Friday, August 28, 2015

missional theology of sacraments and the church

Thesis 1 – The sacraments are about the Spirit, not the church. This initial move establishes God as the rightful author and agent of sacramental theology.

Thesis 2 – The Spirit can fall on who and whatever it wants. This is consistent with the Biblical data, in which God keeps surprising. We see this in the ministry of Jesus, most particularly the encounter with the Syro-phonecian woman. Interestingly, this has links with sacramental theology, in the reference to crumbs from the table. We see this also in Peter’s encounter in Acts. Again, I note that this also has links with sacramental theology, in the invitation to eat.

Thesis 3 – The role of the church is thus not to define sacramentality, but to discern sacramentality. The church remains essential to a sacramental theology, not as a definer and defender of boundaries, but as an ongoing discerner. David Ford, in Self and Salvation: Being Transformed notes that the Eucharist is “true to itself only by becoming freshly embodied in different contexts.” This is a way of understanding “rightly ordered”, as an invitation to authentic embodiment.

Thesis 4 – This requires a rich and complex set of tools. We see this move (struggle even) toward discernment, in both the narratives mentioned above, as Jesus affirms the great faith of the Syro-phonecian woman and Peter discerns freshly the work of God. Both of this moves require a process of reflection – in community, by grace, with coherence to the interweaving of experience and tradition. The role of missional theological education necessitates developing skills in these processes. It is this that will enable sacramental practice to emerge from those gathered in community gardens, around skate parks and amid the tables of messy church. The result will be that indeed, in bread, wine and water, Christ will feed the church.

Posted by steve at 10:18 AM

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dunedin property owners

Our quick jump across the ditch has proved remarkably successful. We looked at 8 properties in Dunedin over the weekend. We were accompanied by a Dunedin local, who was invaluable in terms of local knowledge and insight. The upshot was that we made an offer on a property on Monday, which was accepted on Tuesday (subject to building inspection).

It’s a great place that all four of Team Taylor fell in love with pretty much from the moment we walked in the door. It is architecturally designed with lots of character spots to sit and connect. It’s got sea views over the Otago Harbour, yet is set in native bush. It’s close to work, yet has a drive home with harbour views that will be important in creating the necessary distance. It’s not got a lot of room for garden due to the bush, but a glass house should really help and there is plenty of room for chickens and perhaps even a beehive or 3.

Practically, it has 3 bedrooms and 5 different configurations of living areas, which should well suit the needs of our family. We expect to be able to take possession on the date we wanted – the 5th of October – which gives us a week to settle before I start at Knox and Kayli starts at her new school on the 12th of October.

It is a great relief psychologically to know where we are going, stopping and staying for this next chapter of our lives. It’s difficult to express how important this is for our family.

Posted by steve at 09:35 AM

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wanted: Director of Missiology

This was my old job – with a nice twist – church engagement! The last two applicants have been Kiwi’s. Third time ….?

Director of Missiology

Uniting College and Mission Resourcing South Australia together partner in mission. We are seeking a lecturer and leader to develop missiology within the life of both the Uniting Church in South Australia and the College. This will involve forming leaders, educating in its best and broadest sense and fieldwork participation in applied missiology projects. Tasks will include:

1. Developing the Uniting College missiology stream at under-graduate, post-graduate and VET level

2. Lecturing in areas of missiology, contextual mission and innovation

3. Providing research leadership in missiology, including supervision at post-graduate level and connecting research with community stakeholders

4. Working strategically with Mission Resourcing to support and develop mission projects among congregations, communities, regions and networks

5. Strengthen pioneering and fresh expressions as contextual mission

6. Participate in the life of the College, including the formation of leaders in mission

The successful applicant will have a unique skill set that should include experience in education and formation, leadership skills in mission, community mission experience, post-graduate qualifications and an ability to innovate within the faith and polity expressed in the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia.

A position description is available from: either Steve Taylor, Principal Uniting College, 34 Lipsett Terrace, Brooklyn Park, SA 5032, or Amelia Koh-Butler, Executive Officer, Mission Resourcing, 212 Pirie Street, Adelaide SA 5000,

Applications close 5 pm, 8 September 2015, with interviews Wednesday September 23 and expected commencement at the beginning of Semester 1, 2016.

Posted by steve at 09:52 PM

Friday, August 21, 2015

Quick jump across the ditch

Team Taylor are re-uniting across the ditch for a few days. Friday is a flight from Adelaide to Christchurch, where we pick up our New Zealand recently purchased car and drive to Dunedin.

Over Saturday and Sunday, we are house hunting. (Hence the need for the car, to drive around a string of open homes). We have this idealistic little plan; that we would buy a house in Dunedin in time for us to move in when we start my new role as Principal at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in early October. To do that requires buying a house about 6 weeks prior, that is about now in August. To do that requires selling a house in Adelaide in late July. We’ve done the house selling in Adelaide, so lets see if the house buying in Dunedin part happens. No worries if it doesn’t, but lets at least have a go.

Then Monday through Wednesday, I get to connect with my new work team. They have an annual retreat about this time of year and have invited me to join them. It will be two days of getting to know and starting to build connections. It’s all part of the transition and I’m looking forward to starting a new role with this sort of relaxed, relational, future facing occasion. As a team, we will also be connecting with quite a few Presbyterian church leaders from different cultures around New Zealand, in particular Pacific and Asian. So that’s a very rich introduction to a new community I’m called to serve among.

However, it has meant an unbelievably late night at work, clearing the desk. This week has involved Monday through Wednesday facing our five year Finders Departmental Review, on top of a monthly Board meeting and lecturing.

It will be lovely to take that jump …

Posted by steve at 02:04 AM

Thursday, August 20, 2015

how to read: 4 tools that will enhance the study skill of reading

reading tools from steve taylor on Vimeo.

How to read? Four essential tools – pen, highlighter, texting, telling – are introduced and explained. But first, a 10 question quiz on Time Magazine’s 1962 Cover Story, Religion: Witness to an Ancient Truth, on Karl Barth.

A follow up to the theology tools video.

Posted by steve at 04:35 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

innovation in education paper accepted

herga My paper proposal, seeking to present at HERGA (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), September 21-22, has been accepted. HERGA aims to bring together colleagues from the higher education sector to discuss best practice and new approaches to teaching in the tertiary environment. So it’s a great opportunity to present some of my action-research to a more general, non-theological audience. (When people ask me what I’ve gained from the move to Australia, things like this are part of the answer. The chance to be connected to a major University, Flinders, which enabled me to participate in the 2014 Community of Practice and now conference presentation opportunities like this that help me take steps outside the “theological” bubble.)

The conference paper proposal I put up was a followup to what I presented at ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). An unexpected bonus was that in accepting, HERGA also provided me with the peer review feedback. So I have critical comment from two independent readers. I’ve had that consistently for journal articles submissions but never on a conference paper abstract. So that’s gold in terms of catching a glimpse of how my proposal abstracts are read.

Here’s the abstract I presented.

A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

The Brave New World of higher education faces a number of inherent conflicts. Standardised frameworks encourage a one-size fits all approach to teaching and learning, while the makeup of the student body shows an increased diversity. This has implications for teaching and learning in higher education contexts.

This paper will explore a pedagogical innovation in teaching that was undertaken as part of a 2014 Flinders University Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law Community of Practice. This Community of Practice involved research into student experience in response to the implementation of teaching methods that sought to be mobile, accessible and connective.

E-learning technologies, including video conferencing and Moodle, were introduced. A shift in the use of contact time, from lecturer-driven content to student-centred small group activities, was made. Changes were made to assessment, shifting participation from face to face to digital in order to enable connectivity. Indigenous voices were introduced into the curriculum to enhance access. Bloom’s taxonomy was deployed as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students.

McInnis (2005) argued that education can be analysed using a three-fold framework that includes curriculum, learning community and organizational infrastructure. This research project engaged all three, with an infrastructure innovation making possible the curriculum change, and the results tested by researching the experience of the learning community.

Students completed a written survey at three points during the course. The results indicated that a significant shift had occurred in the class. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively. They expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity.

The research data can be helpfully theorised in conversation with Haythornthwaite and Andrews (2011) who have argued that e-learning is a social act that enhances learner agency. They draw on Preston (2008) who observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders, others as accomplished fellows. These categories are evident in the research data generated by the Community of Practice.

It can thus be argued that the use of teaching that is mobile, accessible and connective reshapes the student learning experience. Flipped learning enhances student agency and increases appreciation for diversity among the student cohort. Such pedagogical innovations turn the student cohort into a class above, in which students find themselves inhabiting teaching roles among their peers.

A mechanism for this process, drawing on Haythornthwaite and Andrews, is proposed. This involves understanding how digital texts change notions of authorship and thus contribute to learning process that are more democratic and less hierarchical. The argument is that technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” the brave new world of higher education.

Haythornthwaite and Andrews, 2011. E-learning Theory and Practice. Sage. London.

McInnis, Craig, 2005. “The Governance and Management of Student Learning in Universities.” In Governing Knowledge. A Study of Continuity and Change in Higher Education, edited by Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel. The Netherlands: Springer. file:///C:/Users/jong0009/AppData/Local/Downloads/0deec520376135d76b000000.pdf.

Preston, C .J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities, 4 (2): 220-43.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Monday, August 17, 2015

Europe study leave: Amsterdam, Durham, Holy Island, Adelaide

My tickets for Europe arrived this week. I have some study leave I need to take before I finish as Principal of Uniting College and I’ve been working toward presenting some of my research overseas for a few months. They come together in the following:

  • Friday, 11 September – Fly to Amsterdam via Dubai.
  • Sunday, 13 September – Research. Since I’m now a well-published U2 scholar, I need to keep up with a changing field. In other words, attend the U2 innocence and experience tour for the purpose of remaining abreast of a changing field.
  • Monday, 14 September – Fly to Manchester, then train to Durham
  • Tuesday – Thursday, 15-17 September – Symposium on Ecclesiology and ethnography, Durham. I am presenting a paper titled Activist research: an examination of lived practices in ethnography and ecclesiology. The abstract is here but in summary I want to explore some complexity that surround ethnographic research of the church today – when our participants are still shaping the research process. I will do this by examining a range of case studies from across the academic “habitus” – employment, writing, research and teaching. During this time I will also be connecting with a journal editor hoping to secure a “downunder” journal edition of empirical ecclesial research, linked to the ANZATS 2016 conference.
  • Friday, 16 September – Visit to Holy Island, which was such a helpful pilgrim place a few years ago, as I considered a transition to become Principal of Uniting College. It seems appropriate to visit it again as I consider the move to become Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
  • Saturday, 17 September – Return to Adelaide via Manchester and Dubai.
  • Tuesday, 19 September – Research presentation at HERGA Adelaide. Under the theme – Brave New World: The Future of Teaching and Learning, I hope to present a paper titled. A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context. I will be sharing results from my research into flipped learning.  This is a further presentation of the Evidence based action research paper I presented at ANZATS in Sydney in June, 2015.

I am grateful for the Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law at Flinders University that makes this possible, by providing provision for attending conferences.


Posted by steve at 10:04 PM

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

living bread stations

I was asked to lead worship twice this week. Monday was with our Certificate in Bible and Leadership ESL course, which has 7 cultures present. Wednesday was with our regular College chapel. I wanted to link them both, so I sought to mirror the worship.

bread I also wanted to engage with weeks lectionary texts, with the focus on living bread. I had this creative spark, to actually write on bread. Some cocktail rolls, slightly overcooked, worked well. This then allowed different activities at different stations, people writing different things on the rolls. They became living, shaped by our prayer and our memory. These were then collected up at the end from each station as part of closing the worship, so our living bread coming together. Even better, the bread from Monday’s worship was added into Wednesday’s worship. In so doing, both communities are reminded they are part of a bigger story, the many diverse ways that College is engaged in teaching and growing people.

living bread

The full order of service is as follows: (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:31 PM

Friday, August 07, 2015

theology tools: video introduction to theology tools

Just as a carpenter has tools, so do theologians. This 15 minute video introduces some basic tools. The books mentioned in the video are provided below. Explore them, try them, see what feels comfortable.

Tools for theology from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Experience considers your life and the life of others.

Scripture looks at God’s revelation.

John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Lion.

Robert Tannehill, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke, Abingdon, 1996.

Tradition considers those who’ve done theology before us

Alister McGrath, Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs, Zondervan, 2005.

Alister McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2011.

Alister McGrath, Christian History: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Mark. A. McIntosh, Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Ian Markham, The Student’s Companion to the Theologians, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Reason is coherent and contextual

Denise Champion with Rosemary Dewerse, Yarta Wandatha, Adelaide: Denise Champion 2014.

Charry, Ellen T. Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 2000.

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Inside out film review: orthopathy – a theology of emotions

Monthly I publish a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 90 plus films later, here is the review for August 2015, of Inside Out.

Inside Out
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

“Inside Out” is a 21st century Psalm. It animates the reality that each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made (as it affirms in Psalm 139:14). Both words help us describe the impact of “Inside out.”

The plot runs on two tracks. In the outside world, eleven-year old Riley is uprooted by her parents. The transition from rural Minnesota to urban San Francisco involves new school, house and hockey team.

The circumstances unleash inside Riley an inevitable surge of feelings. Five core emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – are given character. They become the heroes of “Inside Out”, essential in Riley’s growth and development.

This is the genius of “Inside Out.” We meet memories, both short and long term. We encounter imaginary friends, dreams and nightmares, the latter lurking within the dark depths that are Riley’s subconscious. There’s even a train of thought. Each of these are wonderfully animated, a reminder of the complexity inside every human being.

“Inside Out” is made by Pixar. Begun in 1979 as a high-end computer hardware company, it found, in 1995, with “Toy Story, a way to merge computer with art. In the 20 years since, it has produced 15 feature films. Almost all have not only been blockbusters, but have also gained a string of industry awards, including 15 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes and 11 Grammy’s.

To make “Inside Out,” Director Pete Docter recruited not only animators and storyteller, but also psychologists, including Dacher Keltner, from the University of California. It ensures that the unfolding narrative provides a view of being human that fills us with both wonder and fear. Wonder, at the emotional complexity that is inside each of us, children and adult. Fear, at how this complexity might be parented, especially in the face of life’s inevitable transitions.

So is “Inside Out” a children’s movie for parents? Not according to film scholar, Nicholas Sammond, who argued that Walt Disney always argued that he was making films for families, not for children. This insight makes sense of the emotional twist that ends “Inside Out.”

Joy comes to realise that for Riley, there are times when sadness is needed in order that joy might be felt. In a world of Hollywood happy endings, this is a surprising reality check. Every parent wants their children’s childhood to be a playground of joyful memories. Yet in “Inside Out,” Joy as a character must also develop emotionally. She must step back and allow sadness room inside Riley. The result is empathy and the creation of a whole new set of memories for Riley and her family.

This is orthopathy (defined as right feelings). It is as important as orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxis (right actions). This climax ensures that Inside out is thus not only a 21st century psalm of childlike wonder at human complexity. It is also a petition, for parents and teachers and all those charged with the fearful responsibility of nurturing eleven-year olds in their inside out journey toward orthopathy.

Posted by steve at 10:41 AM

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

feel the seasons change

I’ve been loving the winter flowers in my garden. When we brought the house three years ago, one of the first things I did was plant a large part of the front lawn in natives. Practically, it saved on lawn mowing. Spiritually, it was a way of earthing, of grounding faith in this land, this place.

native plants flowering

This winter, many of the natives have flowered for the first time. There’s something immensely rewarding about seeing something that you planted three years ago flower for the first time.

It’s also a reminder of the upside down spirituality that is so intrinsic to the Southern part of Australia. Here native plants tend to flower in winter, not in summer. It’s the logical response to summer heat and winter rain. It makes what is normally the bleakest season visually into the opposite.

What is also worth pondering is how small native flowers tend to be. These are not flamboyant bursts of colour, but tiny points of beauty. There is an understatedness about these expressions of life. They don’t jump into your vision. Rather they require you to notice, as a deliberate action. In a world of instant gratification and in your face marketing, that’s certainly an upside down approach to spirituality.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Sunday, August 02, 2015

playing the fool

I was speaking at the annual gathering of the 3D mission network on Friday evening. Around 100 folk had gathered to hear me reflect on leadership and change, using my time as Principal of Uniting College as a case study. The session was going well. Those gathered seem engaged. There was laughter at my jokes.

I navigated my way through a section on out of the box leadership. I drew on Paul’s description of himself as fool in 1 Corinthians 4 and linked it with notions of clown. Clowns stand outside what is normal and expected. They are allowed to say and do unexpected things. They provide fresh eyes to see new things. It involves risk and it might not work. But, I suggested, it is a Biblical understanding of one dimension of leadership.

I moved to my next point. It involved a slide image. Staring at the image being projected in front of me (but behind the audience), I found myself disappointed with how small it was. How would anyone see. I got out my infrared laser, pointed it at the image and began to explain what was happening and who was speaking to whom.

Gently, my audience interrupted me. Politely they asked if rather than point to the image they couldn’t see because it was behind them, if perhaps I could point to the image they could see, behind me! Which, when I turned to look, was of course plenty big enough.

Sprung. Playing the fool indeed. Without even trying!

Posted by steve at 11:07 PM