Thomas Grace

Biography

Thomas Grace (1815–1879) joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1844 and was soon ordained as a deacon. He arrived in New Zealand to take up missionary work among Māori in 1850.

He began work in Poverty Bay. Unlike other CMS missionaries he did not seek the rapid assimilation of Māori. Instead he encouraged Māori to gain some economic independence, and to retain their lands. This made him very unpopular with settlers.

Grace set up a mission station at Pūkawa, Taupō, in 1855. He started an industrial school, encouraged sheep farming, and imported machinery for spinning and weaving. In 1856 he was accused of encouraging, or even setting up, the King Movement. He denied these accusations, but they made the settler community even more hostile towards him. When war later broke out in Waikato, some Taupō Māori joined the Kīngitanga, and the district became increasingly unsettled.

In 1863 Grace was forced to leave Pūkawa. He then became an itinerant missionary and travelled widely around the country. Two years later he and another missionary, C. S. Völkner, were captured by members of the Pai Mārire (Hauhau) movement at Ōpōtiki on the East Coast. Völkner, accused of being a government spy, was killed. Grace, who appears to have been well respected by Māori, was released unharmed.

Until his death in 1879 Grace fought for greater Māori participation in church affairs. He unsuccessfully agitated for a Māori bishop (a position which was not created for another 50 years), and a school to train a new generation of Māori leaders in both church and secular affairs.

See also: biography of Thomas Grace in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 

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