Wednesday, May 25, 2016

local agency, local leaders, local indigeneity, local independence

archives It was an evening in the archives, exploring the files and newspaper cuttings that Presbyterian Research has of theological education in Vanuatu. The demand was preparation for The complexity of being woven together: A microhistory of the relationship between Talua Ministry Training Centre and three denominations in Australia and New Zealand, a research paper I am delivering, with Phil King, at Woven Together: Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific, Victoria University, June 9-10. The result was an evening of inspiration.

Here is some of what I wrote …

What will become clear is that Christianity is a significant development actor. Theological education in Vanuatu is driven by local agency. It is shaped by a vision for equality, contextualisation and indigeneity. It provides leadership for political independence.

Local agency, local leaders
The first Ni-Van were trained overseas. Two travelled to Samoa in 1849, three to New Zealand in 1851. From a Ni-Van perspective, through the eyes of Fiama Rakau, the focus is on local agency. “Ni-Vanuatu took the initiative, to swim and ask to be taken away for training. Theological Education, then, is not foreign, neither was it imposed, but it was born out of desire and necessity.” (Fiama Rakau, From Aname to Talua. A Brief Survey of Theological Education in Vanuatu, 1)

The need for indigenous leadership lead to the first theological college, in Aname, Aneityum. The location was first, close to a significant church and second, monastic in feel. (“The idea of a monastery may still be felt and followed in the early stages of the theological development.” (Rakau, 5)

It was built on the desire for local agency. “The Presbyterian Mission was forced to give up its dependence upon the LMS teachers” (Rakau, 2). It is consistent with Forman’s pattern, which I will discuss later. The College was wholistic, aiming to “enlarge the whole life, head, heart, home and community” (Rakau 3, citing Miller Live Bk 3, 112). Students worked in gardens. This is consistent with the aims of the theological college, that students “keep in touch with man’s deeper need by practical gospel work during training” (Rakau 6, citing Tangoa Training Institution). It was free (“free as far as fees were concerned” (Rakau 3, citing Miller Live Bk 3, 113)). A central focus was teaching students to read, for the sake of local agency. “Our primary object was to teach them to read, that they might be able to read the Bible and learn the will of God … for themselves” (Rakau 3, citing Miller Live Bk 3, 113). This is empowerment, in which the ability to read enhances local agency.

Local indigeneity
In 1895, Tangoa Training Institution was established. It is intriguing to read the aims, using the lens of our conference theme: development. The vision included equality, contextualisation and indigeneity. Regarding justice, the Intellectual aims noted “The essential parity of the intellectual powers, irrespective of race or colour.” (Rakau, 6) Regarding contextualisation, “A teaching approach which has, as far as possible, assimilated the thought-forms of the native culture.” (Rakau, 6) that educated “students to the nature of the responsibility for an indigenous church.” (Rakau, 7) Regarding indigeneity, “A self-governing Vanuatu Church … The principle that the people of the land are the most effective evangelists to their own people … The inclusion of island teachers [as theological educators] as soon as possible … The gradual assumption by the Vanuatu Church of the cost of training its own teachers and pastors.” (Rakau, 7) It is an extraordinary vision for any culture, even more so given the year, 1895.

Local independence
A third institution, Aulua Training College was established in 1977. This date is important, argues Fiama Rakau, “four years before Vanuatu achieved its independence.” (Rakau, 11). The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu was instrumental in the move to independence, with clergy being released to provide national political leadership. “This was particularly felt within the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu because more pastors from that church were released to the political sector.” (Rakau, 11). This resulted in a loss of leadership in the church. This led to the establishing of Aulua Training College.

Again, local agency was central. The first aim was that “Aulua expresses the determination to move towards self-help” (Rakau, 12). There was a critique of “students, studying overseas, [who] become alienated from their own people” (Rakau, 12). An economic analysis was evident: “The high cost factor of providing basic training overseas” (Rakau, 12). Contextualisation is central. A training model is established which takes “place within the culture and life of the people” (Rakau, 12). Examinations were rejected in favour of “written expression, group discussion, and involvement, to assess their readiness for ministry.” (Rakau, 13).

Posted by steve at 09:59 AM

Friday, January 22, 2016

reading a “settler” (Presbyterian) church missiologically

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand describes itself as a “settler church.” (here). It’s founding story is expressed in the narrative of Scottish and English settlers wanting to build a better world for themselves and their families, followed by post-World War II emigration patterns, as Dutch, European, then Pacific Island and Asian migrants arrived in New Zealand.

This “settler” narrative shapes identity. It can be contrasted with “missionary” beginnings, as in the case of Anglican, Methodist and Catholic denominations in New Zealand. It can be placed in an uneasy tension in relation to engagement with Maori.

I am interested in reading this “settler” narrative missiologically. My hunch is that in the PCANZ history there are some rich cross-cultural insights. I was alerted to this in reading Migrations: Journeys in time and place, by Rod Edmond, a few years ago. Edmond traces his Scottish forbears. One of the stories is of Presbyterian missionary, Charles Murray. Charles comes to NZ after a short period of missionary service on the island of Ambryn, Vanuatu. He then serves as a Presbyterian minister in Carterton (1888-98), Fielding (1898 -1906), Sydenham (1902-1919) and Matawhero (1919-1920). Ferguson writes that “The missionary impulse never deserted Charles.” (Migrations, 193). Evidence includes establishing home mission stations in Fielding, travelling in support of Maori Mission and urban mission in Sydenham. In addition, he continued to write to support the (then) New Hebrides Mission and took a public stand for pacifism during WW1. All of this is in continuity with his cross–cultural experiences. “Throughout his life Charles had worked at the frontiers of the church – the slums of Aberdeen, the Pacific, the new rural towns of the Wairarapa and Manuwatu, a large working-class suburb of Christchurch and now a remote East Coast settlement.” (Migrations, 203). The life of Charles Murray is an example of mission, in particular, cross-cultural mission, shaping this so–called “settler” church, in this case over 32 years in four locations.

My hunch is this gives us some important ways to understand ourselves missiologically today. My interest is two fold. First, I am interesting in finding other such stories and asking how these stories disturb the “settler” narrative. Second, I am interested in considering the missiological shape these stories might give to the unfolding story of the PCANZ today.

Posted by steve at 09:27 AM