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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

liturgy of sighing

to sigh: emit a long, deep audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or similar

Mark 7:34 Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).

A few weeks ago, I was asked to provide a brief welcome to a KCML training event. It was an event focused on training children and youth workers and about 55 folk were present. Some had driven over four hours, while others had flown from the North Island. As we began, I wanted to not only welcome, but also to locate our day in prayer.

The lectionary reading from the day before described Jesus healing a blind man. Reading it, I had been struck by the fact that Jesus sighed. I live in a family of audible sighers and it was nice to realise we shared our humanity, our sadness, relief and tiredness, with Jesus. In my own prayer, I had spent time thinking about the things I was sighing about.

Standing to welcome folk, I noted the need to begin with prayer. I described the very common human experience of sighing and invited us as a group to pray be sighing together!

Since it was a gathering focused on children and young people, I invited us to think of a young person that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since it was a gathering of leaders working with children and young people, I invited us to think of a leader in our ministry that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since we were a gathering of people thinking about mission and ministry into our communities, I invited us to think of something in our community that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since we were a gathering of people aware of politics and politicians, I invited us to think of a politician that was making us sigh.

And to sigh together. And we did.

I then read from Mark 7:34.

And I prayed: that our day together would result in our eyes being opened; opened to see healing and change in our young people and our leaders and our communities and the politics of our world; a prayer prayed in the name of Jesus who signed, and saw the reality of lives “being opened.” Amen.

It was a simple liturgy. It orientated us around Scripture. It acknowledged the humanity of ministry, that it causes us to be sad, relieved, tired. It placed us in context, inviting us to focus on people and community and real life. It was individualised, inviting people to pray for what was on their heart, what was causing them to sigh. It was participatory, a whole room of people sighing together. It used the senses, the physical act of sighing, the audible hearing of others sighing around us. It invited God to be present, to open eyes and situations in revelatory ways.

A liturgy of sighing. Feel free to join our prayer, to sigh also at things you wish to be opened.

Posted by steve at 07:56 PM

Friday, February 24, 2017

theology of foraging

It was John Calvin who called nature God’s second book. In creation we catch a glimpse of the Creator. I follow a daily lectionary pattern, reading from the Psalms and Gospels daily. It is a way for me to pay attention to God through Scripture. But if nature is God’s second book, then what might a daily creation lectionary look like?

I pondered this in the cool of a summers evening this week as I harvested wild blackberries. These were brought inside, mixed with lemon yoghurt and served with great delight in the team Taylor household. Such is the joy of eating freshly foraged berries.

IMG_4581 Every year, around the 21st of February, foraging blackberries for instant eating becomes possible. They grow wild on the roadside beside our driveway. Every year, without any effort, I am blessed by abundance. It is a gift, something to be enjoyed without any need for weeding, pruning or spraying. Such is the abundance of creation.

So, as I enjoyed the berries, I pondered God’s second book and foraging as theology. I found myself naming other moments of grace, of unexpected gifts, things I had never worked for and can simply enjoy.

I shared the story and the theology of foraging from God’s second book as the KCML team gathered the next day for our weekly prayer and community building. I offered around the room the berries that had ripened between the cool of the evening prior and the morning next. I invited the team to reflect on a recent moment of unexpected blessing. As we shared, our week past seemed shot through with the abundant grace of God.

Scripture of course has a number of instances that broaden and deepen a theology of foraging. In Israel’s book of Law, the sides of fields are to be left, to be foraged by the alien and landless. It is a fascinating approach to social welfare, providing ways to feed the poor without diminishing their humanity through handouts. It is such gleanings that provides for Ruth, the migrant from Moab and makes possible her encounter with Boaz. In the Gospels, the disciples forage on the Sabbath, picking corn. They gain the disapproval of the Pharisees, but Jesus turns the foraging in a teaching moment, affirming that sabbath is for humans, not humans for sabbath. In other words, in the abundance of grace is how we are to understand ourselves and our relationship to creation, to humans and to religion. The encounter with God begins in the blessing of unexpected gifts.

Such is a theology of foraging, the gift of wild blackberries in the cool of a summers evening, the blessing of God’s book of nature. I wonder what else could be part of a daily lectionary reading of nature?

Posted by steve at 03:29 PM

Friday, February 17, 2017

Structuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience

A new experience for me today, submitting a proposal to offer a poster to the Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools. I’ve not ever offering an academic poster before. However part of my Flinders University 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching included evidence of practical classroom teaching. It is the sort of material best communicated visually. ANZATS has a stream on Learning and Teaching Theology, so I’ve offered a poster, titled

Structuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience

This poster will demonstrate the use of Bloom’s taxonomy in structuring the classroom experience in the context of flipped learning. Desiring to personalise the ability of students to consider their own role in the teaching and learning experience, Bloom’s Taxonomy was used in a Christology class to structure content delivery.

The poster will outline the classroom practice. In week one, Bloom’s taxonomy was introduced to both explain flipped approaches to learning, but also to inspire and motivate students to undertake the pre-reading. A set of questions generated discussion and agreement around the types of behaviours that enhance learning, resulting in the development of a shared class covenant in participating in a Flipped Learning Experience.

The poster will further outline the subsequent weeks, including how the classroom experience was structured in relation to different parts of Bloom’s taxonomy. This provided students with choice and also opportunities for immediate formative self-assessment.

Finally the poster will analyse student feedback and the role of the lecturer in engaging class interaction in feedback loops.

Hence the poster will thus provide a visual demonstration of the practice of teaching in dialogue with theoretical engagement with learning theory and interaction with student experience.

Now I’m looking forward to the challenge of communicating all of this visually. It should be a fun, growing, new challenge – if accepted. And something to hang on my wall!

Posted by steve at 03:33 PM

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

a daily sabbath: urgent, important, necessary and restore

The last 15 days have been very intense here at KCML. A Pre-intern block course of 6 days to bring our incoming interns up to speed was immediately followed by a Summer block course of 9 days. In addition, KCML:Dunedin hosted a variety of public events, including our inaugural lecture and winetasting, a creation care workshop and a Christian education event resourcing children and youth workers. All told, we’ve resourced over 130 people over the Summer blockcourse, engaging all sorts of ministers, leaders and lay folk from the wider church. It’s been great.

I woke this morning aware that in the intensity, a good number of tasks have been left undone. “This is a really busy spell, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” has been a necessary, and valid, response. The result is a building inbox of necessary and urgent tasks. Equally, 15 intense days mean I’m personally tired and drained. Yes, I will take time off to relax. But this tempts me into a binary: days working either on relaxing or on the necessary and urgent.

In recent days, I have also been pondering the creation story of Genesis 1. At the end of six days work, God enters a sabbath rest. Hurrah for weekends. Yet equally, during every day of work, God is also pausing, to name things as good. Every bit of hard work is enjoyed not in hindsight, while relaxing, but also in the moment. In other words, in Genesis 1, a sabbath pattern is both daily and weekly.

Pondering this, I found myself drawing a quadrant with four parts – urgent, important, necessary and restore.

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This gives me a way to structure my day. Daily, I will seek to spend time in each of these four quadrants. For every urgent task, I will also undertake a necessary task. For every necessary task, I will undertake a restoration task. As I gain energy from some restoration, I will invest that in an important task. And so on, around the quadrant: a daily sabbath pattern.

I have run off copies of the quadrant on the photocopier. As I finished work today, I used a copy and reflected my way around the quadrant.

  • Important and I noted the sending of an email about work needed for a meeting next Wednesday.
  • Urgent and I had supplied some words to a colleague needed them for an event on Friday.
  • Necessary and I noted thankyou letters written to three folk involved in our blockcourse.
  • Restore and I recalled lunch outdoors in the sunshine and an end of work drink with the team.

Tomorrow when I arrive, another day will await me. I will write out my to-do list, making sure there are tasks in  each of the four quadrants. In so doing, I will be entering a daily sabbath pattern.

Posted by steve at 08:54 PM

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Moana 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 February 2017.

Moana
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Moana is family fun and as such, has much to commend it. Moana is the daughter of Chief Tui and yearns to sail the ocean deep. Forbidden by her father, she finds inspiration in the stories of her sailing ancestors, the encouragement of her grandmother Tale and the resources of the ever-playful ocean. Setting sail, Moana seeks the demi-god, Maui, who is a needed companion in the question to return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place, thus replenishing food and fish for her dying village.

Moana is animated and as such, offers a rich and playful colour palate mixed with voice overs and catchy singalong songs. New Zealand actors are well-presented, including Temuera Morrison (Tui), Jemaine Clement (a greedy coconut crab called Tamatoa) and Rachel House (Tale).

Moana has many moments worth applauding. It skilfully tells a Pacific story. It provides resourceful, determined female characters, notably Moana and her grandmother. It affirms that leaders can be female and, in the interaction between generations, points to ways by which cultures might innovate and change. The power of grandmothers to bring change in cultures is a similarity shared with Maori films, Whale Rider (2002) and Mahana (2016) (reviewed here).

Consistent with Pacific understandings, in Moana the ocean is a character, playfully guiding Moana’s quest. On this ocean, Pacific people are highly skilled wayfarers. Watching Moana encouraged me to reach for Karin Amimoto Ingersoll’s, Waves of Knowing: A Seascape Epistemology. She argues that for Pacific people, the ocean is not only a place for swimming and fishing. More importantly, it is a way of knowing and being in which are resources that help Pacific peoples resist the rising tides of colonialism, militarism and tourism.

Alongside these redeeming features, Moana glosses over a complex set of Pacific realities. In the real world of Kiribati, the ocean so glamorised in Moana continues to rise. This nation of 37 islands, none more than three metres above sea level, with a capital city more densely populated than Tokyo, desperately needs not only a demi-god returning Te Fiti’s heart, but people and nations willing to embrace more sustainable ways of living.

Another reality check comes as Moana is placed alongside 2011 movie, The Orator. The differences are stark. With Moana, Walt Disney invested over $150 million, to tell in English a story from another culture. In The Orator, Blueskin Films spent $2.3 million, to tell in Samoan a story of its own. One brings into focus a chief’s daughter, the other a dirt-poor taro farmer named Saili. In Moana, the animated bodies are beautiful, while in The Orator, Saili is a dwarf, bullied by taller Samoan villagers. In The Orator, hierarchies are challenged, not with the help of demi-gods, but by actions of courage, resilience from those on the margins of village life.

See Moana. But may it not be the only Pacific movie you watch as this new year unfolds. And please God, may each of us, and every viewer of Moana, find ways to act for climate change on behalf of the people of Kiribati.

Posted by steve at 04:19 PM

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thornton Blair Research Fellow at KCML: Rosemary Dewerse

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Rosemary Dewerse to be the Thornton Blair Research Fellow. Rosemary is a highly trained missiologist, a skilled theological educator and experienced academic administrator.

R Dewersereduced In a rapidly changing world, the need for ministers and leaders to keep growing is essential. The Thornton Blair Research Fellow is a new initiative of KCML, designed to enhance delivery of life-long learning. The Research Fellow will listen among key stakeholders and design life-learning opportunities that will integrate professional standards and higher education post-graduate requirements. Two pilot offerings in Christian leadership will be tested in 2018.

After advertising in November and interviewing in January the interview panel were delighted to offer this fixed, two year, 0.6 position to Rosemary Dewerse. Rosemary was raised in the Presbyterian Church where her father was a minister. She has written and worked in the area of church as an intercultural community. She is the author of Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community which offers four practices for creating communities that welcome and enable all people.

Rosemary will be part of the KMCL team, based in Auckland.

Who is Rosemary Dewerse? In making the appointment, the panel outlined a number of essential and desirable characteristics. Through the application material, referee comments and interview, Rosemary demonstrated a track record of competency in every area. She has a passion for the Gospel as good news for the church and world. She is married to Roelant and has two children.

From 2012 to 2015 Rosemary worked as the Post-graduate Coordinator at Uniting College, Australia, which serves the Uniting Church in Australia (a partner church of the PCANZ).  This involved leading over 60 postgraduate students working in both University and private higher education roles. She continues to maintain an active post-graduate supervision role and spoke of this being an area of great love, because of the sense of journeying together in mutual learning.

Rosemary has completed a PhD in intercultural leadership development. She has successfully applied for re-accreditation of post-graduate qualifications. This involved not only redesigning the post-graduate courses in light of stakeholder feedback, but also gaining the best ever accreditation results in the process.

Rosemary has taught in theological education for sixteen years in four different cultural contexts. She has published in partnership with indigenous theologians in both Australia and New Zealand.  Rosemary’s referees affirmed her teaching skills. Her written work presented as part of the application process showed a creative re-working of a taught course, to enable engaged mission learning in Aotearoa New Zealand.
 
Rosemary is in demand in Australia and New Zealand to speak in areas of mission and leadership. She has an extensive record of publication, including a book on intercultural leadership entitled Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community and articles on indigenous theology, missiology, and online curriculum design.

Rosemary has, with permission of local iwi, published in areas of Maori theology and missiology. She has studied Te Reo for three years and taught in a Maori theological context.

Rosemary has designed and taught online courses for Laidlaw College and Uniting College. She has been part of a review team that redesigned the online learning at Uniting College and was commended by her referees for her skills in this area. She has published in this area, reflecting theologically upon online curriculum redesign. She has worked as a former trainer of ministers in seminaries in Central Asia, Australia and most recently St Johns College.

In the interview, Rosemary spoke of a call to come home and believed that applying for this role was part of that call, given her roots are in the PCANZ, having grown up in the manse in urban, small-town and rural communities and worshipped as a young adult at St Pauls Trinity Pacific (Christchurch) and Fairfield Presbyterian.
 
The panel were struck by her connections with the PCANZ historically and with NZ cultural contexts. They found Rosemary personable and engaging, possessing a grasp of the complexity of the project and a track record of experience across all the desired and essential outcomes.  They sensed a deep commitment to listen and to mutual transformation. They recognised an energy, the ability to be a self-starter and a strong sense of passion for the future of the church. In Rosemary they are confident is a person who can fulfil the expectations of Thornton Blair, and deliver a project birthed in listening to the church, yet able to sync with the complexity of professional standards, ministry realities and post-graduate higher education processes.

How was the appointment made? The Thornton Blair Research Fellow concept was agreed by the KCML Advisory Board in October 2016. A funding application to the Thornton Blair Trust had been agreed by Senatus in August and recommended to Church Property Trustees in late November.

The role was advertised and an interview panel of five shortlisted in early December. The panel asked three applicants to provide further information, including a sample of writing, a one page plan for stakeholder engagement in the first two months, further referees and to be interviewed in January 2017.

The panel prepared a list of set questions.  At the end of the process, the interview panel were unanimous in affirming that Rosemary had the gifts and graces for this unique role.

Who was the interview panel? The KCML Advisory Board appointed a panel of five:
·         Dr Glen Pettigrove – Chair of KCML Advisory Board
·         Dr Hugh Morrison – Advisory Board member and University academic in field of education
·         Rev Dr Tokerau Joseph – a Presbyterian minister who has completed post-graduate research in the intercultural nature of the PCANZ
·         Rev Margaret Garland – a Presbyterian minister representing Leadership Sub-Committee and Senatus
·         Rev Dr Steve Taylor – Principal KCML
 
Approved by Rosemary and all members of the Interview Panel

Posted by steve at 04:02 PM

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

paper acceptance Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific

I was delighted to hear today that a paper proposal I submitted for the Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific conference at the University of Auckland on March 24, 2017 has been accepted. The conference will bring together scholars of Christianity in a variety of disciplines to examine the cultural dynamics of the interaction between native peoples and transplanted Christian churches in the Pacific region. It will pay particular attention to the dynamic tension between centralized and localized religious culture.

My paper will be a development of research I presented at the International Association of Mission Studies conference in Korea in August 2016. I’ve continued to write and research for publication in the months since and am glad of the opportunity to also present my research in a Pacific and University environment. Here is the abstract I submitted:

“Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain

The interaction between Christianity and indigenous cultures can provide rich insights into cross-cultural exchange in liminal spaces. Equally the complexity of such insights can be masked by totalising narratives, including hagiography and Euro-centric imperialism.

One way to approach native Christianity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is through Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. It has been acclaimed as PNG’s best historical novel (Moore, 2012). The post-colonial methodologies of Ashcroft (in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific, 2014) will be used to read The Mountain for indigenous agency in resistance and innovation. Such a reading requires locating Modjeska as an academic and novelist who refuses to accept totalising binaries, in both her writing and her life.

I will argue that the portrayal of native Christianity in The Mountain assumes indigenous approval and indigenization. Themes of ancestor gift and “hapkas” will be applied to Jesus as “good man true, he die for PNG” (Modjeska 2012: 291). The creative reworking by which native (Omie) people locate Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent will be examined. This is consistent with recent scholarship in which indigenous cultures are Old Testaments (Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, 1998; Brett 2003) and the book of Genesis a demonstration of indigenous faiths being woven respectfully into the story of Israel (The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism, 1992).

This subverts the “big man” as a key trope in the ethnography of Melanesia (Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia, 2009). It suggests that post-colonial theology pay attention to cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.

Dr Steve Taylor
Flinders University: Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership

Posted by steve at 07:30 PM

Thursday, February 02, 2017

U2 praying the pattern of the Psalms in Paris

A joy yesterday to have a 2,000 word article accepted for Equip a bi-annual publication of Ethos Centre for Christianity and Society. Aware of my interest in U2, they asked me early in January to write something for an upcoming edition on music.

Back in October I was doing research on how religious groups prayed after Paris. Having written a number of times about U2′s live concert performances, I wondered how they responded, given they played days after the Paris bombings. The research in October (watching the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live In Paris DVD) never made it into the two conference presentations that resulted.

So when Ethos emailed, I thought it might be an opportunity to use research done, but not likely to find a writing home. I looked back over my research notes: watching U2 DVD’s as research! How did they pray, live, publicly, in the midst of so much pain?

I also was aware of the friendship between Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) and their common interest in the Psalms.

So over the last few weeks, various scraps on the hard drive began a 2000 word piece, titled

 

U2 praying the pattern of the Psalms in Paris

 

Here’s part of the conclusion:

In sum, aware of a broken world, I have examined how music and musicians might respond. Psalms voice the full register of human emotion. The Psalms of lament offer a pattern: call, confession, complaint, curse and confidence in surrender. I have examined how U2 played in Paris and have argued that this pattern is evident, not on a single song, but over a number of songs, stretched over more than sixty minutes. In response to terror, and the resulting emotions of anger and fear, U2 called for help, confessed and complained. But they did not curse. Instead they looked to New Testament resources, to the love of Christ.

It’s my 2nd U2 piece this month, having submitted in the middle of January a 9,500 word chapter for a book on religion and U2 with Bloomsbury, currently titled

 

God moves in mysterious ways: Performed pneumatology as passionate participation in the evolution of U2’s Mysterious Ways

 

Two pieces in one month on one band is a bit ridiculous. But it is nice to be writing in the theology and culture interface. It brings to seven the number of things I’ve had published on U2 over the last 6 years. Not something I every expected, but it has been a fun trip. Now back to some real theology!  (It also explains the silence on the blog front – only 1 post in the month of January, my most silent month ever. Apologies).

Other work I’ve had published on U2 and lament:

Posted by steve at 02:25 PM