The Christian Medical Fellowship in NZ arose rather informally in different parts of New Zealand back in the 1960s and 1970s, if not before. This happened largely through the very strong example and encouragement of the CMF in the United Kingdom. The pathways to training for most NZ doctors in those days was to go to the UK, get their “fellowship” and return a few years later. During that time, they were infected by the pastoral support and example of Christian doctors in the places where they worked who were often part of the local CMF.
Consequently, groups of CMFers now transplanted back into NZ would come together, meeting to encourage each other as Christians in their medical vocations. Visits from Christian senior consultants and academics usually from the UK were keenly drawn into these gatherings to encourage and challenge these groups of doctors through fellowship but especially in sharing their biblical perspectives in health care and doctor self-care.
A vision grew that there should be more than just this and that Christian doctors around NZ should work together as CMFnz to achieve more to support doctors in the walk and witness, to speak out nationally where needed, to support missionary doctors and to encourage the work with medical students.
And so CMFnz came to be with a constitution, subs and a bank account. It was administered initially by a strong team in Auckland and subsequently the baton passed to Dunedin – both closely linked to Medical Schools and the work with students.
During all this time there were continuing close relationships with the Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship (TSCF – who work amongst Christian tertiary students in NZ) and the international CMF movements especially in the UK. In 1982 we became part of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. All these similarly committed groups provided great inspiration and some produced important resources (books, newsletters, guides, etc.) and other opportunities to grow as Christian doctors here in NZ.
By the late 1990s some of the fire had dimmed and this prompted a relook at the vision for CMFnz into the future. A summit followed, goals reset, a medical student took a year out to become the National Secretary, a newsletter came back to life, student groups stirred afresh and a surgical registrar took on the job of student worker and represented CMFnz at the international ICMDA meeting in South Africa – all of this was in partnership with TSCF. Renewed support came in and there were plus 175 on the mailing list. God was really good.
Come 2006 we were still just meeting out there in local groups, still being challenged, and God was still working there, but... Then there was the opportunity to join in the Sydney meeting of the ICMDA. Quite a contingent went including some students funded by members of CMFnz. This was an exciting event and out of it those who went had a real ‘God moment’ - we in NZ really did need to get together, to fellowship, to be inspired by the Word and by the Spirit. And God honoured that and the executive team in Dunedin invited Dr John Patrick from Ottawa Canada to lead our first National Conference in Queenstown. And of course, from there CMFnz took a new turn in its growing mission.