Friday, February 22, 2019

Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

launch It is a great privilege to be part of the launch, and a contributor, to Listening to the People of the Land: Christianity, Colonisation and the Path to Redemption, edited by Susan Healy.

Susan contacted me in April 2018, asking if I could contribute some words. I had a range of deadlines looming, but I also had been doing some thinking about colonisation in light of the challenges of post-colonial literature. How do we tell stories in which the primary actors are not the colonisers? In the words of a wise kuia, Aunty Millie Te Kawa of Tūwharetoa: “Everyone talks about the famous missionary who worked among my people. But who taught the missionary the language?”

So over a number of months, with great patience from Susan, I wove together some thinking, scattered a range of different pieces I was working on. My chapter is titled: Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

Posted by steve at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Children of the waters journal article

Children of the waters: whirlpools, waiora, baptism and missio Dei

Keywords: Missio Dei, baptism, indigenous, Māori, early Christian art, environment

Abstract: From space, the Pacific glitters in ocean blue. What might the world’s largest ocean contribute to missio Dei? A spiral methodology is used to trace connections between the baptism of Jesus, early Christian art, recent legal (Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal) research and indigenous knowing, including ocean voyaging, ancestor understandings of whirlpools, Māori water rites and oral history of river beings (taniwha).

The argument is that indigenous Oceanic (Māori) understandings of water, in conversation with baptismal narratives, present missio Dei as an immersion in God. Mission is located not in the activity of the church – and hence mission expansion as part of European colonisation – but in the being and becoming of God. Creation and redemption are interconnected and an environmental ethic is expected. Children of the waters (ngā tamariki o te Moana nui a Kiwa) listen to creation’s voice (taniwha speaking) and act for the life (waiora) of water.

Posted by steve at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

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After teaching Theological Reflection on Saturday – on place-based methodologies – I spent some time reflecting on the experience. It was shaping up to be a hot afternoon, so in the morning I worked up a new activity, inviting the class to walk the local botanical gardens in order to break up a 3.5 hour lecture slot. It began out of compassion, but as I reflected, there were some interesting learnings happening. A potential reflective-practice journal article abstract began to take shape

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

A Theology of Place from :redux on Vimeo.

How to teach place-based theologies to those who might feel shallow-rooted? My practice-based research sought to investigate place-based teaching in the context of theological education among those being formed for the vocation of ordained ministry. I sought to decolonise the curriculum, introducing indigenous theologians, who document the way that identity is formed through  generations of relationships connected to place.  Richard Twist (Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way) emphasises the need to do theology in relation to a primal sense of connection to birth place, Denise Champion (Yarta Wandatha) examines the interplay between land and people, while Maori approaches to pepeha develop identity in relation to landmarks like mountains and river. 

The challenge was that the cohort was not indigenous. As migrants, or descendants of migrants, experiences of a sense of relationship to place can be limited.  In addition, the class was experiencing dislocation, gathered from various national locations into a context not familiar to participants.

The space between indigenous knowing and migrant experience was presented as an opportunity. The writing of Alifeti Ngahe (Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight) was instructive, providing vocational examples of how he migrated into new communities and developed place-based theologies.  Students were invited to locate themselves as “other” and in that epistemic rupture (Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes) find a posture of investigative curiosity.  The class was sent in groups to examine statues in a local Botanical Park. They were provided with a short history of various monuments and instructed to see if they could do what Alifeti had done, make theological connections with place. 

Each group reported a range of insights. Work was then done as a cohort to shape the insights into prayers of approach for use in the context of vocational ministry. The liturgical movements of thanksgiving, confession and lament provide room to examine a range of important movements in the journey of decolonisation. This enriched the place-based reflection and provided vocational application.  

The argument is that practice-based pedagogies inform the practise of place-based ministries. Outdoor experiences, paying attention to local monuments, naming epistemic rupture and listening to indigenous theologians provide important resources in place-based teaching.    

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

star gazing at Epiphany: an indigenous way of knowing

“we observed his star” (Matthew 2:2) And so for the Magi of Matthew’s gospel, following the stars is a way of navigating toward faith. Star gazing, star navigating, star following is an indigenous way of knowing.

Star hangs on ears of night, defining light …
The bottom line

is to know where to go – star points …
So guidance systems attached.”

writes Robert Sullivan in his poem, He karakia timatanga, (Star Waka: Poems by Robert Sullivan, Auckland University Press, page 3)

So the Magi are best understood through the wisdom of indigenous journeys. The Magi are like the ancient navigators who guided canoes across the Pacific. They are drawing on ancient wisdom, shared from generation to generation, the lore of ocean currents, star patterns, migration of birds. This is a wholistic way of knowing, attending as fully present to earth and creation.

Posted by steve at 04:49 PM

Friday, December 07, 2018

Congratulations to inaugural Judith Binney Trust recipients

The Judith Binney Trust has announced the recipients of the 2019 Judith Binney Fellowships and Writing Awards. They are Dr. Nēpia Mahuika (Ngāti Porou), Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Waikato; freelance writer Ryan Bodman; journalist and commentator Morgan Godfery (Ngāti Awa, Samoa); and independent historian Dr. Melissa Matutina Williams (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Maru). In making the announcements, the trustees noted they were “impressed with the quality and quantity of applications for funding in our inaugural year.”

This is worth noting because I was an applicant :)

I put in an application titled The Kingmaker’s Bible, which sought to understanding Maori approaches to religion by examining the Bible-reading strategies of the first kingmaker, Wiremu Tāmihana Tarapīpi Te Waharoa. My project sought to extend my recent research and affirm the creativity of indigenous engagement with a book (the Bible) often associated with colonisation and break new ground by locating Maori Bible-reading strategies in relationship to international scholarship, particularly that of Gerald West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon and James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. My proposal set out to make an outstanding Maori leader accessible through high-school curricula, a theology textbook and social media.

It was not to be. Not in relation to this particular pathway anyway (although I’m open to offers and imaginative suggestions). But the application process was excellent, particularly the discipline of making a funding application within the confines of 1,000 words. And my referees were very encouraging: one wrote that mine was “a superb proposal for research and a profound project.” And I’m delighted at the calibre of those who were successful recipients of the 2019 Judith Binney Fellowships and Writing Awards. I congratulate each of them and wish them all the best as they contribute to scholarly historical research and writing in this country. Finally, kudos to Judith Binney and the trustees for innovating in this way.

Posted by steve at 05:37 PM

Friday, November 23, 2018

Doing theology on the land of another

I took this picture last year while I was on retreat. I was struck by the words on the sign: access courtesy of land owners. I am welcomed as guest.

doingtheology

It is a reminder that as guest, I do theology on the land of another. As an act of self-location, it shapes the way I read Scripture. What does it mean for me to hear the Bible as 2nd peoples, to do theology on the land of another? The Revised Preamble of the Uniting Church of Australia affirms that the “First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God … the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony.” The Revised Preamble affirms that God was already walking country, revealing Godself before I arrived.

So last week I was working with Exodus 3. It is part of a ongoing research project, as I explore the symbol of the burning bush for church identity. Last week, I began to imagine Moses encountering God as 2nd peoples, on the land of another. The actual text notes that he led his flock “beyond the wilderness” (v 3). Angela Song, in her A Postcolonial Woman’s Encounter with Moses and Miriam (Postcolonialism and Religions), describes Moses as “the nowhere boy who became a nowhere man.” (192). Moses is raised in a culture and class not his own: a nowhere boy. Becoming an adult, Moses calls his first born son, Gershon. It means stranger, alien in foreign land.

And so in Exodus 3, “beyond the wilderness”, this nowhere man encounters God. On the land of another, Moses begins to contemplate a God of care and compassion. Moses initial response, his first articulation of a theology, includes actions. He takes off his shoes.

It is, according to Jewish scholar, Nahum Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus a way of showing respect and humility. On the land in which he is a stranger, feeling alien, Moses doesn’t start with ownership and possession and domination. His theology begins with respect and humility, paying attention to the God already there.

Nahum Sarna The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus also notes the liturgical echoes, that the Jewish rabbi takes off their shoes before pronouncing the benediction (15). In response to encounter, as one prepares to leave, one shows respect and humility for land and already present faith.

Take off your shoes is the first theological act of those who locate as 2nd peoples.

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Friday, October 26, 2018

Centre for the Book Symposium on Translation and Transculturation

I did some work on this today –

Translation and Transculturation in indigenous resistance: the use of Christian Scripture in the speeches of Wiremu Tamihana.

It is an academic paper I will be presenting at the Centre for the Book Symposium on Translation and Transculturation, November 1-2, 2018.

centre book symposium

This was the abstract I submitted back in early September:

A feature of Aotearoa’s history is the role of a book, the Bible, translated, to resource indigenous resistance. This is evident in the life of Wiremu Tamehana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, tino rangatira no Ngati Hauaa I hangaia e ia te Kingitanga, who was in 1859 the first Kingmaker. In a korero opposing Governor Grey in 1861 (GBPP, 1862, 73), Tamehana deployed Deuteronomy 17:15 and Ephesians 2:13 to challenge the aggressive actions of the Crown toward Maori in the Waikato.

Translation involves the interplay between two forces: domestic and foreign (Venuti, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 1998). Foreign texts are domesticated in the hope of making them intelligible to specific, in this case indigenous, cultures. Ironically, once domesticated, these triumphs of translated transcultural success can generate significant cultural change (Handman, Critical Christianity, 2015). Translation theory thus provides helpful frames: individual in examining Tamehana’s use of Scripture; cultural in examining how translation shaped Maori culture. This requires paying attention to the public transcript (the translation) and the often hidden vernacular transculturation (West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon, 2016).

Translation theory provides a way to honour Tamehana’s use of a translated text, including his reversal of Venuti’s categories of foreign and domestic. When Tamehana deploys Ephesians, a once foreign translation, now domesticated into te reo, is being invoked in ways that position the Crown as foreign. When Tamehana draws on Deuteronomy, he is positioning the Bible as a book that belongs to no one domesticating culture, but to an atua beyond all cultures. This “illumination from above” (Marsden, The Woven Universe, 2003) points toward a divinised transculturality.

The result is that a translated Sola Scriptura serves as a wero of challenge toward the behaviours of the culture that introduced the book. Sealer and sailor, soldier and settler are called to act ethically.

This paper is a continuation of research, writing and speaking I did last year (1 video, 4 publications, 2 conference papers and 3 talks) on the Bible reading strategies of Wiremu Tamehana. In this paper, I am taking up in particular the work of Gerald West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon and looking at James Scott’s (Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts) notion of hidden transcripts as they apply in indigenous resistance.

I’m still not sure if the paper will hang together as a coherent whole come next Friday. But I’m more optimistic at the end of today than I was at the start. Which makes it a good day!

Posted by steve at 08:06 PM

Friday, September 14, 2018

the burning bush conference abstract

A conference abstract, on what we learn from objects, in this case taking some of my current thinking, regarding a Presbyterian symbol, the burning bush, into an a more academic, musuem, context. (If accepted) …

The symbol of the burning bush as an object in global exchange and local adaptation

The burning bush is an essential signifier of Scottish Presbyterian identity, an allusion to the Biblical narrative of Exodus 3. This paper will undertake visual exegesis and archival research in order to examine the symbol as it has moved across cultures as part of colonial migration.

Two sources of data are important. One is the archives of the Presbyterian Research Centre, which offer a repository of documents, including sermons, liturgies and newsletters, which open windows into how the burning bush has undergone evolution in the migration from Scotland to Aotearoa. Another is Presbyterian church buildings, including the branding of churches in the Maori Synod (Te Aka Puaho), stained glass windows in St Johns Papatoetoe and a hand-crafted book mark in a pulpit Bible of a Dunedin church.

Analysis of the burning bush as a “thing” over time points toward local appropriation of this colonial symbol of religious identity. As the burning bush has been re-presented – as a twisted vine or adorned by hibiscus flowers and migratory birds – there is evidence of local cultural appropriation. In the craft inherent in graphic design, stained glass and embroidery, there is evidence of the importance of domestic craft as a mechanism through which global exchange and local appropriation occur.

This suggests that a religious symbol, despite historic and colonial origins can undergo transformation through global exchange. In other words, a historic symbol, designed to centralise identity, has become through migration, a subversive affirmation of cultural diversity and vitality.

Posted by steve at 08:42 PM

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

peer-reviewed in an international journal in a discipline not my own

persusionsonline

“Religious piety and pigs’ brains”: the faith of zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies,” Persuasions On-Line 38 (3), 2018.

So I’m celebrating having a journal article in an international, peer-reviewed journal (Persuasions Online) in a discipline not my own.  It’s quite an achievement to be published, let alone internationally, let alone in a different discipline.

I’m chuffed. 

It has been a strange and demanding journey.  Flinders University has a Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities (FIRtH) which encourages collaborative and cross-disciplinary research across a wide range of fields in the Humanities and Creative Arts. In 2017, it was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen. This is a big thing – her appearance on a new 10 pound note in England and Hampshire staging a year-long series of events across the county in 2017. And in Australia, FIRtH decided to make Austen a focus.  Given I still have connections with Flinders University, as I supervise four PhD’s to completion, I was invited to contribute a piece on religion, popular culture and Austen. My teenage kids at the time were enjoying Pride And Prejudice And Zombies the movie.  I was aware it included a communion scene and in response to the FIRtH invitation, began to watch, looking at how the Christian practice of communion was being portrayed.

I provided some thoughts in a cross-Tasman video, was offered an airfare to a symposium presentation, followed by an invitation to develop my work for a special edition of Persuasions Online, a digital, peer-reviewed publication of the Jane Austen Society of North America.   This was very new territory for me – English literature, Jane Austen, international. 

But it gave me a chance to reflect on sacraments and the Gospel of Luke.  It enabled me to think more deeply about post-colonialism. I have also published a range of pieces on U2 and so this was a chance to expand my thinking into zombies.  It also was a chance to test in practical reality a theoretical piece I wrote in 2009 (a chapter in The Spirit of Truth: Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Holy Spirit) in which I argued for the presence of God in popular culture. It sounded good in theory, but would my theory stand when applied to zombies?

I researched and wrote with a constant voice: is this a good use of my time as Principal of a theological college. In the midst of a funding crisis, was this a good use of church resources? 

One way to respond was to do much of this in my own time. I took leave to attend the symposium in October 2017, used days in lieu in March 2018 to complete the first draft and drew down on holidays in June to respond to reviewer comments.

At the same time, I also believed this was public missiology.  Missiologists talk a lot about engaging culture, yet very few seem to work in popular culture, the songs and movies which are the soundtrack to the lives of so many. Missiologists also talk a lot about crossing cultures. So why not cross into another discipline and place my thinking before the critical eyes of Austen lovers (the society has 5,000 members!) and people who care deeply about the English language?

I did however, underestimate the demands involved in moving across disciplines. The last few months have become particularly pressured, as I navigated multiple peer reviews and the challenge to write for literary lovers rather than theologians. The result has been a string of “thanks for your patience” emails, to PhD students and in relation to other writing deadlines.

Anyhow, the piece has just been published – “Religious Piety and Pigs’ Brains”: The Faith of Zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 38: 3, 2018.

Because I work in popular culture, the article has pictures:

pictures ppz

The article has headings: 
The meaning of zombies in academic discourse  
Applying zombie theory to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  
Afterlives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke 
(Un)sacramental theologies
The present problems of piety 
 

And here are some words, that point to what I was trying to do:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that art has the potential to disturb contemporary pride and historical prejudice.  Realizing this truth, however, requires us to locate the literary worlds so artfully created by Jane Austen in relation to the economic realities and colonizing impact of the British Empire around the turn of the nineteenth century 

The British empire was powered not only by economic and military might but also by Britons’ understanding of Christianity, including the claiming and exploitation of overseas territories.  Desmond Tutu famously declared, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.  They said ‘Let us pray.’  We closed our eyes.  When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land” (The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon (Biblical Interpretation Series) 326).  Tutu’s challenge invites us to consider the religious practices of Austen’s England.  How might the sacramental practices of communion and the prayers and sermons heard by Elizabeth and Darcy make them complicit in the economic injustices that accompanied colonial expansion?  

Rather than dismissing zombies as an example of popular culture hubris, the argument presented here suggests the zombies in Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies provide viewers with an ethical trope, post-colonial in both sense and sensibility.  Analysis of the zombie trope as socio-cultural phenomenon is followed by an examination of Steers’s film—a hermeneutic “zombie-gesis,” if you will—with particular attention to a scene in which zombies partake of holy communion at the Church of St. Lazarus.  This scene brings into focus the portrayal of Lazarus in the Christian Gospels, particularly Jesus’s parable in Luke 16:19–31 and what it means to consume the body of Christ.  It also arguably exposes the entanglement of Anglican religion and the English colonial project in Austen’s world, pointing to the culturally constructed conjunction of Biblical texts, Western Christianity, and the social world of Regency England.  

In this reading, the role of zombies in the movie is neither parodic nor simply a money-making device.  Rather, the movie inserts an ethical trope, post-colonial in sense and sensibility, that questions the economic system on which the literary world of Austen is built, the ways in which religion can use piety to maintain the status quo, and the complexities involved in seeking to enact justice in the present.  

A careful reading of the Exodus story, however, suggests that a third option is possible.  Exodus And Revolution argues that the promised land holds the hope of equality:  “if no member of the holy nation is an oppressor, then no inhabitant of the promised land is oppressed” (109).  Such an understanding provides a way for the proto-zombies to enact a disciplined freedom that would also be a way of applying justice in their present.  As inhabitants of England, the proto-zombies are a physical reminder of the need for justice.  By holding themselves back from becoming full zombies, they seek partnership in a promised land in which none, whether genteel English or zombie, is oppressed or oppressing. Their deliberate formation provides a critique of the actions of Darcy and Wickham and also of the mobilization of religion only in the future tense.  It suggests that Luke 16:19–31 can be read as an apocalyptic text.  The dualisms of proto-zombie and human can be respected.  

The film, read in light of the Exodus text preached at the Church of St. Lazarus, thus offers a vision of a new beginning for England as a place of justice for all.  The servants at Pemberley need no longer be silent; those who grow the finest grapes, nectarines, and peaches will be justly rewarded, and the soldiers at Meryton need no longer be deployed to maintain the power of a colonial Britain.  This future vision begins now, in the sharing of a moral formation in which all—colonized and colonizer, zombie and human—share a common set of standards and take responsibility for their own agency.

The presence of the zombies points to significant fault-lines that threaten the privileged and complacent social world of Austen’s time.  In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies they remind readers and viewers of the unsolved problem of social inequality and the ways in which religion and literature can both support and disturb the status quo, including the apparent certainties of Jane Austen’s social and religious world.

Posted by steve at 04:37 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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

theology and church as an actor in development

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One of my current projects involves responding to editorial reviewer comments on an article I’m writing on theological education and development. The article began as a paper I presented, with Phil King, at a conference on Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific in June 2016. I saw this as an opportunity to get to know the story of a key partner church and helping me think more wholistically about theological education in general.

Following the paper presentation, the spoken paper was turned into a written paper and submitted in May 2017. It is one thing to talk. It is another to set out your thoughts over 6,000 words as it tests the logic of an argument over an extended period. The written paper was accepted, subject to my responding satisfactorily to reviewer comments, for Sites Journal of social anthropology and cultural studies of the Pacific Region. It is scheduled for release in 2019. It will be good to be taking theology in an anthropology and cultural studies space.

Editorial review is a wonderful thing, for it ensures allows thinking to gain critical engagement. Horizons are broadened in terms of reading and as the forest is sifted from the trees. In responding to reviewer comments, I start by categorising them as major and minor. I then create a table, in order to note the work I need to do and provide an account to the editors of how I’m responding. Here is the table for this piece of work, as at 12 March.

taluapaperedits

So the last few weeks I have been working away. Here is some writing from today …

Helen Gardner (“Praying for Independence. The Presbyterian Church in the Decolonisation of Vanuatu,’ The Journal of Pacific History, 48:2, 2013, 122-143) argues that Presbyterianism is structured in ways that enhanced its ability to be an actor in development and decolonisation. A Presbyterian church is structured with a national assembly, regional presbyteries and local congregations and these result in a cohesive interwoven identity, encourage individual capacity building and ensure an alertness to context. An interwoven identity is possible, given the interplay between national, regional and local bodies. For Gardner, Presbyterianism is a way of organising that “transcended village and island boundaries … a political form that translated readily to the standards of contemporary democracy” (128). Each body (assembly, presbytery, congregation) has a shared governance group and these provide individuals with opportunities to develop administrative and political skills. The result was that ministers were able to play a significant role in a newly independent Vanuatu (Gardner, 142). An interwoven set of governance groupings enables grassroots voices to be heard. In Vanuatu this “allowed the [church] openly to back the call for independence, as decisions were made from the body of the church rather than imposed by a church hierarchy” (Gardner, 128).

Posted by steve at 10:07 AM

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Re-weaving creation and redemption in light of Oceanic epistemologies

water-body-macro-shot-1388772

This project will examine the relationship between creation and redemption as they relate to the missio Dei.   This has particular relevance in Oceania, given the unique water-based geographies that shape history and epistemology. It also has global relevance, given that the Pacific Ocean is the planet’s beating heart and the Cartesian dualisms inherent in the European authors’ who in the twentieth century articulated the missio Dei.

The project will involve a bi-cultural partnership between two authors, one Maori, the other Pakeha New Zealand. Together they will read the Waitangi Tribunal 1999, Whanganui River Report (1999) to articulate how water is understood and consider the implications for Christian understandings of creation and redemption. This will foreground indigenous epistemological realities, in particular threads of ancestors and gift exchange.

The initial working proposal is that creation and redemption are woven together in multiple ways. Water is neither accident nor afterthought. It is the place where one is fully human, connected to ancestors and blessed through Divine gift exchange.  This allows the missio Dei to be located amid Oceanic realities, as a challenge to anthropocentric and individualised notions of missio Dei.

For a baptismal liturgy, that began this project see here.

Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus as deep mission

ajms Delighted to have an article published in the Australian Journal of Mission Studies December 2017, Volume 11, 2, 28-35. Titled – Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission it notes first that we inhabit a geographic region in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge and second the absence of genealogy in the work of missiologists like David Bosch and Chris Wright. Given that the gospel of Matthew begins the story of Jesus with genealogy, what are the implications for mission?

Conclusion
We work in a region of the world in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge. Given that Matthew begins the story of Jesus with a genealogy, I have considered the genealogy of Jesus as a starting point for mission. I began by noting the absence of the genealogy of Matthew 1 in contemporary Western missiology. Three important contemporary missiology texts make claim that Matthew 1 is important in the mission of God. Yet the genealogy garners little attention: gaining a minimal mention in David Bosch (Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission) and Chris Wright (The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative) and none in Senior and Stuhlmueller (The Biblical Foundations for Mission). None of the three missiology texts show an appreciation of genealogy as genre or consider the way that genealogy might function as a distinct and important approach to epistemology and identity.

However, when indigenous understandings are applied to Matthew 1, the missiology of the genealogy acquires great significant. Two indigenous texts were examined, one located in Aotearoa New Zealand, the other in Australia. Both stress that for indigenous cultures, knowledge must be located in relationship to ancient memory. One (Tangata Whenua: A History), provides a mechanism, that of genealogy. Genealogy provides knowledge that is worthy of respect as it functions in ways that are replicable, rigorous and reproducible. The other (“Mission in the Great South Land” in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific), provides an invitation to value deep memory. It also provides an intercultural hermeneutic, in which the knowing of deep memory is parsed into beliefs, values and modes of teaching. This provides a further set of rich insights into genealogy; that the genre invites modes of teaching that are replicable, rigorous and reproducible; that the genre communicates beliefs and values worthy of deep respect. Thus indigenous scholarship offers a rich set of resources by which to approach the genealogy of Matthew 1.

This insight has been tested in practice, in teaching on mission in one indigenous context. This teaching demonstrated the vitality of the genealogy of Matthew in framing mission as an ancestor story, a structured transmission in which God as the primary actor is weaving ordinary and indigenous people into the Messiah’s story. It is time that indigenous scholarship, in particular the role of genealogy in structuring knowledge and affirming deep mission, is respected in both the theory and practice of mission.

Posted by steve at 02:40 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

translation and cultural change: the impact of Scripture for a church in mission

jerome Jerome (347 – 420) was a priest, theologian and Bible translator. A Doctor of the Church, he is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. But not without conflict.

Translation threatens existing patterns. It causes conflict. When the new translation is read: “A great uproar ensued in the congregation.” (White (ed), The correspondence (394-419) between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, 92-3). That which was familiar was now different. The church leaders are asked to intervene. Scripture is causing conflict.

Lawrence Venuti, a professional translator, uses this as an example in arguing that “a translation practice cannot fail to produce a text that is a potential source of cultural change.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 87).

Translation of Scripture was challenging the church. It was disrupted what was familiar. It was raising questions about the location of authority. Is it in the familiarity of tradition or the pages of Scripture? Should the scholar or the bishop be making these decisions? In a church with different cultural identities, some Greek, some Latin, any use of languages from another culture challenged power. So how did Jerome bring about change? In the midst of conflict, what strategies did he use to change what was familiar and precious?

Venuti describes four change strategies (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80-1). First, Jerome took time to explain. His translations include a preface, in which he outlined what he was doing. Second, he listened to the objections. He noted the fears, including the impact on stability, uniformity and cultural identity. Third, Jerome offered a new way of looking. He framed his translation not as a replacement but as a supplement. It would aid in the tasks of understanding Scripture. It would protect the church from accusations of ignorance. “Jerome’s version was thus presented as an institutional support, assisting in … debates with the members of a rival religious institution … who cast doubt on the cultural authority of Christianity.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80). Fourth, he found resilience in his heart for mission. Jerome began to translate because he was part of “a culture in which sensitivity to a foreign language was an integral element.” (Kamesar, Jerome, Greek Scholarship, and the Hebrew Bible: A Study of the Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim (Oxford Classical Monographs), 43). Jerome’s awareness of his cultural context, when combined with his desire to offer credible Christian witness, motivated his work.

Translation of Scripture brings cultural change. It can disrupt existing hierarchies and challenge established authorities. This is evident in the translation of the Scripture into Latin. This change happens because Jerome is skilled not only technically, in translation. He also shows skill in innovation. He brings about cultural change as he listens, explains, frames and nurtures his resilience.

Christian art represents the Spirit, whispering to Jerome as he works. It suggests the inspiration of God. This inspiration originates in mission, the gospel’s inherent translatability across cultures. Inspiration occurs for Jerome not only in the hard graft and technical skill of translation. It also occurs in the skills of bringing cultural change, of listening, framing and being resilient in and through conflict.

Posted by steve at 10:28 AM