Friday, April 21, 2017

Researching the future

wonder I’ve spent the last few days pulling together two keynote addresses I am giving in Sydney next weekend. The conference is hosted by the Sydney College of Divinity and is focused on Learning and Teaching, with the theme of Wondering about God together. My preparation has involved trying to stitch together a number of projects sitting on my hard drive, including
- parts of my Flinders Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching application
- some research I presented at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference in 2015, on activist research.
- a conference abstract I had accepted for BERA (British Educational Research Association) 2016 (which I had to withdraw from due to work and budget pressures)

It has also involved working in partnership with a colleague, Rosemary Dewerse, who has provided invaluable research assistance. I wanted to offer a “sector” survey – of trends in online learning and research in theological education – and Rosemary has been a superb collaborator.

It is my first international academic keynote/s so I am pretty excited. Here are the two abstracts:

Researching the future 1: the contribution of flipped learning to innovation in theological education
 
Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

Abstract:
The focus of this paper is learner-centered teaching. Research shows that only 5% of university class time involved active student participation (Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, Jossey-Bass, 2002). This is considered in relation to the particular demands of teaching theology, which include a student cohort that is often mature and highly invested.

A number of strategies to increase student participation are outlined, drawn from the authors’ own experience. These include attention to classroom interaction, industry-shaped assessment, tutorial design, curricula development and flipped learning.

Given flipped learning is a recent innovation being shaped by changes in technology, it is considered in more depth. Three lines of inquiry are pursued, including as a strategy for increasing student participation, integration with Bloom’s taxonomy and in dialogue with current research into transformative learning, in particular the role of technology in learner centred teaching.

The argument is that learner-centred teaching needs to take technology seriously. However this needs to be nuanced, given that teaching is a profoundly social activity. Paying attention to the voice of student peers is an essential dimension of the learning experience. While technology is an important innovation in attending to this dimension of teaching, equally as important are the pedagogical strategies that enable learners to appreciate agency in themselves and their peers.

Researching the future 2: The implications of activist research for theological scholarship

Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

Abstract:
The focus of this paper is research-led teaching. The conference theme, of wonder, is applied to the actions of researching our teaching. The notion of researching our teaching raises important identity questions in relation to research, researched and researcher.

The insights of activist research are applied as a theoretical framework which enables us to attend to our identity as theologians (speaking of God’s Kingdom) and teachers (wanting to impact students). The implications of action research are further developed by undertaking a sector survey. This involves applying the work of Ernest Boyer to an analysis of journals, sector bodies and publications in theology. What emerges is a picture of a sector that has prioritised research in the domain of discovery, yet has given little encouragement to the domain of research from teaching and learning.

This is inconsistent with the multiple investments, both as educators and from our key industry partners, who work with us in this sector. I propose four theses:
• Each of us are activist researchers because we care about our content and our communities
• Our denominational stakeholders value activism, our teaching more than our research
• We as a theological sector are weak overall in our research outputs
• Researching our teaching as activist researchers provides an opportunity for us to align our multiple investments and investors and attend to our weakness as a sector

To make this concrete, I outline a set of first steps, under headings of informal research, institutional feedback and researching practice. In the midst of massive social change, the invitation, and imperative, is for us as a theological sector to wonder together by researching our teaching practice.

Posted by steve at 11:24 AM | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

God the pain bearer Easter communion

IMG_4766 I was asked to lead a short Easter communion service at an Christian-based justice agency today. I have been developing a relationship with them over the last 18 months, wanting to explore how to train ministers that can connect with communities and community development. So sharing communion seemed an appropriate next step

I decided to focus on God as pain bearer. It is a phrase from a contemporary version of the Lords Prayer, it is a large part of the Easter story and it is a way of understanding the vocation of this Christian-based justice agency, as bearing the pain in the community.

IMG_4767 I began with newspapers and invited people to find a headline or picture of pain, tear it out and place it around the cross. I found a version of “Te Ariki,” sung by prisoners and recorded in a prison. The lines in Maori “Oh Lord, listen to us.  Oh Lord, look at us. This is us, your children” seemed an appropriate backdrop to our connecting with the pain of the world. You can even hear prison doors slamming in the background. (from The Inside Volume 1: Auckland Prisons. Recorded at Paremoremo and Mt Eden Prison in July 1991 by Te Ao Marama Productions).

IMG_4768 I chopped the Easter events into 4 sections (the Dramatised Bible is a great resource for this type of reading).
- the pain bearing of Easter Thursday
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday morning
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday afternoon
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday evening

This story of pain bearing does not wave a magic wand or seek quick fix. It is rather an invitation to sit with and be among. That allowed us to hear the words of communion as a “Take, eat, this is my pain bearing body broken for you.” And the epiclesis (the invoking of the Spirit upon the Eucharistic bread and wine) as a request for the Spirit to strengthen us as painbearers.

At a personal level, it has been a particularly difficult few months at work, with significant internal and external pressures. Sitting here, leading worship with people committed to justice in the community, was a reminder of call and focus. I’m happiest not as an administrator but as a creative thinker making interactive spaces. It was a privilege I was grateful for.

For those interested: here is the entire service script (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Listening in mission practical course

listeninginmission

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership is inviting ministry practitioners into a listening in mission practical learning course. Listening is an active process, in which we grow by doing. It begins with action, stepping into the space of another. It proceeds by “double listening” – to God and people. Online technologies will be used to support ministers in undertaking a practical project in their community.

Participants will commit to 6 online sessions (including the first introductory webinar) with ministry colleagues and the KCML team of Mark Johnston, Rosemary Dewerse and Steve Taylor. Participants will also commit to a practical local project, gathering a team of 4-6 from their church to engage in 4 guided listening local exercises. As a result, a spirituality of presence, community building, attentiveness, discernment, experimentation will be encouraged.

Free information webinar Wednesday, May 3, 4:45-5:45 pm.

Then 4:45-6:15 pm
May 24 
July 26 
Aug 30
Sept 20
Oct 25

Places limited. Booking and queries to Steve Taylor:
principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz

Posted by steve at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Silence: a theological film review

ticket-1543115-640x480 Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for April 2017.

Silence
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Silence is recommended viewing in the season of Lent. The movie is an extended passion play, in which multiple characters follow Jesus to the cross. Two Jesuit missionaries (Andrew Garfield as Father Rodrigues and Adam Driver as Garupe) believe they are called by God to Japan. It is the seventeeth century and as they travel, they hear rumours of a persecution so brutal that their confessor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), has committed apostasy. Silence thus becomes an absorbing, albeit bleak, meditation on the complexity of discipleship unto death.

The strong of faith will find in Silence there is room for doubt. There are the intellectual accusations and theological questions posed by the Japanese interrogator (Issey Ogata as Inoue Masashige). Is missionary religious zeal a commitment made at the expense of those the missionary professes to serve? How can belief in God be sustained in view of persistent failure? The verbal questions are sharpened by the multiple deeds of denial, as Japanese converts deny their faith and Father Ferreira turns to Buddhism. Silence poses to the strong in faith an unrelenting sequence of faith-denying words and deeds.

For the weak of faith, there is comfort in the character of Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubosuka). Unlike Judas, Kichijiro choses not to follow his denial by death. Instead his continual seeking of forgiveness becomes a test of the Christian commitment to forgiveness seventy times seven. Kichijiro’s enduring presence and repeated failures offer a strange comfort to all who doubt.

Silence: A Novel as a book was written by Shusako Endo, one of Japan’s foremost novelists. The movie rights were acquired by film director, Martin Scorsese over twenty five years ago. Scorsese claims a life long fascination with faith. He considers his movie-making an act of prayer, writing “I wanted to be a priest. My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else” (Detweiler and Taylor, A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture, 155). Silence allows Scorsese to apply all the learnings from a career spanning more than fifty years to the topic of religion.

Silence is a rich reminder of a director at the top of their game. At crucial times, the absence of sound amplifies the internal conflicts central to Silence. In silence – offering mass and considering apostasy – Rodrigues makes significant choices. Each choice drives the emotional register of the movie.

A further demonstration of directorial skill is the final scene, in which a dead hand holds an empty crucifix. The symbolism illustrates the unrelenting ambiguity of Silence. Is this a scene of hope, that one can hold onto faith unto death? Or is this suggesting the end of Christianity, as the Christian cross is reduced to ash in the Japanese funeral pyre?

Such are the questions Silence asks of each and every viewer. Keeping alive the questions of the cross is a central task of Christianity. Such is the gift of Silence to all who walk the Lenten journey.

Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation” abstract acceptance

I was pleased to hear last week of acceptance of a paper proposal for ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association Theological Schools) 2017 Adelaide conference. This paper is a joint paper, with David Tombs, public theologian at University of Otago. David did a seminar presentation last year and afterward we got chatting about some more systematic theological implications of his work. I had just returned from doing some work with some indigenous students, which had me thinking about the place of genealogy.

28U44ck I had also been doing some reading on an early theologian, Irenaues. After some email conversation, the following abstract emerged:

Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation
ANZATS 2017

Much sexual violence occurs in contexts of kinship, including tragically the family of God. This paper tests notions of recapitulation when lines of kin are stained by sexual violence. Tombs has previously argued that Jesus is a victim of sexual abuse. How is this good news for victims in history?

The genealogy of Matthew 1 connects Jesus with the royal line of David. It names women either sexually mistreated or vulnerable to sexual violence. Tamar is dishonoured by male sexual practices, resorting to prostitution. Bathsheba is sexually preyed upon by a powerful ruler. Rahab as a prostitute is likely to have experienced sexual mistreatment.  Ruth’s vulnerability is evident in the encounter with Boaz. A further victim is anonymously present, given David is Tamar’s father, raped by Amnon. The Matthean genealogy thus locates Jesus as a descendant: of men who violate and of women violated. At stake is the depths to which redemption is possible.

Irenaeus offers an essential link between theology and anthropology. For Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001), these can be summarised as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)). These ground redemption in humanity experience. Jesus makes sexual violence visible when framed as from the Davidic line. In full maturity, Jesus acts justly toward victims of sexual violence. Gospel episodes of compassion, vulnerability and solidarity become a recapitulation, a contrast to actions of the males in the line of David.

What emerges are starting points for ways to respond to sexual violence, including solidarity, visibility, acting humanly and tending bodies broken.

David Tombs and Steve Taylor
University of Otago and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership: Flinders University

The acceptance of this paper Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation will mean I’m making two contributions to ANZATS 2017. I have already had a poster accepted on Structuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience for the stream of stream on Learning and Teaching Theology.

If I’m going to cross the ditch, I want to maximise the time, hence the submission of two proposals!

Posted by steve at 09:56 PM

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Doing reflexivity: accounting for emotion and attachment in social research

Jon Dean, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction, Polity Press, 2017. 180 pages.

Chapter one – Introduction

“Social research requires us to account for our humanness” begins Jon Dean, in his book, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction. Social research is the study of humans by humans. By definition the study of humans can’t be done in a laboratory. It requires field conditions, amid the networks and relationships that make humans human. This includes the researcher, seeking to unpick the “messy bundle of behaviour and thought” of social networks (5). Unpicking is made possible through reflexivity. Reflexivity providing processes that allow the researcher to reflect on their human involvement in the study of humans. It provides way to account for the role of emotion and attachment in social research. Reflexivity is “the way we analyse our positionality, the conditions of a given situation” (8).

Ironically, this common sense approach is relatively recent. There is a long established hierarchy of knowledge that places pure maths at the top and anthropology and sociology at the bottom. It needs to be inverted. It is far harder to study people in all their inconsistencies, complexity and variability.

Jon Dean examines the increasing number of fields that are taking the attachments of social research seriously: journalism, politics, economics, health, welfare and social work. (And for me, the theological disciplines of ecclesiology, practical theology and missiology – all of which take critical examination of the lived practices of the church in the world as including the study of humans seriously.) Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction by Jon Dean promises a mix of theory, example and practical strategies.

Chapter two – Pierre Bourdieu and the development of theory

Posted by steve at 09:24 PM

Friday, March 24, 2017

Resistance and Innovation: Native Christianities in the Pacific conference

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I spent today at the University of Auckland, participating in the Resistance and Innovation: Native Christianities in the Pacific conference. There were about 35 folk in attendance and I was one of 18 presenters. There were papers on Samoan born diaspora church, Maori Christologies, Chinese indigenous churches, along with numerous papers exploring the relationship between Maori and the Latter Day Saints. So it’s been an excellent workout on the complexity of interaction between religion and culture, especially indigenous Pacific cultures.

I went for a number of reasons. First, it was part of my return to New Zealand, which must include listening again among Christianity and New Zealand. So this conference provided a chance to connect with contemporary research and networks. Second, it was a chance to use work twice, taking a paper I had presented in Korea in 2016 and offering it again. Third, it was a chance to be in a University context, with is always important benchmarking for independent higher education providers. How does our research sit alongside what are our University peers are thinking is important?

My paper went well. From the organisor:

Steve, thank you for a most fascinating presentation on ideas of missiology and hapkas in Papua New Guinea … your discussion of moving between different worlds was very thought-provoking.

The questions after the presentation were helpfully clarifying, mainly in reminding me of the specific limits of what I am doing: reading literature, specifically one book. Here are the questions

Q: Your paper focused on the identity of Jesus. What about the death of Jesus?

A: I was wanting to be faithful to the themes of the book.

Q; You explored the complex relationship between fact and fiction in the work of author, Drusilla Modjeska. Can you apply any of that learning to the Scripture?

A: I’ll need to think about that more. The approach I used in terms of Scripture was to focus on how Israel understood the Canaanites, as an indigenous faith. I am pleased with the creative space that approach opens up, the way it makes sense of the book of Genesis and the Rahab narrative.

Q; Does your argument emerge only from the text of The Mountain? Should it not also emerge from the local context of indigenous people?

A: I am using a literary text. Methodologically, I am using Paul Riceour’s notion of each text having a surplus of meaning, in which the reader might see things beyond the scope of the author’s intention. My approach seeks to move beyond an either/or: universal faith that generalises or local faith that particularising. Every local context lives in more fluid relationships with other worlds and I am seeking to explore those textures in my paper.

Q: I’ll have to read this book, The Mountain.

A: Yes.

It was a privilege to have anothers engage with me around some of my current research. Here’s the conclusion to my paper:

I have examined The Mountain and outlined ancestor agency, gift child and the richness of “hapkas” as a “native” Christology. I have noted recent Biblical scholarship regarding the Genesis narratives in the Old Testament and placed the Christological title “(‘good’ man true”) in critical dialogue with the “big man” and “great man”. My argument is that post-colonial theology must pay attention to native Christianity, including cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.

Posted by steve at 06:57 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

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-> Journal article submission today:

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

Abstract

We inhabit a geographic region in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge. Given that Matthew begins the story of Jesus with genealogy, what are the implications for mission?

Three missiology texts are examined – The Biblical Foundations for Mission, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission and The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative – to understand how they conceive Matthew’s genealogy. Genealogy is then considered in two indigenous texts, one located in Aotearoa New Zealand (Tangata Whenua: A History), the other in Australia (Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific). Both demonstrate how genealogy functions as an essential way of knowing, in which ancient memory is structured to clarify relationship with people and place.

The implications of genealogy for missiology are tested, through teaching mission in one indigenous context. This clarifies the vitality of Matthew’s genealogy in framing mission as an ancestor story, a structured transmission in which God as the primary actor is weaving ordinary and indigenous people into the Messiah’s story.

Posted by steve at 05:46 PM

Monday, March 20, 2017

Unassuming, penetrating, pragmatic and humble: Built for change review

builtforchange Here is the 9th review of my book, Built for Change. This one comes from the United States. Since the book was written with a focus on stories of change from New Zealand and Australia, to have such a positive review from a third country is wonderful.

For lay and clergy leaders looking to rediscover relevancy for the North American church, practical hope comes from down under.

Unassuming, penetrating, pragmatic and humble, Steve Taylor has given us a place to start in “doing church differently,” not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of meaning, for ourselves and others. Accessible, fresh and above all honest, Taylor has expressed in appropriate balance the realities of change, innovation, collaboration and learning so necessary to make sense in this world, a sense-making enabled by biblical wisdom woven with insights from his own direct experience.

There is wisdom here–understanding, not “overspending”–not only for congregational and individual renewal, but for an even broader audience too often seduced by the noise of leadership theory. This is pure signal amidst all the noise. This little book holds a voice you can trust if you are trying to make sense of change, especially if you are wise enough to try to make sense in collaboration with others. Thank you Dr. Taylor for sharing your experience, taking the time and care to reflect upon it, and offering it up to us all.

“Built for Change” by Rev Dr Steve Taylor is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com. It is also available on Amazon Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration.

Review 1 here. Review 2 here. Review 3 here. Review 4 is here. Review 5 is here. Review 6 is here. Review 7 by Darren Cronshaw is here. Review 8 by Uniting Church Moderator, Sue Ellis, is here.

Posted by steve at 09:13 PM

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seeing Silence as Cinema

I presented a paper at the Seeing Silence: Interdisciplinary perspectives symposium today. My paper was titled: Seeing Silence as Cinema. In August 2016, in Korea, I had presented a paper on Silence at the International Association for Mission Studies. At that time, Silence the film had not been released, so my paper in Korea was somewhat limited, drawing mainly on Silence the book.

With Silence released in New Zealand in February, my paper today was a deeper engagement with the movie as cinema. My argument was that movies are a visual discipline, so we need to “see” Silence. I used a number of scenes from the movie, including the capture scene, to argue that movies allow us to pray with our eyes wide open. This was based on the quote from Martin Scorcese – “I made it as a prayer, an act of worship. I wanted to be a priest. My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else” (A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture: 155).

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Another key resource was Lloyd Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film and his types of “Jesus: the movie star” movies. So for example, the capture scene is a fusing of three types: Christ figure, historical Jesus and Jesus art. As a result, Scorsese is changing the fundamental stance of the viewer, from watcher to immersed participant in the reality of God in silence.

My paper was one of six papers at the symposium.

Friday, 17 March, 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Linda Zampol – The Early Modern Jesuit Enterprise in Japan
John England – A Deeper Faithfulness than Martyrdom

Saturday, 18 March, 9.30-10.30 am
Roy Starrs – The meeting of Buddhism and Christianity in Silence
Lynne Taylor – Our Being becomes us: practising Ignatian Spirituality and becoming Christian

Saturday, 18 March, 11.00-12.00 pm
Richard Goodwin – Silence and Presence: The sacramental style in film
Steve Taylor – Seeing Silence as Cinema

The six papers, accepted after peer review, fell elegantly in three pairs – historical, religious and cinematic – and ensured a very rich conversation. We also gained permission from Fuller Studio to show a interview with Silence director, Martin Scorsese, which added a further rich layer. The audience was a mix of lay and academic, which definitely enhanced the conversation.

The event was part of the Christianity and Cultures in Asia series, a joint venture sponsored by Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the Otago University Department of Theology and Religion, and Presbyterian Research Centre. Each partner brings distinct resources and ensured a thoroughly worthwhile conversation about how to live faith faithfully.

Posted by steve at 04:57 PM

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hidden Figures: a social justice film review

ticket-1543115-640x480 Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for March 2017.

Hidden Figures
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

“Hidden Figures” offers important insights in how to fight for justice. The time is the 1960’s, the place is the South of the United States, the backdrop is the Cold War. “Hidden Figures” weaves together four stories, of three African-American women who help NASA in one race to space.

After a slow start, the movie hits the rocket burners, deserving Oscar nomination for Best Picture. With the race to space essential to US national identity, it is the mathematical brilliance of Katherine Johnson (played by Octavia Spencer) that will calculate the orbit of spacecraft Friendship 7. She will also re-confirm the mathematical figures for re-entry and touchdown that enable John Glenn (played by Glen Powell) to become the first American to orbit the earth. Such is the hidden skill that powered the American space race.

In the celebration of hidden talents, “Hidden Figures” also showcases the multiple ways by which oppressed minorities can stand for justice.

First, there is the public anger of Katherine Johnson. Publicly, powerfully, in front of her all white work colleagues, she names the reality of her lived workplace experience. She is direct, describing her mile long walk to a segregated bathroom. She is honest, exposing what is being hidden by the separate coffee machines. Katherine Johnson reminds us there are times for public anger.

Second, there are the skilful words of Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). To train as an engineer, she needs changes in state law. She acts in ways polite and pragmatic, seeking a respectful leave of the court to remind the judge of his place in history. “Your honor, out of all the cases you gonna hear today, which one is gonna matter hundred years from now? Which one is gonna make you the first?” Mary Jackson reminds us there are times for skilful manouvering through individual and persuasive legal argument.

Third, there is the shrewd foresight of Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). Aware of changing technology, she acquires from the library a book on how to programme the newly computer. Next she works with her colleagues, helping them upskill. Finally, she announces she will not offer her newly learnt and suddenly essential computer skills unless all her colleagues are employed with her. Dorothy Vaughan reminds us there are times for solidary, when sacrificial leaders act with shrewd foresight and then stand with and among those they lead.

Each of these women face injustice. Each find different ways to respond. Together they are a reminder of the diverse options available in the fight for justice.

Director Theodore Melfi skillfully weaves together these four stories of three women and one astronaut in the same workplace. Opening and closing scenes are essential. In the beginning, the three women are together, needing to overcome the obstacle of a broken-down car on the way to work at NASA.

In the end, the three women are apart. From different places they watch a single event, the return of John Glen to earth. The women have grown. Each one has have found unique ways to connect their inner courage with external action. Such is the power of “Hidden Figures.”

Posted by steve at 06:11 PM

Monday, March 13, 2017

Seeing Silence: Interdisciplinary perspectives programme

Seeing Silence: Interdisciplinary perspectives symposium has come together beautifully. Silence: A Novel is a historical novel. Written by Shusako Endo (1923-1999), one of Japan’s foremost novelists, the book offers an absorbing, albeit bleak, meditation on the inability of the seventeenth century Jesuit mission to establish religious change on Japanese soil. The book is currently being made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorsese. This symposium welcomes a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the themes of Silence. The call for papers last December has resulted in a historical, religious and cinematic feast.

Friday, 17 March, 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Linda Zampol – The Early Modern Jesuit Enterprise in Japan
John England – A Deeper Faithfulness than Martyrdom

Saturday, 18 March, 9.30-10.30 am
Roy Starrs – The meeting of Buddhism and Christianity in Silence
Lynne Taylor – Our Being becomes us: practising Ignatian Spirituality and becoming Christian

Saturday, 18 March, 11.00-12.00 pm
Richard Goodwin – Silence and Presence: The sacramental style in film
Steve Taylor – Seeing Silence as Cinema

There will also be a panel discussion and a video interview with the director, Martin Scorsese.

The event is part of the Christianity and Cultures in Asia series, a joint venture sponsored by Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the Otago University Department of Theology and Religion, and Presbyterian Research Centre. Registrations ($20) to murray dot rae @ otago dot ac dot nz.

Friday 7:30 pm, March 17, until 1 pm, Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Venue: Otago University

Posted by steve at 08:18 PM

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Converting empire: theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori

News today that my paper proposal for Australian Association of Mission Studies (AAMS) 2017 gathering, in Melbourne, July 2-5, 2017 was accepted. The paper was sparked by my reading over the holidays of The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 by Vincent O’Malley. I was fascinated by mention of Wiremu Tamihana’s use of Scripture in responding to the claims of empire. I tweeted and within a few minutes, was in a fascinating, and affirming, conversation with the author, Vincent O’Malley. I wrote some thoughts for SPANZ and also shared some of my thinking at a conference in Clevedon in January. Again, I was encouraged by the response.

The AAMS theme, Re-imagining home, seemed an ideal occasion to share my thinking in an academic context, using the tools of post-colonial analysis, in which the focus is on the creative adaptations and innovative practices of resistance used by indigenous people as they respond to invasion. It is also relevant given our current political context. Amid anxiety about how to respond to global imperialism, what can be learnt from the witness of indigenous people in history?

Converting empire: theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori

Following Jesus in someone else’s country is inevitably complexified by cross-cultural transmission. This was certainly true of indigenous peoples navigating the effects of colonisation. This paper examines how political categories introduced by British expansion in Aotearoa New Zealand were appropriated by Maori resisting the advance of Empire.

In 1861, faced with increased conflict and the settler lust for land, Waikato Maori were presented with an ultimatum: retain your land only if you are strong enough to keep it. In response, Maori leader Wiremu Tamihana used Ephesians 2:13 to offer a theology of church and state which defended Maori political initiatives, reconceived international relationships and reimagined home.

A missiological reading of Tamihana’s theology yields important insights.

First, a creative public theology. Christians often turn to the kings of Israel, the two-sided coin in Matthew 22:15-22 or Romans 13:1-7 to conceive the relationship between church and state. Tamihana’s use of Ephesians preserves difference, seeks justice and offers a different understanding of religion and politics.

Second, the reversal of home. In Ephesians, those who are “once far off” are the Gentiles, whom God acts to redeem. Tamihana interprets those who are “once far off” as the English, brought “nigh” by the blood of Christ. Maori are understood as Israel: a creative reinterpretation.

Third, the power of Scripture translated. By 1835, Ephesians had been translated into Te Reo. Translation allowed Maori to read Scripture for themselves. As a result, Tamihana – in 1861 – used the Scriptures the colonisers brought to challenge colonising behaviour. Such is the power available when people are able to read Scripture in their own language.

Hence, from this example we see that central to mission studies is neither missionary nor method, but the creative work done by indigenous cultures in converting the message and resisting the power of empire.

Posted by steve at 08:59 PM

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Religion and politics: Learning with Wiremu Tamihana

I’ve just had a piece published in SPANZ. In the midst of concern about how to do theology after Empire and be the church in violent and unstable times, there is much reference to theologians in Europe, like Bonhoeffer. Why not also look here in New Zealand and learn from indigenous people who in times past have confronted colonising power wielding military might?

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Religion and politics don’t mix. It’s like mixing ice cream and manure, says Tony Campolo.

Over the holidays I read The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 by Vincent O’Malley. It’s a brilliant book – meticulous in research, clear in argument, attractive in presentation. The fast facts are sobering.
• War in the Waikato brought more British troops to New Zealand than were available for the defence of England.
• WW1 killed around 1.7% of the NZ population. Yet in the Waikato War, 4% of Maori died, including alarmingly high numbers of Maori women and children.
• Some forty years after the war, 3,549 Maori remained landless through land confiscation.

The Great War for New Zealand documents how Maori mixed religion and politics. In 1861, faced with increased conflict and the settler lust for land, Waikato Maori were presented with an ultimatum: retain your land only as long as you are strong enough to keep it.

In response, Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana pointed to the presence of kings in Russia, France and Tahiti. If these kings were not required to submit to Britain’s Queen, should Maori? Tamihana then turns to religion, noting the “only connexion with you is through Christ” and quoting Ephesians 2:13 (KJV), “In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

Given this Scripture, Tamihana asks the British Crown to leave the Maori King and let the results “rest with our Maker.” For Tamihana, religion and politics clearly mix. Christ brings people together, God the Maker judges all leaders for the behaviours that result.

Tamihana clarifies his understanding of religion and politics in a later exchange. Placing two sticks in the ground he declared that one was the Maori King and the other the Governor. Across both he placed a third stick, representing the law of God and the Queen. Finally, he traced on the ground a circle around both sticks, [saying] ‘That circle is the Queen, the fence to protect them all’ (The Great War for New Zealand, 143). Again, we see the mixing of religion and politics. Again, God is the judge. This allows for differences, provides protection for all peoples and makes leaders accountable under God.

Reading Tamihana’s theology of religion and politics three things stand out.

First, the creative way in which religion and politics are mixed. Christians often turn to the kings of Israel, the two-sided coin in Matthew 22:15-22 or Romans 13:1-7. Tamihana’s use of Ephesians creatively points to ways that religion mixed with politics can preserve difference and ensure justice.

Second, the reading reversal. In Ephesians, those who are once far off are the Gentiles, whom God acts to redeem. For Tamihana, those who are once far off are the English, now “made nigh” by the blood of Christ. This connects Maori with Israel. It means those who arrive in New Zealand are brought by God. As such, their actions and ultimatums are judged by the character of Christ.

Third, the power of Scripture translated. Ephesians had been translated into Te Reo by 1835, the entire New Testament by 1837. Translation allows Maori to read Scripture for themselves. The result is Tamihana in 1861 challenging colonising behaviour from the Scriptures they have brought. Such is the power when people are encouraged to read for themselves in their own language.

As 2017 begins, our talkback is full of active discussion concerning race, identity and politics. In the months ahead, we face New Zealand elections, the reality of Brexit and a new President of the United States. Tamihana offers much wisdom. Religion and politics mix best when they appreciate difference, look to Christ in bridging between diverse groups and consider all peoples accountable to the character of Christ.

Posted by steve at 08:27 PM