinct was quite widespread within the Salvation Army internationally, and Hill perceives traces of it within the local organisation. His chapter identifies many instances of warm, liberal commentary about Germany and German Salvationists in the Salvation Army publication War Cry during the war years—commentary that was strikingly at odds with the prevailing tone of anti-Germanism in New Zealand society at that time. Hill’s explanation highlights local, international, institutional, social, theological and ministry-oriented factors that helped shape the Salvation Army’s outlook. He argues that the Army’s internationalism, evangelical imperatives and ‘theological universalism’ were particularly important elements. These served to promote humanitarian values and a cautious witness to peace rather than outright opposition to war.

A number of other small Christian groups were more unambiguously pacifist in orientation, though their small size, sectarian character and unfamiliarity to non-members has meant that their stories have largely gone untold. Their intense biblicist religiosity has also often been portrayed as fundamentalist or fanatical, and led them to be dismissed. In addition, not all sectarian groups maintained a strict opposition to war over the longer term. Pentecostals, for example, became more closely aligned with patriotic political theologies later in the twentieth century, and so their more radical earlier outlook is easily overlooked. Peter Lineham, the nation’s foremost expert on radical and sectarian Christianity, addresses this lacuna in a chapter on sects and war. Lineham surveys a diverse array of sectarian groups ranging from Christadelphians, Pentecostals and Seventh-day Adventists, through to the Plymouth Brethren and obscure groups such as the so-called Cooneyites, or Testimony of Jesus. These groups suffered remarkably high levels of imprisonment on account of their conscientious objection, and Lineham’s account helps to explain who they were, why this occurred and some of the effects of their wartime opposition.

As Lineham’s chapter demonstrates, sectarian Christian groups shared an eagerness to remain separate from the wider religious and secular world, but they often disagreed sharply with one another. Their theologies and experiences were by no means uniform. In another important account, Harry (Peter H.) Ballis explores the differing experiences of the Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Second World War. Both churches had a history of pacifist objection, which had been expressed during the First World War. Circumstances had changed by the Second World War, and the churches faced new questions and decisions. Ballis’s study explores the pressures created by the churches’ stance and their marginality within New Zealand society. It highlights tensions inherent in maintaining principled commitments—tensions that were complicated in these cases by theologically grounded belief in the importance of loyalty to the State. The Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses chose different paths during the Second World War, and both churches transformed accordingly.

Saints and stirrers in the mainline denominations

None of the four largest settler denominations established a particularly pacific reputation during the years prior to 1945. Consequently, with some notable exceptions, there have been few studies of peacemaking initiatives within these churches.39 Various works have examined religious responses to specific wars, including the work of chaplains to the armed forces, and considered the effects of war upon the churches.40 Unsurprisingly, the mainline churches have featured prominently in such works. A key emphasis to date has been on the wartime patriotism and ‘loyalty’ of the larger churches, particularly during the First World War.41 The emergence of support for internationalism during the interwar period has also been noted. Within the churches, a few prominent leaders, such as the leading Presbyterian minister and ‘patriot into pacifist’ James Gibb,42 were key supporters. So, too, were a younger generation of emerging leaders. Many of these were connected with the Methodist and Presbyterian Bible Class movements and the university-based Student Christian Movement.

Interestingly, Presbyterianism features prominently in four of the chapters that follow, though in different ways and illustrating diverse issues. Each case focuses on an individual. In two instances, the subjects were prominent Presbyterians, though at different points in their careers. John Stenhouse’s chapter focuses on the Reverend Rutherford Waddell, a figure most commonly remembered for his outspoken campaigning against sweated labour, which contributed to the introduction of important social legislation during the 1890s. It is less well known that Waddell was also a vocal critic of war. Stenhouse details Waddell’s war criticism and draws a connection between this and his social campaigning, arguing that these were related expressions of Waddell’s ‘puritan’ vision for the creation of a cohesive, peaceable society. Waddell’s ardent criticisms were not based on an absolutist pacifist principle, however, as became clear in his stance during the First World War. Yet neither was he a Holy War crusader. His opposition was more in keeping with a rigorous just war ethic. As Stenhouse argues, that part of the ethical spectrum has been inadequately represented in the New Zealand historiography of religion and war, though it was nonetheless highly significant.

Allan Davidson’s chapter on Alun Richards focuses on the interwar period, and the debate over compulsory military training (CMT) during that time. Richards was a young Presbyterian university student who in 1927 refused to undertake military training—on the basis of his own Christian objection to war, and bolstered by a recent Presbyterian Church statement that such military training was ‘wrong in principle’. The Court’s refusal to grant Richards exemption on religious grounds created broad discontent not only from pacifists, but also from pacificists within the Presbyterian and other churches, and a wider base of those concerned about issues of militarism and religious freedom. Richards’ case, and stance, captured public attention, garnering both support and criticism. He soon became a central figure in a widening national debate. Davidson’s analysis of these events highlights the influential role that individual Christians and churches played in the debate over CMT. It also illustrates the strength of debate within and beyond the churches as New Zealanders grappled with issues of peace, war and alternatives to war. For younger Christians like Richards, these events were formative and shaped an ongoing witness for peace in church and society.

Richards was not a lone activist. There were numerous small, peace-oriented organisations operating in New Zealand during the interwar years. Despite this, John Cookson has noted that no ‘“peace movement” based on a coalition of pacifist and pacificist bodies’ emerged at that time.43 A number of Christian-based groups existed, and new organisations formed. The most prominent and influential of these by the start of the Second World War was the Christian Pacifist Society (CPS), founded in 1936. Ormond Burton was the leading figure within that organisation, and arguably the nation’s most high-profile pacifist of the period. Burton grew up in the Presbyterian Church, but entered the Methodist ministry in the 1930s. David Grant tells his story, focusing particularly on his role in the CPS’s anti-war demonstrations during the Second World War. Christian pacifism dominated Second World War pacifism in New Zealand,44 and Grant’s narrative outlines the CPS’s activities, Burton’s particular contribution and the opposition that he encountered—from the State, society and within his own Church. His account confirms the illiberalism of the New Zealand State at that time, and something of the intolerance arising from ‘the insecurities of a small, relatively homogenous society’.45 Burton was also an uncompromising character, and his story highlights the significance of personality as well as the character of the debate about war within the churches.

The fourth study of an individual with Presbyterian connections is something of an outlier—in part because the extent of the Presbyterian connection is less certain, but more importantly because so too is the nature of his Christian faith. Archibald Baxter is New Zealand’s best known conscientious objector, though he did not characterise himself in those terms. It is widely accepted that Baxter’s objection to war was based in some measure upon religious principles, but the notorious vagueness of Baxter’s comments about his faith have led to a wide range of interpretations. David Tombs’ chapter provides the first detailed assessment of the evidence concerning Baxter’s religious convictions, and concludes that he was indeed a Christian—more deeply and committedly so than has often been assumed. Part of the significance of Tombs’ interpretation lies in the well-known fact of Baxter’s lack of church affiliation at the time of the First World War. Baxter’s convinced but unaffiliated faith is a reminder that Christian ideas, convictions and frames of reference were widely diffused in New Zealand before the Second World War. Christianity’s role in shaping moral imaginations and convictions about war and peace could reach beyond the churches, and thus be more extensive than is expected or readily traceable. This raises questions about the boundary lines of ‘Christian’ thinking about war, and traditions of opposition. It also provides a corrective to any tendency to bind Christianity too tightly to church institutions, even in earlier periods of higher affiliation and church attendance.

Cumulatively, the chapters in this volume reveal a rich range of Christian peace stories in New Zealand that deserve to be better known. The traditions of opposition to war that they represent warrant more extensive investigation, alongside others that are not addressed in this book. They also need to be more carefully integrated into broader accounts of the New Zealand peace movement and of anti-militarism.

The accounts that follow do not demonstrate that New Zealand Christians were uniformly or impeccably peaceable, or even that particular expressions of objection always indicated consistent or strict anti-war outlooks. In the most capacious New Testament sense, saints are simply those ‘in Christ’—Christian believers, followers of Jesus. In a narrower sense, there are saints who are especially recognised as such on account of their exemplary character and devotion. All of the subjects in this volume are identifiable as saints, though there may be debate as to the category that best describes them. These saints were invariably stirrers. Even in reputedly peaceable nations like New Zealand, to question war apparently required an element of provocation. While some saints evidently delighted in the role, there was also much variation. This is not altogether surprising. For although peace is widely commended within Christianity, there have always been debates over the ethics of war—and different modes of stirring.


1 For a window into many of these events and projects, and historians’ contributions, see

2 For example, Steven Loveridge, ed., New Zealand Society at War, 1914–1918 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2016); Steven Loveridge, Calls to Arms: New Zealand Society and Commitment to the Great War (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2014); Kate Hunter and Kirstie Ross, Holding on to Home: New Zealand Stories and Objects of the First World War (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2014).

3 See Scott Worthy, ‘A Debt of Honour: New Zealanders’ First Anzac Days’, New Zealand Journal of History (NZJH) 36, no. 2 (2002): 185–200; Graeme Ferguson, ‘Chunuk Bair and the Search for Identity’, in Mapping the Landscape: Essays in Australian and New Zealand Christianity—Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ian Breward, edited by Susan Emilsen and William W. Emilsen (New York: Peter Lang, 2000), 222–37; Maureen Sharp, ‘Anzac Day in New Zealand, 1916–39’, NZJH 15, no. 2 (1981): 97–114.

4 See, for example, the ‘Voices Against War’ project, led by Margaret Lovell-Smith at

5 Field Punishment No. 1, directed by Peter Burger (Lippy Pictures, 2014); David Grant with paintings by Bob Kerr, Field Punishment No. 1: Archibald Baxter, Mark Briggs and New Zealand’s Anti-militarist Tradition (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2008); Archibald Baxter, We Will Not Cease (Auckland: Cape Catley, 2003).

6 Matt. 5:9, 5:43–48, 22:34–40. The literature on forms of early Christian pacifism is extensive. There are useful accounts in Lisa Sowle Cahill, Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), esp. 15–54; and Roland H. Bainton’s classic study, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation (New York: Abingdon Press, 1960), esp. 53–84.

7 William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007).

8 Nicholas Thompson, ‘The Escaped Nun: Taking the Sectarian Temperature of Nineteenth Century New Zealand’, in Sacred Histories in Secular New Zealand, edited by Geoffrey Troughton and Stuart Lange (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2016), 72–86; Rory Sweetman, ‘“How to behave among Protestants”: Varieties of Irish Catholic Leadership in Colonial New Zealand’, in The Irish in New Zealand: Historical Contexts and Perspectives, edited by Brad Patterson (Wellington: Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies, 2002), 89–90.

9 Notably, for example, Michael King, The Penguin History of New Zealand (Auckland: Penguin, 2003).

10 ‘God Defend New Zealand’ was first published and set to music in 1876; this became the national song in 1940, and a national anthem in 1977. On the history of this anthem, see Max Cryer, Hear Our Voices, We Entreat: The Extraordinary Story of New Zealand’s National Anthems (Auckland: Exisle Publishing, 2004); Ashley Heenan, God Defend New Zealand: A History of the National Anthem (Christchurch: School of Music, University of Canterbury, 2004).

11 As earlier noted in Megan Hutching, ‘“Mothers of the World”: Women, Peace and Arbitration in Early Twentieth-Century New Zealand’, NZJH 27, no. 2 (2005): 173–85.

12 For example, Ernest Crane, I Can Do No Other: A Biography of the Reverend Ormond Burton (Auckland: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986); David Grant, A Question of Faith: A History of the New Zealand Christian Pacifist Society (Wellington: Philip Garside Publishing, 2004); Zane Mather, ‘“To Leaven the Lump”: A Critical History of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship in New Zealand’ (MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2011).

13 For example, Elsie Locke, Peace People: A History of Peace Activities in New Zealand (Christchurch: Hazard Press, 1992); Maire Leadbeater, Peace, Power and Politics: How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2013); Kevin P. Clements, Back from the Brink: The Creation of a Nuclear-free New Zealand (Wellington: Allen & Unwin, 1988); Trevor Richards, Dancing on Our Bones: New Zealand, South Africa, Rugby and Racism (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 1999); Geoff Chapple, 1981: The Tour (Wellington: Reed, 1984). For contrast, Laurie Guy, Shaping Godzone: Public Issues and Church Voices in New Zealand 1840–2000 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2011), esp. 235–355; Allan K. Davidson, Christianity in Aotearoa: A History of Church and Society in New Zealand (3rd ed., Wellington: Education for Ministry, 2004); Christopher Nichol and James Veitch, ‘Rucking for Justice: Apartheid, the Churches and the 1981 Springbok Tour’, in Religion in New Zealand, edited by Christopher Nichol and James Veitch (2nd ed., Wellington: Tertiary Christian Studies Programme, 1983), 287–312.

14 Geoffrey Troughton and Philip Fountain, eds., Pursuing Peace in Godzone: Christianity and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand (Wellington: Victoria University Press, forthcoming).

15 Malcolm McKinnon, ‘Opposition to the War in New Zealand’, in One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue: New Zealand, the British Empire and the South African War 1899–1902, edited by John Crawford and Ian McGibbon (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003), 28–45; Megan Hutching, ‘“Turn Back This Tide of Barbarism”: New Zealand Women Who Were Opposed to War, 1896–1919’ (MA thesis, University of Auckland, 1990); Hutching, ‘Mothers of the World’, 173–85.

16 H. E. Holland, Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and ‘The Process of Their Conversion’ (Wellington: Maoriland Worker, 1919), 5–6.

17 Angela Ballara, Taua: ‘Musket Wars’, ‘Land Wars’ or Tikanga? Warfare in Māori Society in the Early Nineteenth Century (Auckland: Penguin, 2003), 153–62; A. P. Vayda, Maori Warfare (Wellington: Polynesian Society, 1960), 119–24.

18 On this see Geoffrey Troughton, ‘Missionaries, Historians and the Peace Tradition in New Zealand’, in Te Rongopai 1814 Takoto te pai! Bicentenary Reflections on Christian Beginnings and Developments in Aotearoa New Zealand, edited by Allan Davidson, Stuart Lange, Peter Lineham and Adrienne Puckey (Auckland: General Synod Office of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, 2014), 243–44. See also, for example, Phyllis L. Garlick, Peacemaker of the Tribes: Henry Williams of New Zealand (London: Highway Press, 1939); A. H. Reed, Marsden of Maoriland: Pioneer and Peacemaker (Dunedin: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1938).

19 Malcolm Falloon, ‘The Tārore Story: Sorting Fact from Fiction’, in Troughton and Lange, 40–53.

20 For example, Mary-Anne Woodfield, ‘Sowing the Gospel of Peace: Missionary James Watkin at Karitāne and Wellington, 1840–1855’ (MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2016).

21 See Lachy Paterson, Colonial Discourses: Niupepa Māori, 1855–1863 (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2006); Lyndsay Head, ‘The Pursuit of Modernity in Maori Society: The Conceptual Bases of Citizenship in the Early Colonial Period’, in Histories, Power and Loss: Uses of the Past—A New Zealand Commentary, edited by Andrew Sharp and Paul McHugh (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2001), 97–121.

22 For example, Lyndsay Head, ‘Wiremu Tamihana and the Mana of Christianity’, in Christianity, Modernity and Culture: New Perspectives on New Zealand History, edited by John Stenhouse and G. A. Wood (Adelaide: ATF Press, 2005), 58–86; Evelyn Stokes, Wiremu Tamihana: Rangatira (Wellington: Huia, 2002).

23 On Te Whiti as a prophet, see Bronwyn Elsmore, Mana from Heaven: A Century of Maori Prophets in New Zealand (Tauranga: Moana Press, 1989); Like Them That Dream: The Maori and the Old Testament (Tauranga: Moana Press, 1985). See also Paul Morris, ‘The Provocation of Parihaka: Reflections on Spiritual Resistance in Aotearoa’, in Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance, edited by Te Miringa Hohaia, Gregory O’Brien and Lara Strongman (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001), 105–16.

24 Danny Keenan, Te Whiti O Rongomai and the Resistance of Parihaka (Wellington: Huia, 2015). See also Hazel Riseborough, Days of Darkness: The Government and Parihaka, Taranaki, 1878–1884 (revised edition, Auckland: Penguin, 2002); Dick Scott, Ask That Mountain: The Story of Parihaka (Auckland: Heinemann, 1975).

25 Peter Oettli, God’s Messenger: J. F. Riemenschneider and Racial Conflict in 19th Century New Zealand (Wellington: Huia, 2008), 222.

26 Octavius Hadfield, One of England’s Little Wars (London and Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1860); The Second Year of One of England’s Little Wars (London and Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1861); A Sequel to “One of England’s Little Wars” (London and Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1861).

27 Steven Oliver, ‘Te Rauparaha, Tamihana’,; W. H. Oliver, ‘Te Whiwhi, Henare Matene’,; Mason Durie, ‘Te Rangiotu, Hoani Meihana’,; Tina White, ‘Who Was the Daughter of Peace?’, Manawatu Standard, 9 April 2016,

28 Religious Objectors Advisory Board to Minister of Defence, 20 March 1919,

29 Allan K. Davidson and Peter J. Lineham, Transplanted Christianity: Documents Illustrating Aspects of New Zealand Church History (5th ed., Auckland: Kereru, 2015), 4.1 and 6.3.

30 For example, Hutching, ‘Mothers of the World’, 180. On the 1916 Act and issues relating to exemption, see Paul Baker, King and Country Call: New Zealanders, Conscription and the Great War (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1988); David Littlewood, ‘“Willing and Eager to Go in Their Turn”? Appeals for Exemption from Military Service in New Zealand and Great Britain, 1916–1918’, War in History 21, no. 3 (2014): 338–54.

31 Thomas Kennedy, ‘Why Did Friends Resist? The War, the Peace Testimony, and the All-Friends Conference of 1920’, Peace and Change 14, no. 4 (1989): 355–56. See also Peter Brock, Varieties of Pacifism: A Survey from Antiquity to the Outset of the Twentieth Century (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998); Hugh Barbour, ‘The “Lamb’s War” and the Origins of the Quaker Peace Testimony’, in The Pacifist Impulse in Historical Perspective, edited by Harvey L. Dyck (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 145–58; Peter Brock, Pioneers of a Peaceable Kingdom: The Quaker Peace Testimony from the Colonial Era to the First World War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971).

32 Elizabeth Plumridge, ‘Quaker Conscience in War: The Goldsbury Family, New Zealand, 1914–1918’, unpublished paper presented at ‘Peace, not war, shall be our boast’: Historical, Theological and Contemporary Perspectives on Peace and Christianity in New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington conference, 18–20 November 2015; Margaret Lovell-Smith, ‘The Case of Noel Goldsbury’,

33 K. R. Adams, ‘The Growth and Development of the Society of Friends in New Zealand, 1840–1920’ (MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 1986), 29–40, 85–86, 104–106.

34 See R. L. Weitzel, ‘Pacifists and Anti-militarists in New Zealand, 1909–1914’, NZJH 7, no. 2 (1973): 143, 146.

35 Locke, 35–36; Jim McAloon, ‘Radical Christchurch’, in Southern Capital: Christchurch: Towards a City Biography, 1850–2000, edited by John Cookson and Graeme Dunstall (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2000), 177.

36 Laurie Guy, ‘Baptist Pacifists in New Zealand: Creating Division in the Fight for Peace’, Baptist Quarterly 40 (2004): 488–99.

37 J. Ayson Clifford, A Handful of Grain: The Centenary History of the Baptist Union of N.Z., Volume 2—1882–1914 (Wellington: NZ Baptist Historical Society, 1982), 114–15; John Tucker, ‘The Ancient Word in the Modern World: The Preaching of J. J. North’, in Troughton and Lange, 147–48.

38 See Martin Sutherland, Conflict and Connection: Baptist Identity in New Zealand (Auckland: Archer Press, 2011).

39 Allan K. Davidson, ‘Peace and Pacifism: New Zealand Presbyterians 1901–45’, in Reforming the Reformation: Essays in Honour of Principal Peter Matheson, edited by Ian Breward (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2004), 181–96.

40 For example, Allan K. Davidson, New Zealand Methodist Chaplains and Ministers at War, Wesley Historical Society (NZ), Proceedings no. 101 (Auckland: Wesley Historical Society (NZ), 2016); Dickon John Milnes, ‘The Church Militant: Dunedin Churches and Society During World War One’ (PhD thesis, University of Otago, 2015); Ross M. Anderson, ‘New Zealand Methodism and World War I: Crisis in a Liberal Church’ (MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 1983).

41 Peter Lineham, ‘The Rising Price of Rendering to Caesar: The Churches in World War One’, in Loveridge, ed., New Zealand Society at War, 190–205; Allan Davidson, ‘New Zealand Churches and Death in the First World War’, in New Zealand’s Great War: New Zealand, the Allies and the First World War, edited by John Crawford and Ian McGibbon (Auckland: Exisle Publishing, 2007), 447–66; Peter Lineham, ‘First World War Religion’, in Crawford and McGibbon, 467–92; Hugh Laracy, ‘Priests, People and Patriotism: New Zealand Catholics and War, 1914–1918’, Australasian Catholic Record 70, no. 1 (1993): 14–26.

42 Lawrence H. Barber, The Very Rev. James Gibb: Patriot into Pacifist (Dunedin: Presbyterian Historical Society of New Zealand, 1973).

43 J. E. Cookson, ‘Pacifism and Conscientious Objection in New Zealand’, in Challenge to Mars: Essays on Pacifism from 1918 to 1945, edited by Peter Brock and Thomas P. Socknat (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 293.

44 Cookson, ‘Pacifism and Conscientious Objection in New Zealand’, 294.

45 J. E. Cookson, ‘Illiberal New Zealand: The Formation of Government Policy on Conscientious Objection, 1940–1’, NZJH 17, no. 2 (1983): 120–43; Cookson, ‘Pacifism and Conscientious Objection in New Zealand’, 306.

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