The Bible in Schools debate is not unknown in this country. In fact, from the early days of the colony it was one that dominated in sermons, letters to the editor and in parliament.
In 1883, the Anglican Primate noted, “the great majority of children in this colony are receiving in the state schools an education, which however excellent it may be for practical and educational purposes, does not supply those guiding principles … so needful for the formation of a Christian character.”
In 1887, the Rev W. Wright preaching on “the much vexed question of the Bible in schools, which had affected the colony for some ten years back,” asserted that the “mere training of the mental faculties would not make law-abiding men and women.”
In 1896, Major General H. Schaw, writing to the Editor of The Evening Post lamented that, out of all the Australasian colonies, “New Zealand stands alone in making no provision for religious education. We, as Christians, know the Bible is incomparably the best instrument for the formation of a high moral character, yet our educational system excludes it from our schools.”
In 1908, the Rev Wm. Beatty noted that there was a “great stir at present about the question of religious and secular education, and that, owing to the lack of religious instruction in schools, many people were already, or were becoming, pagans!”
In 1914, the debate continued as the Bible in Schools League sought changes to the secular clause in the Education Act, as opposed to the ‘Nelson system’ established in the Nelson Province.
The proponents of the ‘Nelson system’ sought to use loopholes in the 1877 Education Act to allow religious education to be taught in the first half-hour of the school day by not officially declaring the school open until religious instruction was finished.
In 1949, the New Zealand Council for Christian Education replaced the Bible in Schools League.
In 1964, the “Religious Instruction and Observances” clause in the Education Act allowed classes to be closed at any time during the school day for religious instruction. This clause still allows CRE to take place today.
Today, CRE operates in 750 schools throughout our country and reaches over 100,000 young New Zealanders. Its presence in any school is by permission of the school board. CRE teachers are fully trained and accredited and work from a carefully designed curriculum.
CRE is an important part of the witness of Christ in our community. Please pray for those who serve as CRE teachers.
“It’s really exciting to work with Bible Society on this unique project.” says Kate Dominikovich, National Manager, Christian Education Commission (CEC).
“There are 3,800 ‘local’ missionaries who, as CRE teachers, are in the classroom every week of the school year throughout our country delivering the message of God’s truth and love. Let’s join together and resource these teachers by providing class sets of Bibles for their schools.”
"The Bibles will be a wonderful tool to enable students to engage with God’s Word themselves." - CRE teacher
"Children love CRE and it backs up our values teaching." - School Principal.
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This article is from The Word at Work – Bible Sunday 2011 Special issue.