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History Of The Synod

The Synod of Otago & Southland has its origins in the beginnings of the Otago Province, in 1848. Many of the Scottish Presbyterian emigrants who came to Otago at this time in search of a better life were members of the 'Free Kirk,' formed after the Disruption of 1843 split the Church of Scotland. Although there was already a Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, the independent southern settlers established their own Presbyterian Church south of the Waitaki River.

As settlement expanded, the southern Presbyterians built a network of congregations throughout Otago and Southland. They set up a management structure of church courts, and in 1866 established the Synod of  Otago and Southland  as the ruling body for the church. The Synod administered church business, held together the southern presbyteries, and distributed the growing income from church property trusts.

The Education and Users Trust was established in 1847 prior to the departure of the settlers.  An agreement with the New Zealand Company entitled the Trustees to receive one-eighth of the revenue from property sales for the purposes of establishing schools and parishes in the region.  With the dissolution of the Company in 1851 the Trust funds that had accumulated to this date were left in legal limbo.  By the end of 1866 the New Zealand Government and the Otago Provincial Government resolved the legal complexities of the Trust Fund and the Presbyterian Church of Otago Lands Act  was passed.  The result was the renaming of the Trust as the ‘Church Board of Property’ known today as the ‘Otago Foundation Trust Board’.   The renaming of the Trust in 1866 coincided with the formation of the Synod of Otago and Southland reflecting the growth of Presbyterianism in the southern districts.

Further amendments to the Lands Act  in 1874 and into the 20th Century increased the authority of the Trustees to sell land and reinvest the monies hence providing the Synod with an income to distribute annually.
When the southern and northern Presbyterian Churches were united in 1901, it was on condition that the substantial trusts which were the special endowment of the southern church remained in the south. The Synod of Otago and Southland became a court of the united church, but retained control of these trusts. The Synod remains the sole regional court of the national church.

Apart from planting churches and building manses as the church work grew throughout the Provinces of Otago and Southland, the Trustees provided funds for the first academic chair at the University of Otago in 1869.  This initial input established a close relationship between the Synod and the University for the next 70 years.  The Synod continues its support for University education to this day with their most resent contribution is towards the Howard Patterson Chair in Theology and Public Issues.

Although the Agreement for Union in 1901 supported the Trust Funds remaining under the Synod’s control for southern purposes the Synod has always given generous support towards the Church’s Theological  training of its ministers at Knox College, Dunedin.

In recent years there has been a growing appreciation in the Synod of the foresight of those pioneers and a responsibility to use these God given resources wisely.  Hence the Synod sees an important role to support mission and outreach in the southern regions as well as the continuing support for the up-keep of church buildings.  Funds are made available to ‘seed’ new mission initiatives such as  StudentSoul (www.studentsoul.church.net.nz) a dedicated student church based on campus at the University of Otago.  The success of StudentSoul has encouraged a similar model to be established  in other New Zealand Universities using the Otago experience.

This site will give an indication of the work and news from the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland, part of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Presbyterian Synod Of Otago and Southland.
Phone: {03} 477 7365
Fax: {03} 477 6736
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Level 5, Evan Parry House,
43 Princes St, Dunedin.
P O Box 1131,
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