He's a maverick man of God who thought of himself as a big-city boy until the church called him to Gisborne: "As soon as my feet hit the ground, I knew I was home."
Much of what you need to know about The Reverend Canon Christopher Douglas-Huriwai can be found on social media, mostly on TikTok, where he and fellow cleric Zhane Tahau Whelan run an account called Rev Talks, on which their videos get thousands of plays attract hundreds of comments, and where they're fast approaching 17,000 followers,
He has opinions he hasn't shared on social media, but probably not many. "I know how to craft a tweet," he says. Although he is an Anglican priest, he doesn't speak for the church - "I'm not an official anything" - but that's a very long way from saying he doesn't have anything to say about it.
In a prominent tweet (542 likes) earlier this year, he wrote: "It's become my custom to refer to God with feminine pronouns, mostly to push back on the BS patriarchy in the church, but also because I believe it to be true. You wouldn't believe the amount of Christians on TikTok who are violently triggered by it. Jeez, I'm over Christians. [Man facepalming emoji]."
That wasn't his first firestorm. Last year, his criticism of Pākehā academics using pepeha in their papers got national media attention and helped provoke a national conversation. Over the new year, he was an outspoken critic of Corrections during the Waikeria Prison protests.
I met him two weeks ago in Gisborne, where he lives and works, and there I discovered a man who is, if anything, more outspoken in person than on social media.
"The church, unfortunately, has existed for itself," he told me, "to meet its own ends, to preserve its privileged place in society. And that's why you get Christians now, like that crowd who were like: 'We need to keep Jesus in the prayer in Parliament.'
"Bro, apart from anything else, if you don't, is Jesus going to be impacted by that? You think God is so unstable, you think God is so at risk, that Jesus needs to be said in a prayer? That's bulls***, and apart from anything else, you look like a dick.
"When they want to take Jesus out of the prayer, Christians are out there: 'No, don't take Jesus out of the prayer!' When we want - God forbid! - gay people to get married, the Christians are out there: 'No! Don't let the gays get married! They'll get more gays!"
He said he was surprised by the online reaction to his use of feminine pronouns for God, particularly since it was far from the first provocative opinion he'd expressed on social media: "We already know that basically, every man leading a church in New Zealand is a misogynist," he said, "But that's basically going to be true. And the more fundy you get - the more pentecostal you get - the more true it becomes."
"I don't know why they were threatened by it, unless we perceive, and this is probably - definitely - the case, we perceive women to be less, we understand them to be not quite as good as men, because the all-knowing, all-being all-understanding entity that we worship can't possibly be a woman. It has to be a man. That freaks me out. And so because of that, just whenever I talk about God now, I just say 'She'. Part of it is I like being a troublemaker and then the other part of it is, 'Why not?' And if you have a problem with it, that tells me everything I need to know about you."
He has been in trouble with the church before, notably when he got kicked out of seminary school, and it's a safe bet he will be in trouble again, possibly as soon as today. "There's gonna be some mean quotes in this article, eh?" he said, a couple of hours into our interview, then pointed at a bookshelf on the other side of his office: "That right there is a picture of my daughter. That's Te Aomihia. If your article paints me in a bad light she's going to be sleeping under a bridge."
The hard part of dealing with that threat is figuring out what, if anything, he considers "a bad light".
He's outraged that he's not "technically" allowed to marry gay people. He criticises the recent edict from the Catholic Church on same-sex marriages for saying God can't bless sin
"Well there's your problem," he says: "It ain't a sin. Here's where you and I disagree. Being gay is not a sin, okay?"
"I would respect the church way more if it just came out and said: 'We think being gay's gross, therefore you're out.' I would respect that. I would think they're wrong but I would respect it more than them doing the theological gymnastics and philosophical gymnastics so they can hold intention, like society, and what they think is just yucky."
When the church speaks out, he says, it's typically because of a perceived threat to its own mana and privilege; never out of outrage on behalf of the downtrodden or marginalised.
"The church needs to be outraged that people are hungry and homeless and don't have clothes and kids are living in cars. Instead, we're outraged that John, who's in love with Peter, might love each other enough to commit to one another, might love each other enough to show us a glimpse of the love of God, might love each other enough to care for a child that's been put with them. That outrages the church: A loving whānau; not a family that's sleeping in a car."
As he spoke, he became visibly angry. He said he wasn't often disappointed in the church, but when he was, this was the sort of thing that caused it: "Honestly though, eh? When a family that has two dads makes you angrier than a family sleeping in a car, there's something wrong."
He criticises the church, he says, because he loves it, and because he believes it can do better. "Prophetic witness and prophetic voice is good, but prophetic action is better. I hope that's what people see and what people gravitate towards in the stuff I'm offering in the public space - is that I'm not content to sit in a church that's doing damage to our people. I want it to change and part of changing it is being honest about it."
For all his strong opinions, though, he has doubts: "I've got heaps of them," he says, "because the world proves every single doubt you have. You give someone the benefit of the doubt and then they just do you over or something. Like, Desmond Tutu's got that real famous saying: 'Despite all appearances to the contrary, it is a moral universe and in the end good wins'. Which is a cool thing to say but that first issue is a pretty big issue to get over. 'Despite ALL APPEARANCES TO THE CONTRARY.' So despite all the empirical evidence telling you one thing, you, Mr Desmond Tutu, are trying to tell me that good wins and that that is what I should cleave to. The only thing that makes me believe him is his experience. He lived through apartheid. He was kidnapped, he was beaten, and there's still this fulla saying everything works out for good."
His father is Ringatū, the religion he grew up with, but, while still a boy, he was at a funeral with his mother's whānau when he noticed the effect of the absence of a minister and of elders. "I thought to myself, 'Man, if this is happening to my whānau, who's pretty good with this stuff, then chances are this sense of disconnectedness, of hopelessness, is present in a lot of Māori whānau.'"
He felt he might be able to do something about it. He went home and googled "Māori Christian" and that's how he found the Māori Anglican Church.
He says: "It almost feels like from that moment I went to sleep one night and woke up and I was a priest. The in-between has been like … I don't know, you've just gotta ride the lightning eh?"
At high school, he was, he says "a bit of a dick": "Nothing too hardcore. I'd tell the teacher to f*** off or call her a bitch.
"They basically told me I had anger issues and they gave me this cool card that said, like, 'If you ever feel like you're getting angry you can just put this on your desk and walk out. No questions will be asked.' So I bloody used that card: 'If you think I'm just a psycho' ... gone!" At one point, he was excluded from class for a couple of months and made to sit in a cubicle by himself.
He knew his parents couldn't afford the fees for him to do NCEA and that he would be unable to get the qualifications he needed to get into university or other study: "I already know I'm blocked out of that," he says, "that it's not going to be possible for me. So why am I going to try in this class? Weirdly, I ended up becoming the deputy head boy of my school. I think they just needed a Māori."
He speculates that his teenage tendencies might have found a place in his adult self being a "ratbag" on Twitter: "That's why I'm so outspoken: Because I'm, like, 'Yeah, I don't give a s*** about this'."
With the help of the church he found his way to St John's Theological College in Auckland but, as he was nearing the end of his undergraduate degree, he ran into disciplinary issues and was made aware there was no future for him there.
He and his wife had made the decision to "exist outside the church" when they received a call from a church official in Tairāwhiti [Gisborne]. "He said: 'I've heard you're in this strife. I don't want you to leave the church. How about you return home?'"
He said no three times. "I was convinced I was a big-city boy. I'd never lived in a small town, never wanted to come to where my dad's from. I never had the Tairāwhititanga nurtured in me."
But the church wouldn't give up on him. "So now I'm here," he says. "Being here, being home, being grounded, being backed by your people, you're safe in that. And this is definitely my safety, Tairāwhiti is my safety. When your elders back you, your pakeke back you, when your iwi and hapū back you, then you can't go wrong.
"Māori can't be neutral," he says. "We don't have the time or space to worry about nuance. When we worry about neutrality and nuance, we die. That's what happens to us. Our people are imprisoned. Our wāhine Māori who are in prison get tear-gassed. That's what happens when we worry about nuance.
"I'm not overly shy to have blanket understandings of things. Like the church is racist. People will say there's nuance there. Of course there's nuance, but nuance isn't going to help me get my point across. Nuance isn't going to motivate the church to do better."
He has fielded many critiques, insults and threats on social media. He was once told his head would be boiled. But, he says, he strives to think the best of people.
"That's what we should do more of," he says. "When you assume the best of everyone you'll be really shocked how often they live up to that. And if that's true on Twitter, which is a cesspool, it stands to reason that's true in life as well. There's a bit of, I suppose, religious naivety in there as well, because somewhere in that book it reckons if someone hits you in the face you've got to give them the other cheek, which is plum crazy. It's like if you've only got one cloak and a beggar asks for it you should give it to him. That's bulls***.
"But it's a cool best-case scenario to strive for. No one's actually saying if someone knocks you out you should be like, 'Okay, do it again.' But we should live in the world where that's the rule rather than the exception. Where, nine times out of 10, people are going to be good to you. That love wins. That happiness wins."