Friday, March 19, 2021

Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator journal acceptance

I’m stoked with the news that a journal article I co-authored with Associate Professor Christine Woods has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Public Theology.

Title – “Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship”

Short summary – This article examines the contribution of Jesus as an innovator to a public world in need of change. Jesus, as the fulfilment of God, is interpreted using the insights of Josef Schumpeter who argued for innovation as social change through creative recombination. The result is a social ethic, located in a creation theology, which is hospitable, generative, values partnership and disrupts existing social systems. Hence innovation is sourced in Jesus, as One who empowers socially (ir)responsible public formations that bear witness to God’s wisdom.

Keywords – innovation, social responsibility, Jesus the Innovator, Schumpeter, Paul, wisdom literature

This article is the result of nearly 4 years of interdisciplinary partnership with Christine, who works in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland. We connected thanks to Geoff New and worked together with Mark Johnston developing Lighthouse as a PCANZ innovation incubator. (Just this week I had an email from a Lighthouse participant saying that the vision God gave them at the Lighthouse Weekend was “really starting to take shape, with some amazing community developments”).

This article is also the 7th international journal publication for me in the last 2 years (along with 2 national) and it’s really gratifying to have my theological thinking, particularly in creative interdisciplinary partnerships like this, subjected to international peer review.

It’s also a second academic publication that develops and applies my 2016 book Built for Change. Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration developed a theology of innovation in dialogue with practical stories of change and reflection on my own leadership practices. Since then my thinking has continued to develop. I’ve reflected on what I call “wisdom governance” – developing a theology of governing innovation (Reimagining Faith & Management, with Routledge, book launch May 25) and now this accepted journal article on social innovation as public theology.

So it feels like there is just a lovely mix of practical leadership development (Lighthouse), accessible book (Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration) and now intellectual foundations outlined and extended (journal article and book chapter). Very satisfying, fruit of thinking and acting to serve the church while at KCML.


Posted by steve at 05:18 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Theology and U2’s Music Videos

I was asked recently if I was aware of any research into theology and U2’s Music Videos. I’ve only got my home library, but a search revealed 3 chapters in 3 books that provided research into theological themes in 3 U2 music videos.

First, Steve Taylor, “Divine Moves: Pneumatology as Passionate Participation in U2’s “Mysterious Ways”” U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, edited by Scott Calhoun, Bloomsbury Press, 2018, 43-60, particularly pages 46-48 examines Mysterious Ways, first song, second, video, third, live performance with the belly dancer, fourth live performances during 360 tour. The theology of Sarah Coakley (drawing from The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings) is used to suggest “visual pneumatology” in relation to the live performances with the belly dancer, in contrast to what is argued to be “sonic pneumatology” offered by Paul Fiddes, (Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context) in relation to the live performances during 360 tour.

Second, Kevin Dettmar, “Nothing succeeds like Failure,” Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 edited by Scott Calhoun, Scarecrow Press, 2011, 112-126 analyses Rattle and Hum. Rattle and Hum is a concert film, yet it is also an (extended) music video. Dettmar analyses one song, Desire, on page 117.

Third, Daniel Kline, “Playing the Tart,” Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 edited by Scott Calhoun, Scarecrow Press, 2011, 129-150, particularly pages 136-138, analyses U2’s promotional video for Until the End of the World. Kline is working with U2’s theology in relation to Judas. There is an intertextual engagement with Wim Wenders film of same name Until the End of the World.

Some interesting things as I have continued to ponder. First, the existence of much more research into U2’s live performance than U2’s video. In the three books I looked at – U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher; U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments; Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 – there are at least 8 chapters on live performance. 8 compared to 3. Video is either an under-researched area of U2, or video is not seen as significant in U2’s meaning making as live performance.

Second, a thesis needing further testing. It feels like U2 are ambivalent toward the music video as a source of meaning-making. I would argue this based first on the way that U2 seem to give away interpretive control of what a song means. A case in point was the invitation for Anton Corbijn to release a film (Linear) of the entire No Line On The Horizon album. The Linear notes claimed the film was not a music video but an entirely new way to listen to the album. This suggests a deliberate embrace by U2 of multiple interpretations of a song. Second, the way that U2 songs are often recontextualized, performed in different ways in response to changing times (see especially my analysis of Bullet the Blue Sky in Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 edited by Scott Calhoun, 84-97). I think U2 are constantly reworking what their songs might mean, which makes them ambivalent about one music video to offer one interpretation. So while meanings can most certainly be gleaned from U2’s music videos, they are only as strong as the last live performance. In other words, I suggest there is a need to read U2 as not wanting a music video to provide a singular meaning.

Reflecting on this, U2’s lyric from The Fly, off the Achtung Baby album, seems appropriate.

“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief;
All kill their inspiration and sing”

This sense of multiple meanings is at once both deeply ironic and purposefully contextual. U2 are affirming a relentless search for meaning. This aligns with Paul Riceour’s notion of texts having a surplus of meanings. It also affirms that God-talk is an ocean deep and wide and it is what happens in the moment that is the definitive, yet always provisional, word.

Posted by steve at 08:44 AM

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Missional Research Workshop online

The Ecclesial Futures journal, which I co-edit with Nigel Rooms, is offering an online workshop to try and encourage publishing in ecclesially grounded mission.

A short summary would be – Missional Research Workshop: This Workshop (online June 8-10, 2021) is designed to encourage research and networking. Sessions will share skills in writing and publishing and provide opportunities for presentation of work in progress, along with generative feedback from experienced researchers. The event will suit those seeking to publish in areas of ecclesially grounded mission, particularly new and emerging researchers who have not published before. To make a proposal, go here

A longer summary would be – Missional Research Workshop Call for Contributions

The Ecclesial Futures journal, in partnership with the IAMS Christian Communities in Mission Study Group are hosting an online Workshop, 8-10 June, to nurture research, and publishing that research, in mission. The Missional Research Workshop is designed to encourage research and networking. Each session will share skills in writing and publishing and provide opportunities for presentation of work in progress, along with generative feedback from experienced researchers.

The event will suit those seeking to publish in areas of ecclesially grounded mission, particularly new and emerging researchers who have not published before. We seek proposals offering verbal presentations of research reports, thought pieces and updates on mission research in progress, in areas that include:
• Examination of the ways in which theology is generated with the local church
• Longitudinal studies in congregational development over 5-10 or more years
• Diagnoses of why different churches flourish or die
• Studies of the relationship between a local church and its ‘world’ or context, including issues related to contextualisation, ‘cultural negotiation,’ ‘intercultural mission’
• Ethnographic studies of the cultural changes required in flourishing churches
• Methodological treatises on how to research in ecclesially grounded mission
• Studies of how local churches learn to experiment and fail
• Analysis of how organisations and denomination might transform themselves towards embodying the mission of God
• Astute, hermeneutically aware bible scholarship on the future of the contemporary church
• Implications for theological education of the local church ‘as the hermeneutic of the gospel’
• Contextual studies of transformative churches from wide-ranging places, particularly local churches formed outside of Christendom and modernity
• Ways in which leadership is identified, discerned and theologically formed for the local church to embody the mission of God
• Systemic studies of local churches and the systems that support them.
Workshop format – Each session will commence with a short presentation by an experienced researcher on their craft of research and writing. Work-in-progress summary of 10 minutes will be followed by generative feedback of 15 minutes. The 75 minute sessions will be spread over 8-10 June, at different times, to allow global participation.

Abstract proposal of up to 250 words – 15 April 2021.
Notification of acceptance – 30 April, 2021.
Workshop contribution of up to 1500 words – 25 May, 2021.

Proposal registrations here or to Steve Taylor (

A voluntary participation donation is invited. All contributions will fund developments in the Ecclesial Futures journal. Suggested donation for salaried academic/church minister – $40. Suggested donation for student or participant from global south – $10.

Enquires to the Ecclesial Futures editors – Nigel Rooms ( or Steve Taylor (

Finally, as a image,

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Bono’s Scripture in song: theological ethics in the performing of the U2 catalogue

A conference paper proposal I submitted today. Bono’s Scripture in song: theological ethics in the performing of the U2 catalogue builds on my paper for the 2020 U2conference, on Soul work: two blessings and the eXPERIENCE tour and the research I did in preparation. However this paper takes that work in a more focused theological direction. It also allows me to develop some of my Theological Reflection lectures that I offered while Principal, KCML, in particular various contemporary applications of the theological ethics of Richard Burridge, Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics.

And for the fans and those who need a reminder, of social justice from U2 – Rattle and Hum – “Silver and Gold” was written in support of the Artists United Against Apartheid project, which protested the South African apartheid. With the potentially imitating Jesus lyrics from 1985-

There’s a rope around my neck
And there’s a trigger in your gun
Jesus say something
I am someone, I am someone
I am someone

to the creative use of beatitudes in Waves of Sorrow (2017) and American Soul (2017).

Bono’s Scripture in song: theological ethics in the performing of the U2 catalogue
Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Theological ethics involve reflection on how Christian beliefs are embodied in life and practice. Such reflection occurs not only within academic contexts but equally in contemporary popular culture. Take the world’s biggest band U2. They perform songs that request “Jesus say something,” including about apartheid (“Silver and Gold”), Aids (“One”) and American interference in Nicaragua and Iraq (“Bullet the Blue Sky”).

For Bono, U2’s lead singer, the Psalms are a guiding thread (The Book Of Psalms, Canongate, 1999). Meanwhile, U2’s fourteen studio albums contain seventy-five Scripture references, including the Gospels (twenty-six), Epistles (seventeen) and Psalms (twelve).

This paper analyses Bono’s theological ethics using a frame by Richard Burridge (Imitating Jesus). Burridge outlines four approaches to applying Scripture to ethics, each tested against how the church in South Africa used Scripture during the apartheid era.

Burridge’s work offers ways to analyse Bono’s Scripture in song. First, U2’s live performance of “Silver and Gold” on the Rattle and Hum tour. Second, contrasting “Waves of Sorrow” with “American Soul” as embodied performances of the Beatitudes. Third, examination of how U2’s catalogue clusters around following examples (Gospels) and seeking principles (Epistles). Burridge argues that theological ethics that draw on a limited Biblical canon result in embodied practices more likely to legitimate injustice. What then are the implications of U2’s focus on Gospels and Epistles?

The argument is that Bono’s use of the Beatitudes is a sophisticated embodying of theological ethics. However, the performing of a limited Biblical catalogue leaves U2 vulnerable to embodying theological ethics that legitimate injustice.

Posted by steve at 07:41 PM

Friday, March 05, 2021

Mission For A Change – Gender and Mission March with Rosemary Dewerse, Cathy Hine

Mission For a Change creates resources for those engaging in church mission, showcasing recent research and new ideas, as fresh thinking is applied in local contexts. Mission For a Change is ideal for ministers wanting some short, sharp lifelong learning, students wanting to discuss fresh thinking and all who care about the future of the church’s mission. For 45 minutes, every month, there is time for prayer, interview, Q and A and conversation about the “so what.”

Participants have appreciated Mission For a Change:

“Thanks – for creating the space, holding it open and enabling conversations and listening.”

“Thank you for facilitating these mission conversations. It feels ‘just right’ for me .. to find relevant material to expand my missional horizon … and to be time efficient about it.”

Mission For a Change on Wednesday 3 March, focused on Gender, mission and reading Scripture for liberation.

An interview with Rosemary Dewerse and Cathy Hine, explored their article – “Reading from Worlds under the Text: Oceania Woman and the missio Dei,” Mission Studies 37 (1) April 2020.

Is the history of Christianity full of “mansplaining”? Are there ways to read Scripture that give voice rather than create silence? What can we learn from Angelina Noble, Aboriginal mothers, Queen Sālote, Kate Sheppard, Hēni Te Kiri Karamu, Mary MacKillop and the Siwai mothers of Bouganville? As we approach International Women’s Day, how might Oceanic women help us tell stories of God’s mission?

Cathy provides leadership in When Women Speak, while Rosemary has recently helped with the authoring of Anaditj, by Aunty Denise Champion.

The interview is online here – Mission For A Change March Gender and Mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Mission For A Change will next focus on mission and climate change and the rich resource that is Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church. Mission For A (Climate) Change will interview Rev Chris Douglas-Hurawai about his understanding of pepeha (a Māori way of introducing oneself) as a resource in climate change. The event will also include the playing of a recently written song by Rev Dr Maggi Dawn, fruit of her search for music of hope. A tentative date is May 5, 4:45-5:30 pm (NZT).

Other upcoming topics include

  • Imagining mission and the gift of creativity
  • Seeing mission, a quick tour of documentaries, films, images

For enquiries, contact Steve Taylor, Director AngelWings Ltd, by emailing: kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

To register to receive further information, monthly zoom links and reading resources go here.

Posted by steve at 03:07 PM

Monday, March 01, 2021

sourdough at the end of the world: a contemporary missiology from Ecclesiastes

I attended a workshop on Sunday. With a rapid change in lockdown levels announced overnight, the workshop began with reminders of 1-metre distancing, hand sanitiser and contact tracing.

The workshop was about growing your own mushrooms. So following the health and safety was a whirlwind tour through lifecycles, Latin names and local varieties. After an hour and a half of mycelium and mushroom substrates, it was time for a break.

sourdough as mission The workshop facilitator announced cheese, sauerkraut and bread. “Homemade and sourdough” he announced, proudly whipping the tea towel of a loaf of beautiful bread. Despite the vulnerability of life in a lockdown, he’d still found time for sourdough.

Later, as the event was closing, the facilitator was asked if there were plans for a future workshop. “Next month,” was the reply, “unless the world ends first.” It was a window into the widespread anxiety being generated by this global pandemic.

The making of sourdough at the end of the world makes sense of some reading I was doing today. John Prior served as a Jesuit priest in Indonesia at the turn of the 20th century. The unravelling of a military dictatorship had resulted in acute economic distress, widespread social disruption and a rise in ethnic and religious tension. Prior observed a church that in response to polarisation, was becoming insular and ethnocentric. In the face of such widespread instability, it was easier to tend to their survival as a small sub-group.

Prior writes of his surprise at finding wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is the “bleakest of the canonical wisdom books” (11). Yet Prior found important insights for being church today – a contemporary missiology for a church facing unpredictability.

It is a complicated article, so let me summarise under three headings – who are humans? who is God? how then to live, especially in times of rapid change and increased polarisation?

Who are humans? In Ecclesiastes, humans are caught in a “precarious, bewildering world” (19), in which new technologies and rapid changes have rendered “a world populated by mono-dimensional beings” (11). The result is widespread feelings of powerlessness in a somewhat arbitrary, rapidly changing world. Prior finds resonances between the themes in Ecclesiates and the poor and marginalised in Indonesia. And as I read Prior, I found resonance with experiences of COVID – our sense of bewilderment amid ever-changing lockdown levels, our sense of being powerless in the face of a virus that can’t be seen, the shifts online that seem to zoom-ify humans as “mono-dimensional beings.”

Who is God? The God revealed in Ecclesiastes is an elusive God of surprise. God is beyond human conceptions, not bound by religious conventions and human prejudices. Yet despite the unpredictable of life, trust in God is not misplaced. Life might be chaotic, but this God is not bent on harm.

How then to live? Prior finds in Ecclesiates a “survival ethic” (17-8) which is good news for those who feel powerless. We remain alive to the world. Work is to be valued, yet we refuse to be defined by our jobs. This comes as we enjoy every scrap of life and value a creation ethic in which all that live “under the sun” have worth. We find wisdom through our shared and sustained human reflection on experience.

The result, says Prior, is that Ecclesiastes offers “a modest, guide to mission” (21). This modest mission finds value in every small action. In the wonderful poetry of Ecclesiastes 9:4 “Better to be a live dog than a dead lion.” This result is a “transformation of powerlessness into creative activity” (18).

Which suddenly made sense of sourdough, that joyous murmur among us all as the teatowel was removed, the loaf revealed. It makes little sense to bake if indeed our world is ending. Yet the simple act of making is work that offers dignity, hospitality and the value of life.

Importantly, Ecclesiastes provides a way to live with difference. For Prior, Ecclesiastes chooses to “negotiate, think through and dialogue with opposition view points” (18). This comes through dialogue, the affirmation that two are better than one. The aim is a “sympathetic co-existence” with those with whom you differ (Prior, 19).

I’ve simplified what is a close and detailed article. You are welcome to find it – John Prior, 2002. “When all the singing has stopped” Ecclesiastes: A modest mission in unpredictable times. International Review of Mission, 91(360), 7-23. Or, you are welcome to simply enjoy the power of making sourdough as an act of mission. Not to impress, or convert, but to modestly affirm the value of life, amid the exhausting vulnerability and increased polarisation so common to our pandemic human experience.

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Posted by steve at 05:20 PM