06 June 2012

The Queen's Birthday Awards - A Query

by Dr Mark Keown

Congratulations to all the Kiwis who received a Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee honour. In Romans 13:3, in the passage on the role of the State, urges the Romans to ‘do what is right and you will be praised.’ So it is great for a nation to honour its people for services rendered.

I have a query about this list though. It is this – where are the people who have served within the world of the church? Or more broadly, where are the people who have served in the world of religion?

As I peruse both the Queen’s Birthday and New Year’s lists for 2012, I see only one person who is honoured for services to religion – Mrs Millie Amiria Te Kaawa, who received an award ‘For services to Maori and the Presbyterian Church.’ Emma and I know Millie and she is a deserving recipient, a true leader at the Ohope Synod with a great deal of mana.

In recent times I remember that Lloyd Gering was honoured – the Presbyterian Minister who denied the resurrection and sparked a huge controversy in the Presbyterian Church. While not much was said publically, this decision was rather controversial with many evangelicals rather disturbed, while others were delighted.

As I cast my eye over the lists I see mentioned a great number of those who have served in government, the civil service, the arts, film and TV, music, fashion, Māori, ‘the community’, business, sport (lots of sport), literature, international relations, law, science, theatre, tourism, industry, education, health, philanthropy, research, conservation, food, wine, rescue and protection (police, military, etc.), the Chinese community, Scouting, aviation, etc.

Where are the people who serve in the sphere of the church and religion?

Census figures tell us that over half of New Zealanders are religious, mostly Christian. Up to 20% attend church on a regular basis. Yet, there is virtually no representation in such awards. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not taking away from anyone who has an award, God bless them, we rejoice for and with them. The question for me is, why the lack of people who serve faithfully for the greater part of their lives in building community in NZ’s churches and religious groups, who serve faithfully in their broader communities and pass on the values of compassion and justice that our nation is founded on? After all, while we are guilty of many failings as people of faith, much good is also done in and through our religious groups and people. Is it because we don’t put people up for the awards or a false humility on our part? Or is it another example of the marginalisation of the church and religion in NZ? I wonder.

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