What is Presbyterianism?

Since their earliest beginnings in 16th century Europe and Scotland, Presbyterian churches have been committed to a number of basic values, which include: faith in Jesus Christ (both personal and corporate); a democratic approach to the structure and governance of the church; involvement in society; a freedom of belief and understanding; and the value of education. Our plan for the future builds on our history. We seek to have a Church made up of “healthy congregations”, groups of lively Presbyterians with an outward focus, a sense of direction and an involving and shared leadership.


The Presbyterian Church is part of the wider family of Christian churches. Our emphasis has been on the primacy of God in our lives and our belief that all people are equal in the sight of God. The Presbyterian Church seeks to follow Jesus Christ, who lived 2000 years ago and who, for us, has significant contemporary value.


Our Church is one run by the minister and the elders in partnership. ‘Presbyterianism’ means everybody is involved in decision-making at all levels. Our structure includes groups representing members of the Church. We have a particular partnership with Maori, Te Aka Puaho. Presbyterians believe in the ‘priesthood of all believers’; the value of each individual. We are committed to a style of leadership that is accountable to and serves the people. Each person’s contribution is valued, your ideas count

Work overseas

The Global Mission Office coordinates our work overseas. Many of our partnerships with churches and ecumenical bodies date back many decades whereas other endeavours are relatively new. We have been working in Vanuatu for over 150 years and celebrated the centenary of our mission to the Punjab, India in 2008. Our work over the years has focused primarily on education in schools, theological institutions and teaching hospitals over and above the provision of ministry staff. In more recent times we have also been involved in development work as well as mission exposure visits for young people. Read more about our work at Global Mission Office


The history and belief of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is closely linked to our reformed heritage. John Calvin in Geneva and John Knox in Edinburgh were instrumental in shaping early Presbyterian faith and practice. In this country the Presbyterian Church began as a “settler church” in 1840. Our early history was shaped by Scottish and English settlers wanting to build a better world for themselves and their families. That experience has continued today with post-World War II Dutch and European settlers and more recent Pacific Island and Asian migrants.

Where we’re going

New Zealand Presbyterianism today continues the dynamic tradition of our forebears. We have been through a lot in the 160-plus years of our existence in Aotearoa New Zealand, and today we face an environment as challenging as that faced by the early settlers in 1840. We have a strategy that recognises that our society has changed and we have to change with it.