Tuesday, August 26, 2014

research assistance required

I am seeking research assistance for a project that involves developing a theological resource for undergraduate students in the area of indigenous women’s Christologies.

The project involves working with a number of local theologians, in particular selected indigenous woman (already identified), to clarify their theology (in both written and visual forms), and to create an accompanying resource guide by which undergraduate students can identify the resources and processes used in theological contextualisation and consider the questions raised for theological method.

Applicants will need skills including the ability to

  • interview
  • organise technologies (visual and written) to preserve the insights
  • write clearly
  • develop resources
  • think theologically, including in areas of Christology and culture

Funding is available for a total of 25 hours at Flinders University Causal Academic Rates. The project needs to begin by late September, 2014 and to be finished by early November, 2014.

Apply by email to Steve Taylor (steve dot taylor at flinders dot edu dot au) by Friday 6 September. Applications should include a CV and a letter of interest, addressing the skills required.

Posted by steve at 11:10 PM | Comments (2)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Jesus on the Gold Coast

I’m teaching a three day intensive on Jesus at Newlife Church, Robina, on the Gold Coast, in November 11-13, 2014.

Theology of Jesus – This topic combines biblical, historical, doctrinal and contemporary approaches to Jesus Christ and to salvation in Christ. Special attention will be paid to the missional Jesus, in popular culture and in encounters with other faiths.

Lecturer – Rev Dr Steve Taylor – Principal, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology and Senior Lecturer, Flinders University.  Church planter, church leader and author, Out of Bounds Church? and blogger (www.emergentkiwi.org.nz)

Here is a little video that I shot a few weeks ago, to introduce Jesus and the course to students.

Introduction to Jesus topic from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Date – November 11-13th, 2014
Time – 7 hours a day, 9-5 pm with hour for lunch (12:30-1:30 pm)
Where – Newlife Church
How to Register – Contact Lynda Leitner (lynda dot leitner at flinders dot edu dot au) at Adelaide College of Divinity (phone 08 8416 8400) and ask to enrol in MINS 2314 or relevant post-graduate code
Cost -  $1341 (undergraduate credit); $1665 (postgraduate credit);  $300 audit undergraduate; $400 audit postgraduate

Posted by steve at 06:56 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

If you’re not typing you’re not visual: Elearning practice and culture

It was meant to be a writing morning, but instead I slipped into the back of a lecture theatre at University of South Australia to hear Carolyn Haythornwaite address the topic Elearning practice and culture From experiment to mainstream. Director of the School of Library, archival and information services, University British Colombia, she argued that e-learning is a paradigm shift in practice of learning.

She talked about the way that technical changes are driving the social. The result is a society that is more participative and collective, which is bringing unavoidable pressures to bear on University classrooms. She had a lovely phrase

“a balance found in motion not stillness.” (Nardi and ODay, 1999).

She argued that for many years the lecture and the classroom have been a still place, an unchanging place, in which academics have clung for security. But with what is happening in society, the classroom is now in motion!

Not that this is easy. She described the exhaustion for teachers because we are now in “perpetual beta” and of continuously having to learn, both in regard to technology and in regard to how learners are learning.

She talked about two types of online engagement – crowd sourced or community based. Both have different ways of connecting. One tends to offer interaction that is many, small, simple. The other is complex, diverse, connected. Which type of community will e-teachers seek to create?

She had some cool visualisations. Pictures that showed that blended learning classes tend to develop weekly rhythms, the different network channels (chat, discussion boards, email) develop different types of student engagement, that the group rhythm over an entire course changes.

She had some encouragements as I reflected on our journey into blended learning as a Uniting College.

  • The need to have the IT group within the teaching department rather than separate (which we have done at Uniting College)
  • Forget perfection. Build it as you go. You never should have your e-learning space all packaged at start. Rather you should grow it organically as you go.
  • You get used to it. That after a few years of “perpetual beta” change, you suddenly realise you are an e-teacher.

She asked some fresh questions:

  • How to orientate students in the social skills needed to learn online in community?
  • How to understand the multiple roles of the e-teacher – as social presence but also teaching presence and also cognitive presence?
  • How to understand the potential of students to themselves become teachers in e-learning spaces? (Efacilitator, braider, accomplished fellows, learner-leaders).

So, not a writing day, but a rich and thought provoking chance to reflect on all the blended learning changes occurring at Uniting College.

Posted by steve at 12:16 AM | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

open table learning

This week in Theology of Jesus class, it was the fourth week and the theme was open tables: Jesus eating patterns. I decided that we should not only study this, we should experience it.

opentable

I moved the class from the classroom into the student common area. The tables were pulled into a circle. Tablecloths were laid. The soup, which I have been providing prior to each evening class, to help build community, was eaten at what would be our study table. Tonight it was Santa Fe Sweet potato, with charred pepper.

The newly added student wifi meant that I could still teach this blended, with folk from distance connecting live with the class through digital technologies.

Cook books were scattered around and we began with mindfulness, becoming thankful for a good meal that we each found in a cook book.

During the class, I asked what connections were they making between our experience of open table and the class readings and lecture material. Here are some of the reflections

  • is there more interaction and chatter around tables (here and Jesus) time? what does this do for how we understand how Jesus communicated
  • This is more informal. There’s our food and books everywhere. Does this show us a different, more conversational Jesus – more involved in the to and fro. Willing to be interrupted.
  • You see a different person around tables. You see what they’re living. More vulnerable
  • Around table, I ‘m getting to know other students more. Does this say something about discipleship, that following Jesus is with others, getting to know others more
  • Jesus must have been adaptable. He is comfortable in different spaces – socially apt.
  • How often do we have in our homes people we don’t know? How often we eat alone?
  • Jesus is radical and counter-cultural. The boundaries are blurred, yet there is still a sense of order.

Some fascinating learning here, about who Jesus is and how Jesus enacts the Kingdom.

Posted by steve at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

bowing to a buddhist monk: a meditation on the Syro-phonecian woman

Here is the sermon I preached this morning at Blackwood Churches of Christ. The lectionary text was Matthew 15:22-28, the story of Jesus encounter with the Syro-phonecian woman. The reading helped me explore a set of circumstances a few weeks ago, in which I found myself bowing to a Buddhist monk. In other words, how do we encounter people of different beliefs and opinions?

……. (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:11 PM | Comments (3)

Friday, August 15, 2014

teaching Jesus: go global

Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Today I am teaching on Jesus and history. I will not start with the Christological controversies of the early church. I will not talk about how the Creeds came. Instead, we will turn to global history. We will visit the church in Russia, in El Salvador, in South Africa, in India and in England. We will ask how these communities might help us understand Jesus.

In England we will sit with the prayer of Anselm, A SONG OF CHRIST’S GOODNESS

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying,
we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us;
in your love and tenderness, remake us.

In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

I only have two hours. By going global-early-church, rather than by going standard-early church, my students will not fully engage what is standard, Creedal church history on Jesus. Am I diminishing theology, short-changing students? Or am I being faithful to theology, affirming the church world-wide? Whatever happens, I take shelter God, who gathers us to protect.

Posted by steve at 11:42 AM | Comments (4)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Congregation in a Pluralist Society: Rereading Newbigin for Missional Churches Today

News this week that Pacifica, a leading theology journal in Australasia and the West Pacific Basin, will publish “The Congregation in a Pluralist Society: Rereading Newbigin for Missional Churches Today,” a joint article by Darren Cronshaw and myself, in which we offer a conversation between the reality of church life and the work of Lesslie Newbigin.

Abstract
Lesslie Newbigin sought to engage the gospel with Western culture. A rereading of Newbigin’s work offers insights for mission and communicating the gospel in the twenty-first century Western world, including the need to grapple with religious pluralism. For Newbigin, ‘[T]he only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it’. How plausible is the Newbigin thesis? Can congregations today believe and live the gospel, especially in a pluralistic context? This article is an appeal for attentiveness to the place and priority of the congregation, for the sake of mission in our pluralist society. It is grounded in the experience of two congregational case studies, which opens up conversation with Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Methodologically, it applies Neil Ormerod’s understanding of ecclesiology as grounded in ‘historical ecclesial communities’ to test both the groundedness and plausibility of Newbigin’s congregational hermeneutic.

It has been accepted for immediate publication in Pacifica (volume 27 number 2), which is one of Australia’s leading theological journals. It’s great to be writing about mission and church in that sort of context and to be have been able to provide a body of writing which results in congregational studies being considered a legitimate source in theological enquiry.

Posted by steve at 07:42 PM

Monday, July 28, 2014

flipping Christology

“Who do you say that I am?” This is the question Jesus asks the disciples (Mark 8:27). It invites those who hear to define Jesus, to find words to describe who Christ is and what Christ might do. It is a task with which the disciples struggle. Peter initially finds the right words, but fails to fully grasp the content of those words. Thus the question becomes a hinge in Mark, as Jesus turns toward Jerusalem in order to fill right words with cross-shaped content.

But can we flip the question?

Can we, the disciples, ask Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?”

In doing so, wouldn’t we hear an answer that defines us, in which Jesus finds word to describe who we are and what we might do.

“Who, Jesus, do you think we are called to do and be?”

It would allow us to hear what it means to be fully human, made in the image of God. It would connect creation with redemption, in the full humanity of Christ. In doing so, we would hear good news, the gospel of how God images, imagines, humans to be and do.

It would sync us with how Jesus first gathers the disciples, when in John 1, Jesus names the disciples – as Cephas (1:42); as Nathanael, truly one in whom their is no deceit (1:47). Indeed, this diversity of response opens up the possibilities of a contextual response, because who I am as Cephas is named uniquely and differently from who Nathanael is, which is named uniquely for any who dare to flip the question.

I’m thinking of taking this approach to my Christology class this semester. I’m thinking of flipping the Christology question, inviting them to consider how Jesus would reply as we ask: “Who do you say that I am?”

It might make an essay question. Or a class project, as we consider what Jesus might say to the diversity of cultures that make up the contemporary Australian mission context.

Posted by steve at 11:07 PM

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska: a brief book review

Holiday reading began with Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. Set in Papua New Guinea, it follows a set of characters first in the lead up to independence and second, in the twentyfirst century.

Modjeska is known for weaving fact with fiction and this beautifully written reflection is not exception. The Mountain emerges from her own story, a period of time in Papua New Guinea in the early 1970s and a recent return to develop an art-collective. It circles stories within stories, applying the eye of an artist to the complexity of interactions across times and cultures.

The mountain, from which the book is named, is an isolated site of undiscovered beauty. It becomes known to us first through the gaze of the anthropologists, as English-born Leonard and his wife, Dutch-born Rika visit. Second to post-colonial scrutiny, as Jericho, caught between cultures returns to find himself.

In between these personal journeys swirl a rich ripple of contemporary issues, including environmental battles, the impact of development and the search for identity.

As I read, I became aware of theological undercurrents. Whether intentional or not, the book offers a number of intriguing insights into the Christian understanding of Incarnation. Christianity claims the Word made flesh and this gains particular resonance in The Mountain, as the gift of a child becomes redemptive both for individuals and for a tribe, as it seeks to navigate between ways old and new.

The ancestors give us Leonard. We give you to Leonard. And now you return. Ancestor gift. The child who left us, who we called Jericho, has returned, the man who can make a great noise, blow down the walls. Jericho, the name from the ancestor story of Leonard.

This makes The Mountain both fun and an illuminating insight into the complexity of crossing cultures.

Posted by steve at 09:34 PM

Monday, June 09, 2014

skin in the theology game

Does the study of theology require more skin, more personal involvement, than other types of study?

Case study one: Claire is a second year university student. She has one optional subject and spots a summer school programme called “Bible and Popular Culture.”  She has a cousin who grew up religious and it makes for awkward pauses whenever the family get together. She enrols in “Bible and Popular Culture,” hoping to gain an easy credit and to help her talk with the “religious” side of her family.  Unknown to her, one of the classes will be on the subject of trauma.  The lecturer connects the Old Testament book of Lamentations with contemporary experiences of trauma. The lecture triggers for Claire a memory of a moment from her teenage years. Suddenly, in the midst of a university class ten years later, she is overwhelmed with painful memories.

Case study two: Bruce has a deep faith. Studying archeology, he notes an intensive called “Introduction to Theology.” It fits with his timetable.  More importantly, having faith, Bruce arrives at class expecting that this class will connect with what is important to his values.  Half way through the classs, he finds the faith he learnt from his church being disturbed by the content of the lecture.  In a small group, feeling slightly ruffled, he expresses his unease, only for a third person in the group to make a smart comment about the naivety of Christian belief.  Suddenly what Bruce has held dear is publicly exposed.

Case study three: Sue is a PhD candidate. She began theology study as a Catholic. But the more she has studied, the more she finds problematic the position of her denomination toward woman.  Intellectually bright, she enrols in post-graduate study, wanting to explore her questions in more depth.  But her topic – leadership and gender in the early church – is making folk from her home church increasingly uncomfortable.  She begins to realise that the results of her research might well result in her being marginalised within her church community.  Might she have to leave, either  to find a new church, or perhaps even a new denomination?

Each of these case studies are hypothetical, but each are a snapshot from conversations I’ve had with students in my classes in the last few years.

It seems to me that for each of these students, studying theology has meant the finding of some serious skin in a classroom setting.  Lectures have touched on significant personal experiences. Readings have raised questions about beliefs held dear.  Study has brought into into question existing relationships and raised the possibility that it might lead to damage of a person’s communities and identity outside the class.

All of these requires significant personal energy, the investment of soul and spirit above and beyond the learning outcomes and assessment set. I wonder if other areas of study demand as much skin? Does engineering or the history of the Middle Ages or the literature of Ireland impact on identity and experience in such areas?

I suspect that it does not, and as a result, the study of theology is not only a deeply demanding intellectual engagement, but also one that requires significant individual skin in the class.

I wonder what this means for students, for lecturers and for the higher education systems in which theology is taught?

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jesus and the religions

I’m teaching Theology of Jesus in Semester 2, both weekly in Adelaide and by intensive at New Life Uniting Church, on the Gold Coast, in November. Plus I am teaching on Mission as an intensive in Sydney in July.

So today I was doing some preparation, which included reading Bob Robinson, Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World.  It is a brilliant conceived book. It asks how Christians should approach other faiths by exploring how Jesus engaged other faiths.

It begins with three Gospel stories – Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Jesus and the Syrophonecian woman, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Doing theology, bringing together themes from the three encounters it argues that their are implications for how contemporary people engage plurality.

  • Be open to surprise, in the same way Jesus was surprised by the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian  and the Samaritan woman.
  • Affirm what surprises you, again in the same way Jesus affirmed the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian  and the Samaritan woman.
  • In particular, look for faith and humility. This includes the role not only of faith, but of the content of that faith. In all three examples, their “faith appears to include more than heart-felt hope or desperate concern.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 116).  And so by implication, “Might examples of faith, humility, and insight, wherever they are found in the contemporary world, be affirmed by disciples today – even when they contrast less than favorable with their own.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 117-8).
  • The exclusion of vengeance. For example, Jesus response to the Roman Centurion is a moment of love of enemy. Moving to other Gospel stories, one might note the rain falls on the just and the unjust, or the banquet parables which include, rather than exclude.

What is even more intriguing is an initial chapter in which Christ becomes an exegete.  The focus is Luke 4:16-30, and how Jesus engages Scripture. Robinson concludes that there are fresh readings, new performances of Scripture as Biblical texts are encountered in the power of the Spirit.  This opens up an exemplary Christology, in which the church reads for direction in how to live its life of witness in the world.

All of which makes for a rich teaching resource.

Posted by steve at 09:23 PM

Monday, April 07, 2014

Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma

Flinders University produces a glossy publication to highlight research outputs within Humanities Faculty. It is produced by the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, which unites humanities-based researchers engaged in creative and reflective investigations of culture and thought. The Department of Theology (which is Uniting College) has a one page write up in their latest publication, under the title “Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma.”

These words don’t usually occur together and make little sense when grouped. But as an overview of research within the Department of Theology in 2013, they are a great indication of the breadth of our focus and interests … Research in Theology is diverse and wide-ranging.

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation

I’m in Melbourne today and tomorrow as part of Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation, sponsored by the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry and the University of Divinity. The aim is to try and construct a theology of theological education. On Saturday I’m presenting a paper: Theological education in leadership formation (abstract here)

That has been the focus for much of my week. As part of my research, I compared our current 2014 Bachelor of Ministry degree, with our 2009 Bachelor of Ministry degree. Their have been significant changes, as this table shows

In other words, in 2009, we changed our name, from Parkin Wesley College to Uniting College for Leadership and Theology. Sometimes changes in name are simply cosmetic, a rebranding in which the ingredients remain the same. Looking at the Bachelor of Ministry, we see significant change, including

  • A new stream structure that has brought to the fore leadership and formation.
  • More options through specialisations.
  • Space created for formation (4 new topics in SFE and Integration) through the change of 7 topics (in theology, Bible and Pastoral care) from compulsory to optional
  • New topics written especially in leadership and Discipleship and Christian Education
  • Opportunity for “have a go” innovation through BMin practice, with increased SFE and the use of context as primary.

In the second half of my paper I will then ask whether these changes suggest it is either theological education
or
leadership formation. Or using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal (Anti-Covenant) and theologian Graham Ward (Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice), this allows theological education in leadership formation.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

preamble communion words

Throughout this week, Uniting College has been participating in the Destiny Together week of prayer and fasting. This is a week to pray and fast for justice for the First Peoples. We’ve been praying daily at 9:30 am each morning as a College and chapel has been open over lunchtime for those who might want to fast. Today at Community worship we shared worship with folk from our local Congress Church – an embodiment of Destiny Together.

I was leading communion and aware of the occasion, wondered what words might shape the practice of communion. I began to wonder if the Preamble, which was drafted in 2009 as a way to constitutionally acknowledge Aboriginal and Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia might be of us. It became a rich journey, exploring how those words, based on extensive consultation with the church, offer a theology of truthtelling and in turn might now become Eucharistic life. To do this would surely be a step toward Destiny Together, a sharing of an agreed document and God in our past, present, future.

So, here is what I drafted, mixing Preamble phrases into a communion liturgy. I used the shape of Uniting in Worship 2, seeking for phrases from the Preamble to give shape. I think it ticks all the boxes – there is epiclesis, confession, Lords prayer, God’s action in history, eschatology, Words of institution (modified slightly but in keeping with other aspects of Eucharistic theology).

With the elements served to us by the Aunties. Wonderful.

Communion:

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts

We lift them to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise

We bless you Creator for this earth, for the Dreaming and Song lines sung long before human

We thank you for the Spirit already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom, ceremony

We bless you for the same love and grace that was fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ

Who took bread, broke it, said Take, eat, in solidarity with those who suffer

Who took the cup, gave thanks, said This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out in hope of life to the full

We bless you for the church and all the storytellers and whisperers of hope through history, called to seek a renewal of its life as a community of First peoples and of Second Peoples from many land.

We lament the silence of the church in the face of broken relationships, Jesus lamb of God

Have mercy on us

We grieve the processes of dispossession, Jesus bearer of our sins

Have mercy on us

We confess the practices of colonisation, Jesus redeemer of the world

Grant us peace

We eat this bread as a foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation

We drink this cup, as a sign of our destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

Pour out your Spirit on us, that these gifts of bread and wine, may make us one with each other and in ministry in the world

Lords prayer in Kaurna language:

Yeowa-rna Marngari-tti
Jehovah-’s request / pray-thing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
Ngadluko yerli karralika tikka-ndi;
Our father on high sits ‘Our father sits in heaven’
Ninna narri tampi-rna, kuinyunda kumarta-ppi-rna;
You name acknowledge-let sacred apart-cause-let ‘Let your name be acknowledged, let it be kept sacred.’
Ninko yerlti-yerlti-nya pintya-rna;
Your advice/command create-let ‘Let your rule be established’
Ninko padloni-tti yerta-ngga wappi-rna
Your want-thing earth-on do-let ‘Let your want be done on earth’
Karra-ngga nammutannaintya-ndi
High-on resemble-ing ‘As it is on high’
Ngadluko mai yunggu-ndo!
Our food give-you! ‘Give (us) our food.’
Ngadluko wakkinna kumba-ppi-ndo!
Our sin remove-make-you! ‘Take away our sin.’
Ngadlu tangka waia-re-ndi kumarta-nna-ityangga wakkinna wappe-ndi
We liver move-itself-is separate-pl-with wrong do-ing ‘Have compassion for those who do wrong.’
Wakkinna-anna warti-tti
Sin-to draw-don’t ‘Don’t draw us into sin.’
Wakkinna-unangko tirra-tirga-ppi-ndo
Sin-from protect make-you! ‘Save us from sin.’
Ninna mattanya, taingi, wilta, burti burti tarkari tundarri.
You owner strength power gladness future forever
‘You are the boss, the strength, the power, the glory for ever and ever.’
Wappi-rna!
Do-let! (i.e. let it be done)
‘Amen.’

Benediction:

Go in peace to live a Destiny together

Posted by steve at 05:47 PM