Christchurch was founded by politicians. This is very different from Dunedin; it was founded by churchmen. The Free Church of Scotland had emerged in a time revival. During the disruption of that time, many ministers lost their manses because they decided to be true to the word of God and the gospel. The vision for Dunedin was born out of this environment. The goal was to establish a church, which would be a base for missionary efforts. Thomas Burns, the first minister in Dunedin, believed that it would be base from which the gospel would go out to the Pacific and Asia.

That vision has not really been fulfilled, so people from Asia and Pacific are now coming here to receive the gospel. It is also why young people get restless and leave Southland and Otago. They have a calling to go out, but do not know why. Dunedin is a missionary city.

Christchurch is a "Kingdom" city. The men who founded the Canterbury Association had a political vision. They were politicians, not ministers. John Robert Godley attended Oxford University at the same time as a group of men who later became the key political leaders in England. William Gladstone, who later become the Prime Minister, was a friend of Godley at university. These young men had a strong sense of public duty, a belief in self-help and personal effort, and a deep sympathy for the unfortunate. They all had a "fundamental belief in a society based on the Christian religion".


The founders of the Canterbury Association believed that a time of darkness was coming; lights were going out in Europe. The Canterbury Association was established in 1848, a year of revolution in Europe. Traditional authorities were shaken. Metternich the Austrian Chancellor, a politician who had dominated Europe, had to flee Vienna and take refuge in England. Robert Godley, who grew up in Ireland, had frequent violent threats against his life.

This unease is reflected in the statements of the Canterbury Association:

Extraordinary changes are taking place in the political and social system of Europe; the future is dark and troubled; "men's hearts are failing them for fear" (Canterbury Association).

Robert Godley, the leader of the Canterbury Association, had an almost morbid consciousness of evil and destructive forces at work in church and society. He scarcely doubted in those days, that the western world was near to final calamity, and his hope was that civilisation would regenerate itself in the newer societies of the Americas and the antipodes (James Hight, History of Canterbury).

In Godley's opinion, the church was as sick as the society in which it lived. He was appalled at the churches lost of spiritual vigour and doctrinal independence (James Hight, History of Canterbury).

Authority from Above

These fears were the result of a change in the nature of political authority. Godley and his colleagues believed that authority and morality must come from above, from God. In contrast, the political movements that were sweeping Europe were based on natural rights. Godley considered this to be "derivation of power from below". This he said "places the well-spring of human authority in ourselves. It makes individual opinion the test of truth, and it leads us to look inwards and downwards for law, instead of to a positive, external independent agency, derived from God". This makes law "dependent on the feeling, opinions and judgments of individuals", which are "changeable and fluctuating."

He feared that these principles, which were advancing in Europe, would sweep civilisation and everything away. He believed morality and law should be derived from above, from God, who is "unchanging and unalterable"

Their fundamental belief (was) in a society based on the principles of the Christian religion, that is to say upon natural duties, not natural rights (Godley of Canterbury, p.6).

Godley's political convictions proceeded from and were subordinate to his religious convictions. The church, in his view, is the custodian of the truths, which were the only basis for political authority (James Hight, History of Canterbury).

The aspiration of men like Godley and Lyttleton was to create in New Zealand a society based on faith and obedience to God, where civilisation could be preserved from the forces destroying society in the old world. They hoped that civilisation would regenerate itself in the newer societies in the Americas and the Antipodes.

Translated, their goal was to establish the Kingdom of God in Christchurch, at a time when darkness was sweeping the rest of the world. This was quite a prophetic vision. Austin Leigh used the word Kingdom to describe the vision in a meeting of the Association at Reading.

The Canterbury Settlement appears likely to further the efforts already made to extend the blessed influence of the Redeemer's kingdom, not only throughout New Zealand, but also in the surrounding islands of the Pacific Ocean.

He saw the Canterbury Settlement as a little leaven that would leaven the whole mass of the earth with the light and glory of the gospel of Jesus (Canterbury Association Papers, 1850-1852).

Leaven is an image of the Kingdom of God (Matt 13:34). He was saying that the Canterbury settlement would be a place from which the Kingdom of God would spread throughout the Pacific area.

On the 5th July 1851, the leading article in the Times of London said.

A slice of England cut from top to bottom
was despatched to the Antipodes last September.
A complete sample of Christian civilisation
took ship at Gravesend.
(Quote from Godley of Canterbury p 117.)

The goal of the Canterbury Association was to establish the Kingdom of God in the form of a Christian civilisation in Christchurch. This was God's calling on the Canterbury Association.

Godley believed that God had called him to establish the Kingdom of God in Christchurch. He did not achieve this goal. The settlement was corrupted by the pride and superiority (reflected in the reference to a class society in the second part of the quotation) that affects most of what happens in Christchurch. However, the calling still remains upon this city.

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