Obituary: Alan Brash

By Arnold Pickmere

By ARNOLD PICKMERE

* Churchman and pacifist. Died aged 89.

The Very Reverend Dr Alan Anderson Brash was a distinguished churchman of decided views, on which he often preached in forthright language.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in 1978 and 1979, he was the father of former Reserve Bank Governor and newly elected MP Don Brash.

Born and educated in Wellington, he was the son of Tom Brash, first secretary and chief executive of the NZ Dairy Board (or the New Zealand Dairy Produce Control Board as it was known in 1924). Tom Brash was also a Moderator of the Presbyterian Church.

Alan Brash seldom left people in doubt as to his views on matters on which he felt strongly.

In 1980, for example, he declared that most New Zealanders wanted more for doing less and wanted money and solutions handed out by the Government.

And when he visited the World Trade Fair in Wellington that year he found it depressing to watch.

"I do not think I have ever seen a higher proportion of any crowd stuffing themselves with pies, hamburgers, icecreams and toffee apples, and smoking cigarettes - all dropping their bits and pieces until the matting looked like the approach to a rubbish dump," he said.

As early as 1957, when general secretary to the New Zealand National Council of Churches, he suggested that Christian missionaries from Indonesia and other Asian countries could come and work among the people of New Zealand in the foreseeable future.

Asian churches, he said, still wanted the co-operation of churches of the western world but on a fraternal, not a paternal, basis.

This attitude was not anti-white as such, he said, but arose from the desire to remove the stigma Christianity had of being a white man's religion.

Brash had vast experience of aid and refugee programmes and charitable work which, he noted, was becoming harder and more political.

He said in 1979 that one of the main problems in giving aid to countries was that too often the giver decided what was needed, instead of asking the people concerned.

Brash was also a man who looked for peace and feared nuclear war.

"I believe the greatest threat to the human race is nuclear weapons," he said after controversially attending a World Peace Congress-sponsored event in then communist Prague in 1983.

"Not particularly American weapons or Russian weapons. I'm not anti-American or anti-Russian. I'm anti-war, particularly nuclear war ... I don't see it as an evil thing to talk to people who might become your enemies."

And in 1981, the year of the divisive Springbok tour, Brash defended the Halt All Racist Tours group and the anti-apartheid movement in general.

As secretary of the Auckland area of the National Council of Churches, one of Hart's sponsoring bodies, he pleaded for "a more just attitude" towards it.

Many people associated Hart with "offensive behaviour" and "disruptive tactics", he said, but these were prejudiced opinions based on a false media image.

Brash's term as moderator followed a decade of work in international aid, in Singapore, London, and Geneva. He was deputy general-secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, from 1974 to 1978.

He studied philosophy at Otago University and theology in Edinburgh.

In 1937, he took part in the formation of the World Council of Churches.

He married Eljean Hill in 1938 and was a minister in Wanganui during World War II, and strongly pacifist.

He moved to Christchurch in 1947 and was general secretary to the National Council of Churches until 1964.

Dr and Mrs Brash also had a daughter, Lyn, the former deputy chief executive officer of Christchurch Polytechnic. Mrs Brash died in 1991.

Former moderator Bruce Hansen said Dr Brash was passionate about peace and justice and was "the face of ecumenism".

He was a forthright and strong preacher who believed in "the family of humanity".

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