Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Missional theology at ANZATS 2019

ANZATS 2019 was stimulating and diverse. The keynotes were excellent and the contrasting styles helped provide rich engagement. With over 100 papers and more than 140 participants, it was a great chance to network and re-connect with old friends – particularly for me folk from Uniting College, Adelaide. A highlight for me is always the work of new and emerging scholars, seeing them present with such creativity and enthusiasm.

ANZATS 2019 began with a powhiri and I was privileged to speak in te reo on behalf of manuhiri (visitors). I had been informed I could use both Maori and English, but arrived to find a change of plan and Maori only. I managed to muddle my way through and offer most of the seven sections of mihi whakatau (still need to do more work on my take (reason for meeting), which is considered the hardest section). In addition to duties on the paepae tapu (sacred threshold), I offered two papers.

One (abstract here)

Where #christmasangels tread tweet: Craftivism as a missiology of making

was the product of Outside Study Leave research, developing a presentation I gave at the Christchurch Cathedral last year but knitting (pun intended) in some data, 1100 tweets to be precise, of recipient responses to a piece of local church yarnbombing. This paper generated some really helpful insights, including twitter content creation as an act of “making.”

A second (abstract here)

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

was a joint project with Lynne Taylor, which examined the responses of over 150 churches to the trauma that was the Christchurch massacre. This paper generated great discussion about the nature of prayer and what it means to relate to the other. We hope to do more on this, particularly find a way to do some follow-up focus group work with some of the churches who demonstrated “being with” (Wells, Incarnational Mission: Being with the World) sensibilities.

It was great in both papers to be working with empirical data and reflecting theologically on the lived expressions of the church. As I said in both the papers, by way of clearing my methodological throat:

Practical theology provides a way to undertake theologically rich and critical reflection on the concrete actions of the church (Swinton, From Bedlam to Shalom: Towards a Practical Theology of Human Nature, Interpersonal Relationships, and Mental Health Care (Pastoral Theology), 12). Actions, like craftivism, invite theological reflection because they are theory-laden, value-directed and as such profoundly saturated by meaning (Anderson, The Shape of Practical Theology: Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis, 48). Empirical methods of research provide ways to research action and clarify theory and values, which can then be considered in light of the gospel and of church tradition. The insights that result from the dialogue between action-as-theological and wisdom from the tradition can inform further action. Hence practical theology is servant of, and prophet to, the life of the church in the world.

It is always an act of faith, offering a proposal 3 months out and always a relief when presentations land. In this case, having Outside Study Leave greatly helped; as did being able to take some days in lieu to be able to be part of ANZATS 2019.

Posted by steve at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Faith of girls and the mission of men

I write a column for Zadok, an Australian print publication, every quarter. It is a print based publication which they let me share on my blog, to resource more widely and generally. Here is my column for Autumn 2019, on gender and mission.

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Faith of girls and the mission of men

When I hear talk of gender and faith, I think of Tarore, an indigenous Maori girl, born around 1826 in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her father Ngakuku, came into contact with pioneer missionary couple, Rev Alfred and Charlotte Brown. Ngakuku’s daughter, Tarore, aged ten, showed an interest in learning to read and write, using a Maori language translation of Luke’s Gospel. She was a gifted student and quickly became an oral storyteller. Crowds, sometimes 200-300 people, would gather to hear Tarore share in Maori the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son. Ten years old and a woman, she became known recognised in her Maori community as an evangelist.

This moment in the life of Tarore reminds me of Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1 and Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5. All three are pre-pubescent girls and all three are agents of a new theology. God is made more real, more understandable, more present, through the faith of girls (For more, see The Faith of Girls, Routledge, 2017).

Tarore’s story is consistent with the history of mission. Time and again, the Gospel has spread not through missionary preaching but through indigenous proclamation. It begins with the Spirit at Pentecost as those from diverse cultures hear “in our own tongues” (Acts 2:11). The missionary is essential, Peter will preach but the Gospel spreads as people giving voice in their own language.

As 1836 ended, Tarore’s world grew increasingly tense, with increased conflict between local Maori tribes. On 18 October, Tarore was killed by a raiding party. At her funeral, her father, Ngakuku, proclaimed the need for forgiveness: “Do not you rise to seek a payment for her, God will do that. Let this be the finishing of the war. Now let peace be made.”

Meanwhile, Paora Te Uita, the man who killed Tarore, took her belongings, which included her beloved Gospel of Luke in Maori. Paora Te Uita couldn’t read. But he had a slave, Ripahau. Like Tarore, Ripahau had learnt to read through contact with missionaries. Ripahau read Luke (in Maori) to Paora Te Uita, who was deeply moved. He sought out Tarore’s family to seek forgiveness. Once again, we have a hearing in their own language and once again, we have an indigenous person, radically embodying the radical Gospel.

Meanwhile, Ripahau, upon release, returned to his home with Tarore’s copy of Luke. Those who listened included Katu Te Raauparaha, a local chief, who set out to make peace and halt a spiralling cycle of violence. Again, in the lives of Ripahua and Katu, we glimpse how faith is transmitted, carried by indigenous people who hear in their own language. (For more, see For more, see Nga Kai-Rui i Te Rongopai: Seven Early Maori Christians, Te Hui Amorangi ki te Manawa o Te Wheke, 2013).

I thought of Tarore when the news of the death of John Chau broke. John Chau was a twenty-six year old American, who made an illegal—and tragically fatal—voyage to visit a remote tribe in the Indian Ocean. The media sifted through John’s social media profile and suggested a range of motives: an adventuring spirit, Western optimism and a passion to reach the unreached.

Clearly there are differences between Tarore and John. One was indigenous and female, the other Western and male. One was a reciever of initial mission, the other wanted to be an initator of initial mission.

Yet there were also similarities. Both died early, with many years of life ahead. Both died at the hands of another. Both died in the context of missionary zeal and cross-cultural tension.

In the history of Christian mission, those who initiate mission have rarely been effective as proclaimers. Missiologist Lamin Sanneh examined the contradiction: Christianity has spread, yet rarely by missionary preaching. Sanneh, an adult convert from Gambia, became a Professor of Mission at Yale Divinity School. Sanneh argues that mission spreads as missionaries focus on translation. In Jesus, the Word becomes flesh and through the Spirit, the Word is heard in their own language. Sanneh calls this the “translatability” of the gospel (Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, Orbis, 2009).

This has four benefits. First, it turns the missionary from initiator into a receiver of indigenous knowledge. Second, it makes local culture a carrier of grace, as God moves into the neighbourhood ( John 1:14), accessible through local language. Third, Bible translations tend to use popular language, a liberating move in hierarchical cultures. It results in a pre-teenage girl like Tarore being recognised as an evangelist. Fourth, no one culture is ever above critique. In Africa, among the Zulu people, translation resulted in the missionaries being told to read the Bible. Surely Genesis 27:16 affirm not the colonial safari suit, but indigenous practices of dressing in skins. Fifth, as people hear in their own language, they become agents of change. The cyles of violence in New Zealand cease as indigenous people embody the Good Samaritan and Luke’s radical call to forgiveness.

Tarore and Chau are very different, yet side by side, they teach us much about faith. There is great potential when missionaries are not initiators but learners and indigenous people are the primary Gospel heralds. That even in the unbearable pain of losing a child, peace can be made.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Theological Education as Development in Vanuatu published in Sites journal

Steve Taylor, Phil King, “Theological Education as Development in Vanuatu: ‘Wayfaring’ and the Talua Ministry Training Centre,” Sites: a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies 16 (1) 2019, 135-157.

Abstract
Education is essential to development. In Pacific cultures, in which the church is a significant presence, theological education can empower agency and offer analytical frames for social critique. Equally, theological education can reinforce hierarchies and dominant social narratives. This paper provides an account of Presbyterian theological education in Vanuatu. Applying an educative capability approach to a theological education taxonomy proposed by Charles Forman brings into focus the interplay between economics, context, and sustainability as mutual challenges for both development and theological education. However Forman’s model does not accurately reflect the realities of Vanuatu. An alternative frame is proposed, that of wayfaring, in which knowledge-exchange is framed as circulating movements. Wayfaring allows theological education to be imagined as a development actor that affirms local agency, values networks, and subverts centralising models. This alternative model provides a way to envisage theological education, both historically in Vanuatu and into an increasingly networked future, as an actor in Pacific development.

Key words: Vanuatu, theological education, wayfaring, Christianity, development

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 5.48.31 PM

This is part of a full special issue on Christianity and Development in the Pacific, which began with Woven Together conference at Victoria University in 2016. New into the role of Principal, KCML, I used the conference as an opportunity to build connections with the Pacific, to collaborate with Phil King, in another part of the PCANZ and to learn about the partnership between PCANZ and Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu. Sites is a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies. It practices ‘delayed open access’, which means that the contents of the journal are made available in full open access 12 months after an issue is published.

I’m grateful to the conference organisors and journal editors, Philip Fountain and Geoffrey Troughton; to the Harrison Bequest which paid for one of the authors to travel to Talua for a ten-day immersion experience in 2017 and to the staff at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Hocken Collections, University of Otago, Dunedin for their tending of taonga.

Posted by steve at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

the role of wiping noses and lactation in theology

I’m working my way through Janet Martin Soskice’s The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender, and Religious Language with a yellow highlighter.

This is the second time I’ve read this fascinating book this year. The first time was during my Outside Study Leave, as I searched for ways to construct a methodology of the unique, a way by which theology could learn with and from empirical research. I found helpful the way that Soskice worked with the theology of Julian of Norwich, arguing that Julian was faithful to, yet offered a “fruitful” development of, the work of Augustine (126). Soskice drew out Julian’s “ingenuity as a theologian” in describing a theology of kinship (126). I was able to draw on Soskice on developing an ecclesiology of innovation, for my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God book, due out with SCM in December 2019.

IMG_7454 This second time, I’m reading Soskice with a yellow highlighter because I am underlining all the domestic words. Words like –

pregnancy,
childbirth,
baby,
children,
toddlers,
infant,
family holidays,
making meals,
washing clothes,
wiping noses,
lactation

- all in Chapter 1.

It is rare to find such words in a theology text book. Janet Martin Soskice is Reader in Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge. It is rare to to find words like wiping noses and lactation in philosophical theology. So I’m fascinated by the role the domestic plays in her theology; the way she uses images of family life as a source of reason and what this might mean for theology.

As I read Janet Martin Soskice, I am reminded of the words of Anna Fisk (‘To Make, and Make Again’: Feminism, Craft and Spirituality, Feminist Theology 20(2) 160–174) and her argument that everyday acts of making in the ‘feminine’ sphere, have been neglected in mainstream theology. I also recall the words of Heather Walton, who notes recent moves within Feminist Practical Theology to prioritise the everyday in order to encourage serious theological reflection upon “the fabric of life” (Heather Walton, ‘Seeking Wisdom in Practical Theology’, Practical Theology, 7:1 (2014), pp. 5–18).

I wonder what it means for theology in general, and my theology in particular, to make the domestic an essential resource in faith seeking understanding. As Soskice writes: “Attending to the child is a work of imagination and moral effort … This is the work of the Spirit, this bodying forth of God in history – in our individual histories and in that of our world … under the attentive gaze of love” (32, 33, 34).

Such are my thoughts as I read with a yellow highlighter.

Posted by steve at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 140 plus films later, here is the review for June 2019

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Merata Mita, Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāi Te Rangi, was a pioneering Māori filmmaker, the first Maori woman to solely write and direct a dramatic feature film. Her work included documentaries like Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980) and Patu! (1983), feature films like Mauri (1988) and music video Waka, for hip-hop artist Che Fu.

Merata became internationally respected as an indigenous film maker, teaching documentary film making at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa and recognized by the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Film Initiative.

Heperi Mita, Merata’s youngest son, born long after Bastion Point: Day 507 and Patu!, surprised by Merata’s sudden death aged 68, sets out to discover his mother. He begins by turning to the film archives at Ngā Taonga, spooling through the abundance of Merata’s film and television appearances. Having watched the past, Heperi then cleverly splices in the present, interviewing his siblings to gain their human story on his mothers cinematic past. Thus Merata becomes a film about a film, in which a film maker and her family is filmed by her family.

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen is an uncovering of Merata’s work: located in her experience, of being Maori, raised in rural Maketu, a woman, a victim of domestic violence, a solo mother raising four children in urban Auckland. It is equally an affirmation of culture. For Merata, as Maori film maker, she is working in continuity with the carvings crafted by her grandfather for the wharenui. Both carving and film are image and story through which life speaks.

Decolonisation is related to the search for justice. Decolonisation pays attention not to individual acts of protest, but to the processes of liberation by which indigenous communities are freed from the colonial imposition of imperialism, patriarchy and racism. Decolonisation sounds academic but it is as simple as a Maori woman finding her voice, as tough as Merata turning a camera on the reality of Police brutality during the 1981 Springbook Tour.

Merata is a profoundly theological film, an indigenous meditation on resurrection. The first words we hear are theological, Heperi’s announcement that “A resurrection is taking place. Our hearts and spirit respond as the past lives again. She shows me things as I hear her again.”

At one level, it introduces Heperi’s spooling through the archives.

At another level, it affirms that the past brings revelation, ushering in a search for justice in which a whole person transformation is possible.

At times Merata felt a bit like Jesus in the garden, calling Mary Magdalene to declare to the disciples that they are now part of a new family, gathered around ‘my God and your God’ (John 20.17). These five words spoken by Mary Magdalene are an echo of the words spoken by Ruth, a migrant woman, to Naomi, a solo mother, as together they seek to find a community in which they can be fed amid the poverty of a famine.

In these five words, the resurrection becomes a call to decolonise. All those who respond to ‘my God and your God’ are finding a community in which women have voice and the poor are given daily bread. Which leaves the church – having heard ‘my God and your God’ – with the question: what might we need to decolonise?

Posted by steve at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Indigenous home-making as public theology – Wiremu Tamihana

Unknown-12 Happy Steve, stoked to have a book chapter published on the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana, in which I argue he’s an extraordinary public theologian.

The theme of home yields rich insights when it is examined through diverse cultural lens, in this case in relation to New Zealand history. Methodologically, an approach of biography as missiology has been used in researching the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. In word and deed his reimagining of home has been outlined: in planting an alternative indigenous community, in leadership reorganisation and in public speechmaking as a set of ethical acts shaped by a christological ethic. Translation theory has clarified Tamihana’s reading of Scripture, including the reversing of what is foreign and domestic, and a household code shaped by Christology. What Wiremu Tamihana offers is a theology of homemaking as a public theology of empire resistance. His theology offers significant resources for those seeking to reimagine home in response to dominant cultures, in encouraging a Christology interwoven with ethics and the use of place-based readings to reverse categories of what is foreign and domestic. It suggests that creative responses to the empire can emerge through the ongoing renegotiation that happens as people move in the tides of history. A flexible justice-making is encouraged, one that uses the translations from the empire in resistance against the empire.

This is part of research begun in 2017, which has resulted in 3 conference papers, 1 (unsuccessful) research bid, 2 keynotes, 2 sermons, 2 short publications for the Presbyterian Church and now this longer academic piece. It is published as one of the conference papers from Australian Association of Mission Studies 2017. It was nice to slip a New Zealand indigenous story into the mix!

Details: “Indigenous home-making as public theology in the words and deeds of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana,” Re-imagining Home: Understanding, Reconciling and Engaging with God’s stories together, edited by Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson, Morling Press, 2019, 188-207.

Available from Morling Press. Thanks to Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson for their editorial skill, Morling and Whitley for their hospitable approach to scholars and scholarship.

Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Abstract proposal in response to call for papers on Death and Event: Death, Remembrance, Memorialisation and the Evental. 

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Dr Steve Taylor

Terror disrupts the event. A tragic dimension of contemporary life involves suicide bombings that fatally disrupt live music concerts, including Paris in November 2015 and Manchester in May 2017.

While terror disrupts the event, sometimes the event experiences a resurrection. Following the bombings in Paris and Manchester, artists U2 and Ariana Grande returned in the weeks following to perform live music concerts. As entertainers, skilled in the enacting of large-scale public events, these concerts invite examination. How was terror narrated and death remembered amid life at these postponed events?

Sociologist Paul Connerton (1989) has argued for a collective autobiography in which societies make sense of the past through a bodily social memory. Taylor (2014) has applied Connerton to U2 concerts, while Taylor and Boase (2013) have considered the memorialisation of death in live entertainment. Building on these studies, the particularity of the relationship between terror and event requires analysis in order to further theorise concerts as events of collective autobiography.

The concerts of U2 and Ariana Grande will be examined, analysing video footage (Kara, 2015) of the concerts that exist in the public domain. A methodological lens is provided through Connertons’ distinction between inscription and incorporation, between what might be expected based on the standardization inherent in album production and what was performed live. This approach pays attention to lyrical changes, gestures and spoken segue, seeking the variations through which the collective bodily memory of terror, trauma and death were re-presented. Particular attention will be paid to the juxtaposition between remembering death in the context of live entertainment and how difference might be theorised given the shared experiences of communal grief and branded assertions of “One Love”.

This paper will be of value to those seeking to theorise the evental and understand meaning making in popular culture. It will also be of practical benefit to those who might sadly be required to create further public events of remembrance in the wake of terror.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Taylor, Steve and Liz Boase. “Public Lament,” Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by MJ Bier & T Bulkeley, Pickwick Publishers, 2013, 205-227.

Taylor, Steve. “Let “us” in the sound: the transformative elements in U2′s live concert experience,” U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments, edited by S Calhoun, Lexington Books, 2014, 105-121.

Kara, Helen. Creative research methods in the social sciences: A Practical Guide, Policy Press, 2015.

Posted by steve at 09:59 PM

Monday, May 27, 2019

last days

I’m into the last days of outside study leave.

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The first 1/3 of the outside study leave followed a daily pattern

  • create – write words on First expressions book project
  • make – do something embodied
  • complete – work on ‘must get around to it’ journal articles and writing pieces
  • deepen – reading or doing data analysis
  • connect – attend external random lecture, write a blog post

This pattern held well for the first month. It gave balance. There was joy and satisfaction. I walked lots. I submitted two written pieces for PCANZ publications, two scholarly articles to international journal articles, completed final edits on another three scholarly pieces. I learnt to knit. I got out the highlighters and colour coded data from the Craftivist project.

The second 1/3 involved some external travel. I presented at a teaching and learning conference in Sydney and took the weekend to catch up with good friends. This was also part of complete – working the Thornton Blair Research data into a 20 minute presentation and a journal article. I went on haerenga (journey) engaging with Maori perspectives on their experience of the New Zealand Wars and re-connecting with the Presbyterian church marae at Ohope. This was part of deepen and of make – to undertake place-based learning and be on the land and among people.

The third 1/3 has been trying to complete the First Expressions book project. For the last month I’ve been working all day, most days. I had 5 major chapters and so many days left. Working on the 80/20 rule I have allocated the days and made a timetable.

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There is some flexibility – last week I got stuck into the Mission moves chapter rather than the apostolic chapter. This is the not fun part. There is only one task and the deadline is hard. I have a book contract in which I promised a book in May 2019. I can’t hold a 90,000 word book project in my head when I return to work. I didn’t get the book finished in my 2013 sabbatical and made little progress when I returned to work in 2014. So this last third is just solid writing. If I do well, I might shout myself a little walk. But basically it is write and edit 8 plus hours a day.

In some ways it is a shame to be ending with this sort of pressure. At the same time, I chose to play (make, deepen, connect) at the start of the outside study leave. And there will be huge relief if I can pull it off. I currently have 8 complete chapters, 2 complete chapters with a few holes to fill and 2 chapters rough full drafts but needing a final edit. On my good days, I think I will get there.

When I get tired, I imagine the feeling of returning the 40 borrowed books to the University library, of filing away the rough notes and of clearing the side desk of piles of draft chapters. The project is currently 90,000 words – that’s a lot of words – and I imagine holding the book.

Each week of the sabbatical, I randomly choose a Maori word from the Ira pack. This week – this last days week – the word is hūmārie – gentleness. May it be so.

Posted by steve at 09:33 AM

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Craftivism as a missiology of making abstract for Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019

I’m hoping to be in the north of England for a few weeks in September. I have 2 weeks of sabbatical I need to take. I am hoping to link that with being able to participate in the Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019 at Durham. I’ve just submitted a paper proposal. This proposal is a development of the paper I’ve had accepted for ANZATS in Auckland in July 2019, as a result of some of the data analysis I’ve done during my sabbatical.

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Where #christmasangels tread: Craftivism as a missiology of making

The church is formed by witness. A contemporary ecclesial embodiment of witness is craftivism, which combines craft and activism. One example is the Christmas angels project, in which local churches are encouraged to knit Christmas Angels and yarnbomb their surrounding neighbourhoods. This paper examines this embodiment of craftivism as a fresh expression of mission.

Given that Christmas angels were labelled with a twitter hashtag, technology was utilised to access the tweets as empirical data in order to analyse the experiences of those who received this particular form of Christian witness. Over 1,100 “#christmasangel” tweets were extracted and examined. Geographic mapping suggests that Christmas angels have taken flight over England. Content analysis reveals a dominant theme of a found theology, in which angels are experienced as surprising gift. Consistent with the themes of Advent, this embodiment of craftivism was received with joy, experienced as place-based and understood in the context of love and community connection.

A Christology of making will be developed, reading the layers of participative making in dialogue with David Kelsey’s theological anthropology. The research has relevance, first, exploring the use of twitter in empirical ecclesial research; second, offering a practical theology of making; third, challenging missiology in ‘making’ a domestic turn.

Let’s see what happens. In the meantime, back to learning to knit :)

Posted by steve at 07:12 PM

Monday, May 20, 2019

Daffodils film review: crafting a Kiwi lectionary

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 140 plus films later, here is the review for May 2019.

Daffodils
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Daffodils packs an emotional punch, a Kiwi soundtrack in which the songs actually silence the words that sustain relationships. Daffodils began life as a play, created by Rochelle Bright in 2015. Returning from New York because she wanted to tell New Zealand stories, she starts close to home with the tale of her own parents falling in, then out, of love.

The plot is artfully constructed. Kiwi songs – Bic Runga’s Drive, the Mutton Birds’s Anchor Me, Dave Dobbyn’s Language and Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet – are like pearls, each sung by Maisie (played by Kimbra) and her band in front of adoring fans. As Maisie polishes these well-known Kiwi pearls, her estranged father Eric (played by George Mason), dies alone in a hospital bed.

2019 is a year for movie musicals. Daffodils shows New Zealand can foot it with the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. Songs carry emotion and narrate life.

Individual pearls shine brighter when strung together. Continuity comes in Daffodils with the story of Eric, meeting Rose beside the daffodils in Hamilton Gardens. We watch them fall in love, get married and have children. Yet as they mature, they can’t shake the immaturity of the lies they let themselves believe about each other’s lives.

One way to understand Daffodils is to turn academic. Tom Beaudoin, musician and theologian, touts contemporary popular culture as the amniotic fluid in which young adults become familiar with themselves (Virtual Faith : The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X, 1998). We love, laugh and lament to the songs that define our generation. It makes sense of the story of growing up in Christchurch told by local lad, Roger Shepherdson. In Love With These Times (2016) is the story of the birth of Flying Nun Records and the creation of a distinctly New Zealand songbook, songs that define an era and thus a generation.

What is significant for church readers is that the Daffodils’ songbook comes devoid of religious hymns. The tunes from bygone Britain no longer evoke memory or stir emotion. Rose and Eric get married in a church. But when relationships get rocky, the hymns of the wedding and the rote learned vows have no reconciling power.

Yet neither do the Kiwi pearls. This is the ironic sadness of Daffodils. Kiwis might have a unique pop culture soundtrack, but the songs as sung actually silence the language needed to sustain relationships.

For preachers wanting to connect with a Kiwi culture, why not ditch the hymns. Instead take the songs from Daffodils and link them with a Gospel story:

• Bic Runga’s Drive with Mary’s haste to connect with Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45;
• Dave Dobbyn’s Language in conversation with Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man in Mark 7:31–37;
• Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet in harmony with the events of the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46;
• The Mutton Birds Anchor Me as a tune alongside Jesus’ reinstating of Peter in John 21:15-19.

In each of these Gospel stories people are living with and in silence. Yet through Divine encounter there are ways to face the lies they’ve let themselves believe.

Posted by steve at 09:01 AM

Friday, May 03, 2019

good to go – Theological Education as Development in Vanuatu

You are ‘good to go’ said the editors.

sites

Forthcoming in Sites: a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies vol 16, issue 1, (August 2019). As I submitted it today, I noted the partnerships that made this possible, particularly staff at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. My thanks also to Phil King, Talua College and Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, along with the dedication and energy of the editors, Philip Fountain and Geoff Troughton, from Victoria University, Wellington.

THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION AS DEVELOPMENT IN VANUATU: ‘WAYFARING’ AND THE TALUA MINISTRY TRAINING CENTRE
Steve Taylor and Phil King

Abstract
Education is essential to development. In Pacific cultures, in which the church is a significant presence, theological education can empower agency and offer analytical frames for social critique. Equally, theological education can reinforce hierarchies and dominant social narratives. This paper provides an account of Presbyterian theological education in Vanuatu. Applying an educative capability approach to a theological education taxonomy proposed by Charles Forman brings into focus the interplay between economics, context, and sustainability as mutual challenges for both development and theological education. However Forman’s model does not accurately reflect the realities of Vanuatu. An alternative frame is proposed, that of wayfaring, in which knowledge-exchange is framed as circulating movements. Wayfaring allows theological education to be imagined as a development actor that affirms local agency, values networks, and subverts centralising models. This alternative model provides a way to envisage theological education, both historically in Vanuatu and into an increasingly networked future, as an actor in Pacific development.

Key words: Vanuatu, theological education, wayfaring, Christianity, development

Posted by steve at 12:33 PM

Thursday, May 02, 2019

change of sabbatical pace courtesy of land owners

IMG_7257 A change of sabbatical pace for the next week. After an intense period of writing, a week of indigenous learning, courtesy of land owners.

First, a weekend haerenga (journey) with Karuwha Trust. A chance to learn more about the Kingitanga and to greet Ngati hau. I did a lot of research through 2017 in relation to Wiremu Tamehana, the Kingmaker and chief of Ngati hau. This resulted in 2017 in 1 video, 4 publications, 2 conference papers and 3 talks; along with a further conference paper in 2018 (Translation and Transculturation in indigenous resistance: the use of Christian Scripture in the speeches of Wiremu Tamihana). Throughout 2018 I sought to establish contact with Tamehana’s descendants and one of my sabbatical aims was to walk his country. The weekend haeranga is a chance to do that.

Second, a visit to Te Aka Puaho and Te Maungarongo Marae. Outside study leave gives me a chance to accept a longstanding invitation to visit Maungapohatu and honour Tuhoe and Rua Kenana. I’mj looking forward to time and to hear the stories of injustice and ongoing search for justice, with the 2017 pardon of Rua Kenana.

I feel very privileged to be able to participate in these ways, as part of doing theology on the land of another.

doingtheology

Posted by steve at 07:16 PM

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mission Studies journal acceptance

Stoked to hear that my journal article – Cultural hybridity in conversion: an examination of “Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain – has been accepted (minor revisions) for Mission Studies. Mission Studies is the Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies and aims to be a forum for the scholarly study of Christian witness and its impact in the world. The article should be published at the end of the year.

It’s the 1st visible written result of my Outside Study Leave Project. It’s also the 3rd journal article I’ve had accepted this year – all focused on Oceania.

The acceptance came with some really lovely reviewer (2) comments – “an excellent article – well framed, written and a pleasure to read. … one of the best articles I have read in a while … Well done!”

Getting this published is a bit of a story of persistence. This particular piece of work began in August 2016 as a conference paper in Korea. It was further helped by the chance to present in March 2017 at a conference in Auckland. I then plugged away all through the rest of 2017 writing it up.  Finally I submitted it to a journal in November 2017. 4 days after I submitted, the editor of the journal emailed saying the journal was closing.

They were no longer taking submissions!

I was gutted. The focus of this article – PNG – is a non-Western nation and it makes it fairly tricky to get something published. The editor agreed it was exactly the type of article the journal existed for. But he had no choice. The University was making funding decisions and cutting the journal was part of their re-alignment of resourcing.

Throughout 2018 I lacked the mental space to do anything. But I’d done so much work already. So outside study leave this year finally gave me the mental space. Here’s what I did.

  • I identified another likely journal. I did this by going back to my two conference presentations and asking – who is talking about these things?
  • I cleared the desk and carefully read Pat Thomson’s internationalising a journal article
  • I settled on her question “what bigger international concern, debate, issue, question or an interest does my paper speak to?”; along with “How might my results inform the wider international conversation in the field?”
  • I read through the recent titles and abstracts of the journal I was targeting, reflecting on the international concern that my paper spoke to
  • I added in a new section to my paper (talking about  conversion, culture and revelation)
  • I then lightly edited the entire article, looking for ways to connect my article with this theme as outlined in the new section.
  • This included a restructure, in which I introduced a local/regional/global frame to help address the ‘How might my results inform the wider international conversation in the field’ question. It also was a way of seeking to keep the particularity (PNG), engage with the region (Oceania) and speak to the international debate
  • I rewrote the conclusion, again with a particular focus on engaging with the new section.
  • This then required a re-worked introduction, followed by the abstract and title (note the use of culture and conversion)
  • Finally, I did the detail work of changing all the references to conform to a different journal article

In the end, there were 1200 new words, over a number of afternoons. Thankfully the new journal accepted longer articles (up to 10,000 words – with the new words I had about 30 spare!)! And I was then intrigued to see the reviewer comment well framed. I think this is a consequence of the work I did in order to internationalise.

2000px-Flag_of_Papua_New_Guinea.svg Which means that PNG – my birth country – will be talked about in an international forum for the scholarly study of Christian witness! (Steve quietly hums the PNG national anthem …)

Anyhow, here is the abstract – This essay analyses Christian witness, applying a post-colonial lens to Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain to account for conversion and transformation in Papua New Guinea. A ‘hapkas’ (half-caste) Christology of indigenous agency, communal transformation and hybridity is examined in dialogue with New Testament themes of genealogy, redemption as gift and Jesus as the new Adam. Jesus as ‘good man true’ is placed in critical dialogue with masculine identity tropes in Melanesian anthropology. Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent is located in relation to scholarship that respects indigenous cultures as Old Testaments and post-colonial theologies of revelation which affirm cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation in conversion across cultures. This ‘hapkas’ Christology demonstrates how a received message of Christian mission is transformed in a crossing of cultures.

The other reason I’m really stoked is that this article was testing the waters. This is evident in one of the comments from Reviewer 1 – I am intrigued by the notion of “hapkas” christology and hope the author has a chance to expand on this analysis in subsequent research. Landing this article was for me part of my ongoing research plan. It was a stepping stone. It was clearing the ground, gaining scholarly approval, in order to take a further step in researching hybridity and genealogy in Christology.

Posted by steve at 09:00 AM

Thursday, April 18, 2019

craftivist research: coding round 1

So I am coding.  As introduced earlier this week, I have 1100 individual tweets; 22 pages of data.  These have been printed on A3 sheets, leaving me with margins to scrawl notes as I go.

Unknown-12 Over 3 afternoons this week, when I need a break from writing on the First Expressions book project, I have laid out the highlighters – orange, yellow, green, pink.  I have added the pens – red and black – and a pencil.  Potentially 7 different categories. 

I have then simply read each tweet, word by word, looking for themes.  When I think there is a theme I write it down on a blank A3 sheet of paper. Then whenever I see that theme in the data, I use that colour highlighter.  For example, pink is warm comments – words like lovely.  I mindmap related words. Cute is similar to lovely, as is beautiful, so I add that to the related words and in pink I underline lovely/cute/beautiful whenever they appear.

This is a first read. I’m trying to get a feel for the data, to notice trends and seek patterns.  There will be themes that will need to be merged, or themes that will probably appear on a subsequent read. I realise that my data set is corrupted. the hashtag Xmasangel has pulled in other data. This is fine, I can cull the database before I read again.

As I go, I make notes of impressions. This will need to be verified, by numbers, by assembling quotes. But I am getting a feel for the data.

There will be a second read and perhaps a third round. I have the data as a master, so will photocopy off another A3 sheet and using the codes I already have, I will start again from the top and read through.

This is intuitive. I am wanting to be able to stand in front of a group of peers and be able to say – these are the main themes in this data – and here is the evidence to explain and support these main themes.

My initial impressions – in no particular order – are as follows,

  •  the overwhelming sense of joy and positivity generated by Christmas Angels. In the 1,100 tweets, there is only one that might be read as negative. The word “lovely” and “thanks” were dominant
  • the place-based nature of this community engagement. Invariably tweets named locations. These could be towns, streets, park benches, homes, train stations etc. There is a strong sense of connection with place being evoked by the angels. The angelic goodwill is not being heard in Bethlehem but in local communities and closes, streets and high streets shops, in contemporary England.
  • the layers of participation, both for senders and receivers. Senders source materials, make, tag, box, commission, deliver and tweet. Receivers find, carry, display, home and tweet. Indeed it could be argued that there is a making of angels as senders and a making of homes as receivers. Making is an essential part of this mission and in making, connections are deepened and meaning is being made.
  • the way the project built connections, particularly within households and between church and community.

These four themes are articulated in one tweet: “What a lovely idea. Daughter found this for me now taking pride of place on tree.”  There is the positivity of response (“lovely”), the place-based nature  (on tree), the layers of making (participation by the receiver of finding, homing, tweeting) and the building of connections (between daughter and parent).

I’m in a really happy place doing this. I love being curious about the world, in particular about mission and how fresh expressions of mission are received. I’m also curious about the domestic and gendered, the place of making in knowing, what is and is not communicated in craft and tactility.

And a reminder: of the craftivism Christmas angels research project (full outline here).

Background: I am interested in fresh expressions of Christian witness. One recent fresh expression I’ve become aware of is Christmas angels. It is a form of How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, in which angels are knitted and gifted among communities. I spoke on craftivism at the Transitional Cathedral last year as part of their Prophets in the Cathedral series. I am interested in how these angels are received (to read my conference abstract – Craftivism as a missiology of making – go here). It is one thing to ask people why they get involved in a fresh expression project like this. But how do those who find an angel make meaning?

To address this question presented some research challenges. I live in another country, it is not currently Christmas and I don’t want to look like a stalker, chasing people who find Christmas angels to ask for an interview. Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide has been a great resource, encouraging me to think creatively about research.

Research method: To address this question, I am experimenting with analysing social media. Each angel was sent out with a hashtag #Xmasangels. This meant that people who received the angels could interact and in ways that are in the public domain. This provides a way to analyse recipent response – How people responded to the angels? What meanings did they make? With help from a colleague, I have extracted over 1,1000 #Xmasangel hashtag tweets. I am now conducting thematic analysis. This will be brought into dialogue with the literature, particularly a theology of making and the place of domesticity and craft in contemporary cultures.

Outcomes? Action-reflection on mission action, research-informed teaching (at KCML and as I am invited by churches to talk about fresh expressions of mission), presentation of data at academic conferences, writing for industry (Candour, Spanz) and an academic journal, possible engagement with Christmas angel organisors.

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM