Harold W. Turner

13 January 1911 – 5 May 2002

1. Introduction

2. Texts online

3. Texts archived at the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge, England


1. Introduction

Rev’d Dr Harold Turner is known internationally for his formative contribution to the study of New Religion Movements as a scholarly field. He made his contribution both by extensive field work and by mapping out this new field and formulating the classifications to be adopted within it. The fruits of this work are today housed at Birmingham University, England.

Dr Turner's theological interests were wide. An archive of his writings between 1934 and 2002 is available in pdf format on three CD-Roms held at the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge, England. For his own part, he regarded his most important theological achievement as his book From Temple to Meeting House, The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1979, and especially its final chapter  ‘The Wider Implications for Phenomenology and Theology’.

Dr Turner had a special heart for the Christian formation of his own Western culture. Early in his ordained ministry, before leaving his native country of New Zealand, he appreciated the concerns and insights of the Christian Newsletter produced in England by Joe Oldham and members of the Moot (later succeeded by the Christian Frontier Council). He disseminated these concerns and insights in New Zealand through a newsletter he produced, Interpreter. Then ensued his appointment as Literature Secretary for the Campaign for Christian Order (a campaign of the New Zealand National Council of Churches) during the period 1941-1950.

Much later - in the late 1980’s - Dr Turner turned anew to these themes when, as Director of the Centre for New Religious Movements in Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, he met Lesslie Newbigin through their common friend Dan Beeby. Newbigin had initiated a movement called The Gospel and Our Culture through which, in a succession of books, a newsletter and conferences, he sought ‘authentic missionary engagement’ with Western culture. In particular, Newbigin invited Dr Turner to read and comment his draft of the book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.

When Harold Turner returned to his home country in 1989, he set up a New Zealand network with similar aims to those of Newbigin - the Gospel and Cultures Trust (later to be called DeepSight Trust). He produced a newsletter called New Slant with an ACCESS Supplement comprising an annotated list of articles and passages from books of which he would supply photocopies to readers for a small fee (a full set of New Slant is archived at the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge). he also ran courses, contributed chapters and articles to books and to magazines such as Stimulus, and wrote not infrequently to the press. Paul Windsor has called him the 'kiwi Newbigin'.


2. Texts online

Three samples of Harold Turner's writing on mission to Western culture are available online:


The Gospel's Mission to Culture in New Zealand

Three years after his return to New Zealand from Britain in 1989, Harold Turner reflects on changes in his home country since he left it in 35 years ago. He identifies four pointers for mission for New Zealanders today: (1) We face an unprecedented new mission task (2) the gospel has never been more free for mission (3) the special vocation of New Zealand in the world (4) the need for deep mission to the roots of modern culture. Much of this is relevant at the far ends of the earth from New Zealand! Text available at:



Deep Mission to deep Culture

'Most overseas missionary work has had an holistic approach, in the sense that the Gospel was addressed to all three levels of human existence: the individual personal, the public social, and the deeper cultural.' In this paper Harold Turner reflects upon the the last of these. Part I is revised from first publication in Bruce Patrick (ed.), NEW VISION New Zealand: Calling the Whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole Nation, VISION New Zealand, Auckland 1993. Part II is revised from New Slant, no. 9, October 1995. Read text


Theology 1900-1950: the emergence of Christian trinitarian engagement with a Western society in crisis

Harold Turner titled this unpublished paper 'Theology 1900-1950 in Relation to Society'. There are autobiographical element in this perceptive account of the rediscovery of trinitarian faith among theologians in the period of 'civil war' within Christian Europe constituted by two world wars, and of Christian initiatives to re-engage this society with the Gospel which historically formed it. This paper is revised from a lecture to a clergy seminar for the Anglican Diocese of Auckland, 29th February 2000. Read text


3. Texts relating to the Gospel and Western culture archived at

the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge, England


(1) Three full-length books which Harold Turner published through DeepSight in the last years of his life:

 The Roots of Science: an Investigative Journey through the World's Religions, 1998

(the title speaks for itself)


Frames of Mind: a Public Philosophy for Religion & Cultures, 2001

(this reflects the content of Dr Turners courses run in Auckland in the 1990’s)


The Laughter of Providence: Stories from a Life on the Margins, 2001

(this is the nearest we have to an autobiography)

(2) Writings 1934-2002: in pdf format, on three CD-Roms

(3) NEW SLANT: newsletter of the Gospel & Cultures Trust, New Zealand, containing many pieces written by Dr Turner.

(4) Funeral Eulogy by  Dr John Hitchen: ‘Harold Turner – Celebrating a Fruitful Life’ (unpublished)

(5) Other materials written by Dr Turner (1991-2002), available in hard copy (some of these are also on the CD-Roms mentioned above):

1.     Historical Support for Pluralism? The “Copernican Revolution” Revisited, Mission Studies, Vol. 8 No. 1, 1991, pp. 77-92.

2.     Polarized Polemics or Pooled Perspectives?, Stimulus Vol. 1, No 1, February 1993, pp. 10-15.

3.     Interactions of Bible and Cultures, Stimulus, Vol. 1, No. 4, November 1993, pp. 6-12.

4.     The Three Levels of Mission in New Zealand, in Bruce Patrick (ed.), NEW VISION New Zealand: Calling the Whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole Nation, VISION New Zealand, Auckland 1993 (of which this was Chapter 4).

5.     The Gospel’s Mission to Culture in New Zealand, in John Crawshaw and Wayne Kirkland (eds), New Zealand Made: Perspectives on Mission in Aotearoa, Signpost Communications, Wellington, New Zealand, 1994, pp. 91-105.

6.     Religion: Impediment or Saviour of Science?, Science & Education, 5, pp. 155-164, 1996.

7.     The Theological Significance of Michael Polanyi, Stimulus, Vol. 5, No. 1, February 1997, pp. 12-19.

8.     Discussion: MacMurray and Polanyi?, Appraisal, Vol.1, No. 3, March 1997, pp. 155-6.

9.     Consequences of a basic mistake, Stimulus Vol. 5, No. 2, May 1997.

10.  Deep Mission to Deep Culture, in (John Flett ed.) Collision Crossroads: The Intersection of Modern Western Culture with the Christian Gospel, DeepSight 1998, pp. 14-33.

11.  The Jesus Seminar in deepsight, Stimulus, Vol. 6, No. 3, August 1998, pp. 23-24.

12.  The DeepSight Institute: A Report and A Vision, unpublished, November 1998.

13.  Discussion: Oldham, Temple and Polanyi? Some Contrasts for Discussion, Appraisal, Vol. 2, No. 3, March 1999, pp. 143-4, 148.

14.  Theology 1900-1950 in Relation to Society, revised version of a lecture to a clergy seminar for the Anglican Diocese of Auckland, 29th February 2000 (unpublished)

15.  New Zealanders write on religion: a decade of scholarly publications, 1989-1998, Stimulus Vol. 8, No. 2, May 2000.

16.  The dumbing down of the book shops, Stimulus, Vol.8, No. 2, pp. 2-4.

17.  The symbolic richness of water, Stimulus Vol. 8, No. 3, August 2000.