Thursday, September 13, 2018

wrestling with strange worlds

Today, I facilitated a group wrestling with Luke 10:1-12. A text that initially felt hard, from an alien world, one that had no immediate relevance for New Zealand today. Out of discussion and honest questions, some shared themes began to emerge. After an hour, we paused and each person was invited to capture in words the insights: what does Luke Luke 10:1-12 mean for mission today?

Here are my words:

The mission of God begins with being sent. Those sent begin to participate by looking for spaces and places in our society where relationships are nurtured. We speak peace to these spaces and places.

If we are not welcomed, we don’t hang around and be whiny and annoying. Instead we respect people and step back.

If we are welcomed, we stay. We listen. We are human. We laugh and enjoy life. We anticipate that in these relationships of being human and present, God will work and there will be healing/change/transformation. We hope/expect/long to find the words to will connect good news with the healing/change/transformation we see. Hence mission today is about being totally reliant on God to be ahead of us.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The burning bush and mission revealed

The revelation of God begins with the orthodoxy of “I am”. This God of the ancestors is then revealed in three verbs. The One who has observed the misery of the oppressed (3:7a); heard their cry (3:7b) and knows their sufferings (3:7c). The listening (orthopraxy) ends with knowing suffering (orthopathy). If this empathy is an expression of orthopathy, then Moses is being called to follow the trio God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, God of orthodoxy, orthopraxis and orthopathy.

The burning bush of Exodus 3 has 5 branches. They are the 5 faces of mission. Each branch looks different – as it produces fruit, giving witness to proclamation; nurture; responding to human; seeking transformation; creation care. Each branch draws from the one source of life; from I am who listens to those who suffer. Our response is to feel the earth of our local context, for the ground, our turangawaewae, is now holy.

The God of the burning bush listened – deeply – to the suffering of those in bondage in Exodus 3. That God continues to be revealed as the deep listening God. That God invites those who want to reveal God to in turn be deep listeners, as a first step in mission.

KCML offers online Listening in mission courses annually, to ensure that those who commit to deep listening are supported, sustained, resourced, so that deep listening never stops.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

innovation in central cities

Definition – Fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church

Definition – Inherited or traditional form of church

In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul describes his mission and ministry using 6 metaphors. I’ve written about them in my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration. So one way to think about the future of Central City churches is by using these six images.

The first image that Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 3:5 and again in 1 Corinthians 4:1 is that of servant. Ministry is serving the Corinthian church. This is the beginning of ministry and mission: serving God, serving each other, serving our communities. So whatever decisions are made about the future of church, they begin with a focus not on ourselves but on who and how we can serve.

The last image that Paul uses is that of parent. Healthy systems in mission have parents. Different denominations have different systems: some a Pope or bishop, others elders. These are people who parent, gathering groups together as a family, providing guidance. Parents connect us in mission. They ensure that we are not alone, but together, sharing the future of ministry in Central City.

In the Central City conversations about the future of mission usually involve buildings. The conversation usually goes something like “Someone in the past has been a builder. This means we have somewhere to meet. We need people to fill the space.” As a result talk of mission quickly becomes about the people joining the existing inherited form of church in a certain type of mission. Either that, or a different conversation begins, about the one-off opportunity to sell our buildings. Central City churches are thus, by way of inheriting a building, asset rich, which means they have one chance to lever that for mission. So buildings invariably occupy a lot of space in a mission conversation. When Paul says he is a builder (1 Cor 3:10), it is giving dignity to Central City conversations about how buildings shape our mission.

Having buildings also means that central City churches are resource managers. They have inherited a building, this gift from the past. It is thus something to maintain, something that people drive by, something that might, or might not serve our mission. Again when Paul says he is a resource manager (1 Cor 4:1), he is giving dignity to our conversations about how we resource manage our buildings as we think about our mission futures.

That leaves gardener and fool. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is a gardener, working with other gardeners in God’s garden. It is for this reason that KCML has begun to talk about New Mission Seedlings as our way of seeking to explore fresh expressions within a New Zealand context.

New – something not done before. Not constrained by the inherited forms of church

Mission – focused on people who currently don’t come to church; on what God is already doing.

Seedlings – starting small, needing to be tended, shaped by their environments.

nms-graphicver2

KCML has partnered with a range of funding group and Presbyteries and begun to garden, by planting new forms of church. We began a New Mission Seedling in Christchurch in 2017 and in Dunedin in 2018. Both are taking quite different shape, as they respond to local contexts. New Mission Seedlings make lots of sense as an approach to Central City conversations, given the diversity of city communities and networks, which provide such rich possibilities for mission.

KCML New Mission Seedlings are about being a gardener. They are also about being a fool. In 1 Cor 4:10, Paul describes himself as being a fool. It is an unlikely metaphor for ministry. But it is important for Paul, and makes sense of his ministry, because of who Jesus is: riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, taking a risk of being misunderstood, doing something unexpected. So a fool asks “What is the unexpected, surprising thing that God might be doing, that we can pay attention to?” It might fail. It might not work. But like Jesus, the risks are taken.

So applying Paul in innovation and Central City churches:

We are all servants and we need parents in mission to gather us together. Inherited churches focus on mission as builders and resource managers. Fresh expressions becomes partners in this shared mission, by working alongside as gardener and fool.

This invites some immediate next steps.
1. Inherited and fresh expressions agree we are better together
2. A parent gathers inherited and fresh expressions together in shared learning.
2. Fresh expressions conduct a listening exercise in the community.
3. Insights are shared back through the regular gatherings.
4. Some risks are taken, guerilla planting New Mission Seedlings, outside the existing buildings, but in partnership, because we are sharing the six metaphors of innovation together amongst us.

Posted by steve at 05:05 PM

Friday, August 03, 2018

Listening in mission 2018

Listening in mission 2018 taster August 23, 4:45-6:15 pm

- “really helpful”; “practical”; “encouraging”; “inclusive”; “another follow-on please” –

Following feedback from 2017 participants, KCML invites ministry practitioners in the PCNZ into a listening in mission practical learning course. 6 online sessions (Thursdays 4:45-6:15 pm)

  • Aug 23 (info only)
  • Sept 6 (Mission as gift)
  • Sept 27 (Presence)
  • Oct 11 (Cultivate)
  • Nov 1 (Discern)
  • Nov 22 (Celebrate)

hosted by KCML mission Faculty who weave Scripture, community, mission alongside a practical, local task in which each participant gathers a group to listen local in the community as a first step in mission.

For online entry to the taster contact principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

For more into see listeningmission18final.

  • LIMimage
Posted by steve at 02:27 PM

Sunday, July 22, 2018

connect keynote: a Presbyterian missiology

flyer-connect I was asked to provide a keynote at Connect this weekend, speaking to 175 Presbyterian youth leaders, gathered nationally near Wellington. I used it as an opportunity to pull together some of my thinking over the last year (here and here) and articulate a Presbyterian missiology, one that made sense of the diverse cultural landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.

So I began with the burning bush and worked with Maori, Samoan and Fhilipino conversation partners, weaving in stories of migration and diaspora. The result is, I think, a global reformed theology of mission, shaped by indigenous insights, which invites people into an even more global, yet profoundly local missiology.

People of the burning bush,
Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere
Exodus 3:1-7

Mihi: with specific greeting – to everyone one of you, as people of the burning bush, Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere (Burning Bush), tena koutou

We are people of the burning bush. Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere. We come from a long line of ancestors who have found in the burning bush a call to mission. Not mission as imperialism. Not mission as colonisation.

Mission as love. Mission as listening. Mission as vulnerable standing on holy ground.

There is a Maori word – mata ora. One way, a literal translation, according to one of my teo reo advisers, is to understand mata ora as a change maker, a person who brings change.

Another way, according to another of my teo reo advisers, is to understand mata ora as a healthy face. We bring a healthy face to our communities.

I’m told that mata ora in Maori sounds like a Samoan word, mata ola. In Samoa, mata ola also means a person who brings change. Brings change by entering the village from outside and by listening.

When I hear the Exodus 3 Bible passage, which we’ve heard read in 10 languages and seen projected in English, I wonder if Moses is being asked to be a mata ora and a mata ola.

And so we understand what it means to be Presbyterian: we understand mission – as being a change maker; as being the people who bring a healthy face to our community; as people who enter our communities and are known for our listening.

Let me look at the Exodus Bible passage. Then let me tell you what the burning bush looks like in different cultures.

Emerges from love- On a working day beside a mountain called Horeb, a shepherd walked the desert. There is nothing out of the ordinary about his role, he is tending sheep from the family farm. In the midst of the ordinary, Moses hears the extraordinary – the “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” (Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society)

In 3:7; “I have indeed seen the misery of my people .. I have heard them crying .. I am concerned about their suffering.” It is a wonderful image of God. It is the source of mission. It is the “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” Repeated in 3:9 I have indeed – underlined, highlighted, bolded – heard the cry of my people.

This is God. The “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” Who sees misery. Who sees suffering. Who is concerned about our communities. This is the God of the people of the burning bush; that God that makes us changemakers – mata ora – mata ola.

Mission as openness – On a working day, besides a mountain, a shepherd named Moses responded to the the voice of uninterrupted love. In 3:4 “Here I am.”

They are the same words as are said by Abraham,by Jacob, by Samuel, by Isaiah and by Mary: “Here I am, send me” for Isaiah. “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word,” for Mary.

Each a listener, responding to the voice of love. This is what it means to be Presbyterian. Scottish theologian, Alan Lewis describes the Reformed church, the people of the burning bush as ecclesia ex Auditu, formed by hearing (Ecclesia ex Auditu A Reformed View of the Church as the Community of the Word of God, Ex Auditu 35, 1 – Alan E. Lewis). People with ears. Who begin by listening. Hearing love. From God. And in each other. Like, Moses, listening for the voice of love, to which we will say “Here I am.”

Holy ground – On a working day, the ground becomes holy. In 3:5 “Do not not come any closer . Take off your shoes for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

I grew up, thinking the holy place was the church. That the closer to the front, the more holy it was. I also grew up thinking the way my church did worship was holy, the best way, the only way. Yet for Moses, the holy place is the working place, the place where he listens.

This changes how I see holiness. Every working place, every social encounter, every community, every young person, every rangitahi, is potentially a place that becomes holy as I hear the voice of uninterrupted love.

What does it mean for us and for our young people and for the way we design our programmes and understand our mission, if the voice of uninterrupted love is already present in every working place, every community?

Mission as love. Mission as here I am listening. Mission as vulnerable standing on holy ground – for Moses.

But we’re not Moses. Are we? Ask the person beside you – are you Moses?

Any Moses?

We’re not Moses.

But we are Presbyterians. We are people of the burning bush. Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere

We come from a long line of ancestors who’ve found in the burning bush and story of life and vitality.

This burning bush has renewed us.
This burning bush has given us identity.
This burning bush has given us a mission.

It’s like the bush itself has become a changemaker – a mata ora – a mata ola – in different communities and different cultures.

Here’s the burning bush of our ancestors in Scotland. A few weeks ago I was upside down and on the other side of the world because I was doing some work with the Church of Scotland, a partner church of the Presbyterian Church of Aoteroa New Zealand.

This is me – outside the national offices of the Church of Scotland.

The month was June. Last month. So on the other side of the world, the days were warm. The evenings were light, daylight at 10 pm at night.

I’ve got a coffee in my hand and I’m just about to talk to the Church of Scotland about what God is doing at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. Above me, you can see a logo – the symbol – the main visual sign of the Church of Scotland.

That’s the burning bush. Based on the story in Exodus 3

As part of introducing myself to the Church of Scotland, I took some photos with me of the burning bush in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I thought it would be a good way of making connections. And in so doing, to introduce the different cultures of the PCANZ to our mother church.

So I began with the covenant partnership the PCANZ has with Te Aka Puaho, the Maori Synod. So I showed them this symbol from Te Aka Puaho.

In English, Te Aka Puaho means the burning vine. So the Maori church has interpreted the burning bush as a burning vine. Drawn not only from Exodus 3 but also from John 15 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

So this burning bush is understood in fresh ways by tangata whenua.

Second, I showed them the symbol from St Johns Presbyterian, Papatoetoe. This symbol honours another culture group. It honours Pacific migration to New Zealand from the 1970’s onward. In response to Pacific peoples on the move, St Johns Presbyterian change the church by building a new stained glass window.

In the words of Margaret Anne Lowe, the minister of St Johns Presbyterian: “ The new [burning] bush in our window … has flowers of the frangipani blossoming from it, representing later settlers from the Pacific Islands. It is in the blues and whites of the ocean waters which surround New Zealand … The flames are the white caps on the waves, blown by the wind and doves are the seabirds flying overhead. God’s spirit in the Pacific” (Margaret Anne, Adapted from St Johns Newsletter Jan 2011)

Third, I showed them this person. She is Mary Annie Geconcillo, She’s from the Philippines and she’s part of a 3rd migration of Asian peoples to New Zealand. This week she gave me this– for Connect – specially commissioned craft.

IMG_6472 And the entire thing is made from soft plastics.
Red colours comes from kitkat wrapper.
Brown colours comes from bread wrapper.
Yellow colour comes from 2 minute noodles
Black colour comes from rubbish bags.

Mary Anne trained for ministry in the Philippines. At a Presbyterian University. She was sent to a slum on the outskirts of her city. The slum dwellers said we want to get rid of this rubbish. So she worked with them. Found ways to run rubbish into bags. To sell.

So I reckon she’s a mata ora; and a mata ola – who begins to understand, like Moses
Mission as love – for the slum dwellers of Manila
Mission as listening – finding out what they want
Mission as vulnerable, standing on holy ground – working in community development.

This is fourth thing I showed them. From a recent youth event.

It involves taking pumice. Pumice is a volcanic rock. It occurs mainly in the central North Island. Soaking pumice overnight in methylated spirits. Building a burning bush out of metal. All welded together. Placing the pumice, soaked in meths on it.

Turn out the lights. Form a circle. Sit in the dark. The light the pumice. Glows a beautiful deep blue flame. And with pumice glowing to read the story of Exodus – of a God of love; of Moses response –Here I am; taking off your shoes – for vulnerable mission.

So in 10 years time and in 20 years time and in 30 years time, I wonder what the photos of the burning bush will look like; 2nd generation migrants to New Zealand; in light of how we respond to climate change; as we become mata oras and mata olas, change makers in our communities – I wonder what the burning bush will look like?

IMG_6480 I want you to take a rock which is under your seat. Think about your community. What it means for the God of love to burn with love? What it would mean for your youth ministry, to be a changemaker, a mata ora, a mata ola?

Pause 2 minute quiet reflection.

No reira, Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

Posted by steve at 11:32 PM

Friday, July 13, 2018

a public missiology of pop culture: or why am I researching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

I had wonderful news this week. Following two stages of peer review, I heard on Monday that I have had a journal article accepted for publication (due out October 2018) in a leading international journal. It’s a significant achievement. More exciting, the journal is in English literature and thus outside of theology. There is thus a real sense of satisfaction in having been able to engage another discipline and learn to write within their style and way of working.

The process of writing and waiting does test mental health (as the excellent article by Helen Kara helpfully articulates). There is considerable self-doubt along with the energy required to keep working at a task that is signficant stretch.

For me, in relation to this article, first there has been the vulnerability, the can I do this. It is easy verbally to offer some ideas. It is quite another exercise all together to sustain those ideas over 6,000 words. And then to place your 6,000 in the hands of peers, in this case from another discipline, who are diligent in wanting to ensure quality control. While the feedback is likely to generate improvements and enhance the quality of my work (and certainly has in this case – thanks Reviewer 1, 2 and 3), it is still a personal exercise in humility and vulnerability.

Second, the timing. The first deadline for submission and the second deadline for reworking have been very close to Summer and Winter block courses at KCML. Block courses are intense and demanding and to be writing in and around that emotional intensity has been for me a struggle.

Third, the topic. To be writing in another discipline has generated for me enormous self-doubt. Not only can I do this. But should I do this? What does writing about zombies have to do with being Principal of a seminary? The research has certainly led to some interesting conversations – sitting beside a passenger also reading Jane Austen on a Los Angeles to Heathrow flight or discussing Wesley’s sacramental theology in a modern university. But is it a good use of work/church time?

Here’s my response: Missiology is the study of the reception of faith in diverse times and locations as part of learning something about the Christian faith. Reception can take a range of forms, including acceptance, adaptation and ironic rejection. Contemporary popular culture is one place in which Christian faith is received, and responds, in a range of responses. Given we live and move and breathe in popular culture, one important essential arena for missiologists to be active in is the world of popular culture.

Including movies.

Including zombie movies like Pride And Prejudice And Zombies no less.

At the same time, as per the definition of missiology, the study has certainly led to a learning about faith, including in this case the role of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 in relation to social justice, the role of apocalyptic literature and eschatology in sacramental literature, the dangerous interplay between Christian piety and colonialism and the role of Exodus in the human journey of liberation.

Further, in this particular project, I have conducted this investigation not within the church or even of missiology journals. Instead, I have worked and written in an interdisciplinary context of secular humanities, with results presented in an international journal. Hence what I am doing is a public missiology, placing Scripture and sacramental theologies in public, intellectual environments. In doing missiology I am being missiology! It does not directly benefit the church, but then nor should public missiology.

While I am unlikely, as a minister of the Gospel, to directly use the work, it has deepened my engagement with Scripture and made me think more carefully about the Christian use of sacraments. It has also forced me to reflect on my writing and thus has a professional development dimension.

Looking back, with satisfaction, reflecting on my doubts, one of my regrets is that I haven’t had enough fun. As I let out yet another groan, reading Pride and Prejudice, one of my wise daughters told me “It’s meant to be groaned at dad. That’s the point.” I realise not that the groaning has not only been about Elizabeth and Darcy. It has also been about the self-doubt and internal questioning and timing pressures I’ve been feeling. Which in a desire to be vulnerable to you, my blog readers, I’m articulating here.

Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Understanding conversion in light of the “Silence” of religious change

Some writing I’ve been doing over the last few days. I’m trying to knit together a conference paper delivered in August 2016 and a conference paper delivered in March, 2017, for a potential book chapter due mid-July 2018!

Both conference papers stand at around 2,000 words. Together, could the two pieces, make a whole, a chapter for a potential book publication? This will require one central idea and some clear editing. That begins with an introduction. So, can I find an introduction ….

Jesus comes announcing the Kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9). This invites the possibility of conversion. Hence the relationship between conversion and Christian witness becomes an essential area of study for missiology.

The documents of the early church offer narratives in which the proclamation of the Good News is linked with life change and transformation. In Acts 2:41-47, three thousand experience a transformation into a church which practices a passionate spirituality, experiences the supernatural and outworks a radical egalitarianism. The book of Acts chronicles the expansion of Christianity, geographically from Jerusalem to Rome; ethnically, from Jews to Gentiles; numerically across the cities of the Roman empire. Soards argues that the speeches in Acts, of which he identifies thirty-six, are key to the unity and emphasis of Acts. In words, they present “the story of the early church’s bearing witness to God’s will and work in Jesus Christ.” (The Speeches in Acts: Their Content, Context, and Concerns, by Marion L. Soards. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 194). The relationship between Christian mission, conversion and expansion continue through the history of the church. Individuals stand in church to testify to finding faith in Christ and the transformations that result from conversion. Mission agencies draw on accounts of conversion in seeking prayer and financial support. In each case, the assumption is that conversion and transformation are intrinsically linked to Christian mission.

Equally, the historical record, in both Josephus and the Christian Gospels, is that Jesus’ announcing of the Kingdom was met with both receptivity and resistance (Luke 9:51-55). Essential to a non-coercive invitation is the freedom for conversion and transformation to be resisted. The theological challenges that result must be considered in constructing a missiology that is equal parts robust and realistic. Indeed, amidst the expansive narratives of Acts, is the reality that individuals resist the Gospel. It is easy to celebrate the thousands in Acts 2 and 4, but in many of the cities in which the Apostle Paul preaches, there is a refusal to convert and resistance to the transforming announcement of Good news of Christ. Hence study of the nature and dynamics of Christian witness must, in the search for truth, engage with the realities associated with resistance to conversion.

A robust and realistic missiology must include not only the possibilities that surround a lack of conversion. It must also examine the human desire to deconvert. In 2014, in the United Kingdom, National Secular Society supporter John Hunt made headlines when he sought to be “debaptised.”. Adams reports that over 100,000 Certificates of De-baptism were downloaded in five years from 2004 to 2009. While uncomfortable, it is an area that any study of conversion must consider. Who is God and how might conversion and transformation be understood, if there is no conversion? What is the nature of Christian mission given the reality of deconversion? How to narrate Christian witness when expansion is not the entirety of the Christian story?

In the writing on Tuesday, and the rewriting today, things become clearer. It is still draft. But in reaching for words, key points emerge.

Posted by steve at 06:04 PM

Friday, June 08, 2018

Listening in mission resource (for Friday, Monday, Tuesday)

Unknown-20 For those attending the Listening in Mission workshop and for the sake of the environment, here is a copy of the KCML Resource (Assignment Reading neighbourhood).

Posted by steve at 08:01 PM

Monday, April 30, 2018

Lest we forget: Anzac beginnings through the words of Kingmaker Wiremu Tamihana

I preached at the Knox Chapel Anzac service this weekend. The Bible readings were Ephesians 2 and Psalm 23. I looked at Anzac beginnings through Australian eyes and the words of Maori chief, Wiremu Tamihana (whom I researched through much of last year). This opened up a reflection on Ephesians 2 and New Zealand mission history. I finished with the tekoteko of Te Maungarongo, Jesus the ancestor.

“The most remarkable Anzac sermon I’ve ever heard” commented an Emeritus Professor of Law. “Outstanding” commented a University Chancellor. So here it is … (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:56 PM

Monday, January 29, 2018

tiny text of Church in Mission: Theology in Changing Cultures

A tiny text is a miniature version of the whole. It has been applied to academic work by Pat Thomson. So here is a tiny text, a summary of what I was trying to do in Church in Mission: Theology in Changing Cultures, the week long intensive I taught last week for University of Otago/Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (in partnership with Doug Gay) . I offered it to students as the course progressed and as I challenged myself: could I, in around 350 words, summarise the week of teaching, including linking to assignments, course learning outcomes and each of the course readings.

globe-trotter-1-1531337-640x480 Mission can be defined as joining what God is up to in the world. This human response emerges from the conviction that God sends the Son and Spirit. Humans partner with God, including in resistance of evil, the making of all things new and expressing God’s life in the indigenous particularity of local contexts.

This understanding of mission defines the church as willing to be sent beyond existing locations into liminal spaces; to pay attention to contexts; and to participate in discerning the patterning of God’s movement. However, the sheer complexity of our global world suggests that no one size fits all. Further, the ongoing unfolding of our cultural contexts requires us to listen afresh to context and to respond appropriately in change.

Analysis of history, for example in Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity, enables a global and in-depth understanding of the resources of the Christian tradition (Assignment 1). One way to categorise the range of church responses is using the headings of resistance, innovation and indigeneity. Because of the unique relationship between theology and culture, each of these responses will have strengths and weaknesses.

As we learn from the past, we gain insight for the present. We can understand the present as we engage in mapping cultural hermeneutics: listening to the cultural complexity of New Zealand today, including at micro, meso and macro levels (Assignment 2). Mapping is then followed by discerning which of the responses – resistance, innovation and indigeneity – the church might adopt. The re-forming that results is part of the churches ongoing participation in the unfolding mission of God (Assignment 3).

Hence the three assignments will demonstrate a theologically rigorous and culturally informed understanding of re-forming Christian communal identity: past and future. The three assignments will bring together perspectives of global theology (Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity), contemporary cultures (mapping cultural hermeneutics) and ecclesial study of resistance, innovation and indigeneity in a critical and constructive dialogue.

Posted by steve at 09:42 AM

Monday, September 04, 2017

video of my “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation talk online

nativechristianities Video from all the conference presentations of the “Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific” conference hosted by Auckland University on March 24, 2017 are now online. The video of my 20 minute paper is here along with the introduction and the followup questions.

Native Christianity in Papua New Guinea: “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain

by Steve Taylor, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership; Flinders University

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 Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific (Postcolonialism and Religions) (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” (The Mountain 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 (Charleston 1998; Brett 2003) and the book of Genesis a demonstration of indigenous faiths being woven respectfully into the story of Israel (Moberly 1992). This subverts the “big man” as a key trope in the ethnography of Melanesia (Strathern 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.

Posted by steve at 12:38 PM

Monday, August 21, 2017

Transforming leadership and ecclesial identities

I’ve just spent 7 days on Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, at the invitation of Talua, a Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu theological college. I was asked to speak on transforming leadership over 20 hours and as I prepared, I found myself trying to think missiologically about leadership: ie the movement from a sending God; through discipleship; to leadership – using the biblical images in my Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration book. Given my 6 years serving with the Uniting Church of Australia, who are also, like the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, a partner church of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, I also found myself thinking about transformation and leadership in light of the Basis of Union. Here is some of what I wrote as a sort of course description for myself:

__________

Melanesian garden, Novata farm

Melanesian garden, Novata farm

Transforming leadership and ecclesial identities

Transforming leadership is located in missiology, in the sending God at work in the world (Luke 10:1-12). Our understandings of leadership begin with God as the active agent, the One who has called the church to serve as a fellowship of reconciliation, a body with diverse gifts, an instrument of witness (Paragraph 3).

As “the people of God on the way” (Paragraph 18), the Protestant church recognises two sacraments, that of baptism and communion. Hence any talk of leadership emerges from baptism, for it is baptism that we are initiated into God’s mission and it is through communion that we are sustained in mission. As it says in the Basis of Union, “On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments” (Paragraph 3). No leader emerges apart from the fact that we are all one in Christ Jesus, all of us saying yes to participation in mission through our baptism, all of us in communion strengthened in order to participate “in the mission of Christ in the world” (Paragraph 8).

An expression of our participation in mission includes the experience in which all members have gifts for which there is a “corresponding service” (Paragraph 13). In 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul explains his ministry, using six images – of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent. In these passages, Paul is explaining what it means for him to be sent to serve, and how his theology of baptism and communion finds expression in his “corresponding service.” Given that through baptism all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:27-28), it makes sense when Paul describes a shared leadership: he labours alongside other servants (Apollos in 3:5), other gardeners (3:9), other builders (3:10), other resource managers (Apollos in 4:6), other fools (apostles in 4:9) and other parents (Timothy in 4:17).

This suggests that Paul’s “corresponding service” is in fact shared by others, who alongside Paul also offer a “corresponding service” as servants, gardeners, builders, fools and parents. The result of these shared acts of service in mission is transformation. At Corinth, individuals are transformed and a church is established. When the six images of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent are read against literature describing the existing cultural understandings of sociality and ethics of the world of Corinth what becomes clear is an alternative ethical polis. As the one body in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:27-28) examines itself in communion (1 Cor 11:28), existing cultural understandings of leadership and influence are challenged. Such a transforming body is made possible by a transforming leadership, one which results when the church serves, gardens, builds, resource manages, acts as a fool and parent.

For every image of servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, fool and parent there are practical tools by which the entire community can serve. Thus transforming leadership has nothing to do with individual heroic leaders. Rather, both missiologically and practically, transformation emerges as God’s people participate with the Sending one in acts of service, gardening, building, resource managing, being a fool and a parent.

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In sketching this understanding, I am drawing on a range of recent scholarship including missiology, leadership, indigenous Aboriginal theologies, Biblical theologies, pneumatology, Christology, indigenous theology, New Testament scholarship both Pauline and Gospel, Old Testament narratives and post-colonial hermeneutics. Particularly Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians; Eugene Rogers, The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings; Ben Witherington, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom; Kenneth Bailey, Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15 (Concordia Scholarship Today); Walter Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism and Denise Champion, Yarta Wandatha.

Posted by steve at 03:54 PM

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

online resourcing by KCML in mission

listeninginmission It was an exciting day for KCML today as we hosted our first ever online learning opportunity for ministers.  We used video conferencing technology and had 12 participants from around New Zealand join us to explore listening in mission. It was lovely to welcome folk from the breadth and diversity of NZ, particularly rural folk in Central Otago, Marlborough, Waikato, North and South Canterbury. (We also had five apologies. They will be sent the recording of the session and invited to engage with us if they have further questions.)

We read Scripture together, using lectio divina to explore the movement between text and context. We heard two short stories of how listening in mission changed us. We were introduced to two components of the Listening in Mission Practical Learning course. First, five online sessions that will be a support and an encouragement. It is lonely leading in mission and we need ways to encourage and be encouraged. Second, a listening in mission project. Each participant is invited to conduct a listening in action in their community, gathering a team of 4-6 people to engage in four guided listening exercises. This is embodied listening, quite different from surveys or census data.

Today felt small and yet big. Small, in that the sixty minutes flashed by. Small in that other education providers have been doing this for years.

Big, in that the technology worked, the audio was good, the group made immediate and excellent use of chat. Big in that KCML is resourcing ministers without requiring them to travel. Big in that this could apply in other areas of KCML life – a further course on experimenting in mission, or growing in preaching or enhancing resilience in leadership etc etc.

The KCML vision is

create, partner and sustain
innovative learning communities and ministries and
cultivate
mobile, accessible and collaborative theological reflection and formation.

Today we did that. We created a learning community, by being mobile in technology, accessible in taking a process we use with our interns and making it available more widely, collaborative as three KCML Faculty worked together to share the leadership.

It was an exciting day for KCML today.

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Resurrection for mission

Some (theological) writing this morning, drawing on the Resurrection to understand listening as the first act of mission …

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Rowan Williams offers a way to understand the interplay between Christ, church, creation and culture. In The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ Canterbury Press: Norwich, 2003, 23-41, Williams introduces a classical Orthodox Resurrection icon. Icons are “written” and “read”: theological documents in which we encounter Christ. Williams points to the way that in a classical Orthodox Resurrection icon, Christ unites, standing on a narrow bridge of rock spanning a dark pit. Christ is grasping Adam with one hand and Eve with the other. He is restoring relationships – between men and women, between humanity and creation, between the mind’s knowledge and the body’s experience.

Williams then draws on Maximus the Confessor and his explanation of Christ as overcoming all the great separations that humans suffer. Williams notes the presence in the icon of characters from the Jewish Scriptures, including David, Abraham, Moses. The result is that “the resurrection is a moment in which human beings are reintroduced to each other across the gulf of mutual resentment and blame; a new human community becomes possible” (31-2). The Risen Christ is reintroducing us, opening the ways by which these characters from Scripture stand in the middle of “our present community, speaking to us about the God who spoke with them in their lifetimes in such a way that we can see how their encounter with God leads toward and is completed in Christ” (34). Thus revelation comes, understood in light of the resurrection. This is then applied to the relationship between Christ and creation. “But if we also bear in mind the context in which Maximus the Confessor sets the work of Christ, we can see here in outline the foundation for understanding the relation of Church and creation” (35-6). The logic is one of extension. “If the Risen Christ takes hold and speaks through the great figures of biblical history … by the same token he speaks through the world around us … he introduces us to that world and requires us to listen to it and receive from it what he wants to communicate.” (36) This is the work of Resurrected Christ, a “very obvious consequence both of the theology that shows Christ uniting what fallenness and sin have departed and of the image of a whole history brought to fulfilment … what Christ does and suffers affects all things, all areas of human experience and so all aspects of human relation, including relation with what is not human” (36-7). Through the Resurrection comes a redemption of creation which is so complete that creation becomes a source of revelation. In creation, experience and culture we can see the redemption that Christ is revealing. We are, in the risen Christ, being required to listen and receive from creation, experience and culture.

This provides a Christology of mission.

  • First, mission “opens out” (37) from Christ.
  • Second, we are required to listen to what Christ introduces us to, in this case the world which Christ has overcome our separation from.
  • Third, our listening will include human experience, which in Christ has been experienced, suffered and to which, in the Resurrection, we are being reintroduced.
  • Fourth, human experience, and hence human cultures, are a dimension in which Christ is revealed.
  • Fifth, we are listening for what Christ is speaking, what Christ wants to introduce us to.

Thus in the Resurrected Christ is a theology of revelation for mission. God is speaking, through what Christ as experienced, not only in Scripture and the characters from the Jewish Scriptures but also through creation, human experience and human cultures.

Posted by steve at 09:57 AM