Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Shaping a Colonial Church: Bishop Harper and the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Shaping a Colonial Church: Bishop Harper and the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch

Article excerpt

Shaping a Colonial Church: Bishop Harper and the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. Edited by Colin Brown, Marie Peters, and Jane Teal. (Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press, 2006, Pp. 315. NZ $45.00.)

Full marks to the editors and authors of this fine piece of writing for avoiding problems often faced by works such as this. Diocesan histories and episcopal biographies run the risk of having too strong a local focus. The work under review, however, is broad in its scope and will appeal to a wide range of readers in various spheres and well beyond the boundaries of Christchurch Diocese.

The idea for this collection of essays came in the early 1990s from Michael Blain, then a vicar in Christchurch Diocese, and the diocesan archivist, Jane Teal. Blain had a considerable interest in clerical biographies and Teal had recently unearthed a trunk containing twenty-eight outward letterbooks from Henry John Chitty Harper, the first bishop of the diocese, who served from 1856 until his retirement in 1890. The aim was to produce a volume of essays to mark the sesquicentary of the diocese in 2006.

The title of the book gives a clear indication that this is much more than a biography of Harper or a history of the first thirty-four years of the diocese. It is about the way the Anglican Church developed here over that period, and Bishop Harper's role in that. The individual essays have been designed thematically, and care taken to ensure that there is no undue repetition. The thematic arrangement allows the authors to explore widely the full range of diocesan life. Most of the contributors are practiced historians, and the work is of a consistently high standard throughout.

The opening and closing chapters were contributed by Marie Peters, who ably sets the developments in New Zealand within the broader context of Anglican nineteenth-century history. …

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