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Mission Possible

Leadership as Drama, Dance and Dialogue: Towards a Theology of Leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand

Do not let anyone call you leader! You have one leader, the Christ!

In October 2000, a coloured South African who had been in New Zealand since 1991 was an invited speaker at mountaineer Graham Dingle’s Wellington launch of Project K. Dingle was founder of the project, a life-skills programme for at-risk youth, and had invited the speaker who had just stepped down from a top-tier management position at AXA, one of the largest insurance companies in New Zealand. Prime Minister Helen Clark who was at the meeting, was sufficiently impressed by the speaker to invite him to speak at a caucus discussion on race issues.

Labour chief whip Rick Barker recalls that labour party discussion: ‘He was quite brilliant. He spoke of his own personal experience…gave a number of homilies. He put up quotes on an overhead – some of his own, some of Mandela’s. He was quite inspirational. He spoke with seriousness and sincerity…his message was very like Mandela’s: if you love and forgive you cannot be trapped by anger and hatred [italics for emphasis mine].’

Meetings with key people followed, and in April 2001, the subject of this story, Gregory Fortuin, was appointed as Race Relations Conciliator. At the time, they sang his praises. Within a year the same voices were raising a howl of protest, resulting in Fortuin’s resignation from the position – gladly accepted by the Attorney General, as a political expediency.

In a later radio broadcast, Fortuin, though hurt and disappointed, lived the words he had spoken a year earlier. He remained congruent. He restated his vision, his desire to make a difference. He made clear reference to the One who had sustained him, and continued to give him hope. He loved, forgave, and moved on out of the public eye. He exercised Christian leadership that spoke more eloquently than a hundred sermons. Bonhoeffer would have been proud.


An era ago in the early 20th century, witness another form of leadership: excellent in the way a vision was cast, people energised and empowered, and the plan executed. The outcome however, was a tragedy beyond comprehension. History would record it as the Holocaust. The man who exercised that leadership was Adolph Hitler – a man who had been abused as a boy, who remained a teenager emotionally, and took revenge on the world.

The world will forever remember the words fuehrer and reich. Not everyone, however, would remember their meaning in the German:  leader and kingdom.

If you want to share with us your feedback, insights, or your own story, or require our help, or simply want a copy of this resource, please email me here: missionpossible@maxnet.co.nz.

God bless you as you journey,

John Daniel
Dunedin, April 2014

The Cry of These Islands

‘The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history!’

History offers us the opportunity to learn from the experience of others. While we cannot change the past, we can change our reading of it, with the potential to invest in our present in ways that leave a legacy of positive consequences for those that follow us. The Reverend John Macfarlane took seriously the Biblical narrative, the stories of his Tradition, and the accounts of returning missionaries at the Scottish Kirk’s General Assembly. It eventually led him to Aotearoa New Zealand. The rest as they say is history!

In this two-part volume, our task has been to allow Macfarlane to ‘tell’ his story; as we outline and evaluate his influence on Aotearoa in the period 1840-44. It is our premise that we as ministry and mission leaders, the church, and our nation can benefit from sitting awhile at Macfarlane’s feet. In a sense we are learning again of the treasures in leadership gifted to us as a nation.

The first paper, Part I, outlines Macfarlane’s context, crises, character and contribution, and explores how this might inform and challenge us in our own context. It concludes with a worksheet section (Appendix A, page 20) to aid reflection and learning; a Timeline of Macfarlane’s ministry in Aotearoa (Appendix B); and a select Bibliography. In the Part II that follows, Rev Te Kaawa narrates Macfarlane’s quite significant and largely untold engagement with Maori in his inimitable style.

We have sought to let Macfarlane speak, as much as possible without embellishment or undue criticism. However, we confess this is a draft and we are still learning. We share our bias in viewing Macfarlane through our 21st century eyes, with the benefit of hindsight, and our own ‘missionary motivation’ – that we may ‘learn from history’...

May you be encouraged as you read, be inspired to ‘grow and tell’ your own story, and equipped to write the Church’s and perhaps your nation’s future history.

If you want to share with us your feedback, insights, or your own story, or require our help, or simply want a copy of this resource, please email me here: missionpossible@maxnet.co.nz.

God bless you as you journey,

John Daniel
Dunedin, April 2013

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