After seven years as the Anglican bishop of the diocese of Dunedin, the Rt Rev Dr Kelvin Wright is stepping down.
Dr Wright, who was previously the vicar of St John’s Roslyn for 12 years, after stints in Waikato and Christchurch dioceses, will retire at Easter.
He said his proudest achievement as bishop had been changing the office and parish structures within the Dunedin diocese.
This included reclassifying smaller churches to help them survive, and improving the finances of the diocese.
The Dunedin diocese paid its bills and had no deficit last year – for the first time in “decades” – and was “on course” to do the same this year, Dr Wright said.
“I’m very pleased with the way it is.”
The need for the church to adjust its structures and traditions was because the Western world was changing dramatically, he said.
People were more likely to seek out faith communities and spirituality by going online, reading a book or gathering a group of like-minded friends, he said.
“There’s a whole different way of relating to God.”
However, he was convinced people were “no less religious” than they had been in the past; they just “express it very differently”.
Dr Wright predicted the future of the church would consist of small congregations meeting in houses or small spaces, but public support for keeping the historic churches running would maintain the older buildings.
The clergy team had been “greatly strengthened” over several years. Some “excellent” people had joined the diocese and more young people were working towards ordination in the church, he said.
This change in the ages of people who became involved in church ministry “signalled” the church was “going to have to change drastically”.
“People’s ideas of running a church back then were that you had a fancy building, and you paid a male vicar and people gathered and went to that church and it was a whole-of-life thing.”
However, one tradition that would remain – contrary to concerns last year – was that a new bishop would be employed by the Dunedin diocese, Dr Wright said.
While funding a new bishop had prompted the church to call for donations – including donating the price of a coffee once a week – funding had been secured, and the electoral synod of church-voted decision-makers would decide on a new bishop in late May, he said.
However, despite retiring from the role of bishop, Dr Wright, who was ordained in 1979, does not plan to step away from ministry entirely.
He would talk to the new bishop to see what he could do for the church, he said.
For now, he planned on doing some travel and house renovations with his wife, as well as writing a children’s book, Dr Wright said.
His Easter message was that the universe was “so astonishing and beautiful and wonderful and we just don’t see it”.
“What stops us seeing it is that we are so blinded by our own prejudices and presuppositions that we can’t see what’s right there under our noses.
“Jesus’ message is ‘repent’, which means ‘to think again’, because the Kingdom is as close as your own hand.”