Wednesday, February 05, 2014
The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation
There is a lovely paper by Bishop Steve Croft on the Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation. It emerges ecumenically, from his participation as the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome: a three week gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops with Pope Benedict to explore the single theme of the new evangelization.
(Three weeks on evangelization! I’ve never heard of a Protestant denomination gathering their key leaders for 3 whole weeks on mission topics)
The paper suggests seven disciplines
1. The discipline of prayerful discernment and listening (contemplation)
2. The discipline of apologetics (defending and commending the faith)
3. The discipline of evangelism (initial proclamation)
4. The discipline of catechesis (learning and teaching the faith)
5. The discipline of ecclesial formation (growing the community of the church)
6. The discipline of planting and forming new ecclesial communities (fresh expressions of the church)
7. The discipline of incarnational mission (following the pattern of Jesus)
It’s a helpful framework for me to now look at our curriculum as a College, seeing if we’re helping folk engage with this breadth.
And it makes me glad that we as a College are involved in A Clear Call conference, followed by an Evangelism, Conversion and the Mission of God intensive. I’ve looked at the course outline and I’m excited that the focus on the discipline of evangelism will be an entry point into all seven of these disciplines.
Monday, February 03, 2014
At the National Fresh expressions and mission-shaped ministry 2014 conference, I was asked to contribute not just some explanation of history, but also be part of leading in a final act. I’ve been aware more and more recently of the importance of our bodies (and the way they are so rarely used in worship). So here’s what I did.
In your right hand, gather your dreams, what is arising in hope from within you. Take some time to hold these dreams before God.
Now, since we are the body of Christ, I invite you to connect your right hand, the dreams you are holding, with the hand of another. Now take some time to pray, silently, for the dream you are touching.
In your left hand, gather your to-do list, all the things that might lie neglected as a result of these last few days. Take some time to hold your to do list before God.
Now, since we are the body of Christ, I invite you to connect your left hand, the to do list you are holding, with the hand of another. Now take some time to pray, silently, for the to do list you are touching.
Now put your hands in your pockets. You are taking your dreams and your to do list with you. I invite you to turn and face the door.
Now hear the benediction, some words from the lectionary text for this Sunday … (and so I offered them some words from Luke 2:29-32; servants be dismissed in peace, go to see salvation, go to be a light for Gentiles, for the glory of God)
A good deal of positive feedback after, as people collected their stuff and began to take their bodies into God’s world.
Friday, January 31, 2014
a loose collaboration of experimental journeyers
Over the last two days, I’ve been at the National Fresh expressions and mission-shaped ministry 2014 conference. Today, I provided a brief public explanation to those gathered of the story to date.
The conference emerges from a loose collaboration of experimental journeyers. Back in 2010, I heard a number of people around Australia saying, “It would be good to offer more focused training and resourcing in mission.” I suggested a conversation and the result was a decision to use the mission-shaped ministry course as a focus. We decided to seek to collaborate together to develop and contextualise this for an Australian context.
The focus would be on local delivery by local partners, with the blessing of the original designers – mission-shaped ministry England. Together we would be a resource as fellow travellers. Anyone could offer a course, as long as it was local, ecumenical and within their capacity, professional.
Seven groups initially said yes
- Anglicans Canberra
- Anglicans Adelaide
- Lutherans SA , NT
- Uniting Synod SA
- Uniting Synod Vic Tas
- Uniting Synod NSW, ACT
- Uniting College
New members could be added at any time. They simply need to ask and to pay a $1000 fee – designed to give us a start up fee. We whacked up an agreement, to be reviewed annually at national gatherings. We’ve since met four times
- Pilot workshop – May 2011
- Training with the Dranes – Nov 2011
- National peer learning – Nov 2012
- This conference – Feb 2014
Today I chaired the “annual meeting.” The energy in the room was palpable. There are new partners keen to join us (we’re now a grouping of 12 different entities). We’ve made decisions to keep meeting. First, a 1.5 day gathering, of pioneers and practitioners, to share and storytell, November 2014, in Adelaide. Second, November 2015, in Melbourne, a two-part gathering, to continue the contextualisation project re mission-shaped ministry and to again gather pioneers and practitioners.
A few years ago there was just a dream. Now there’s an energetic, dispersed, coalition of experimental journeys.
It’s also really practical example of ecumenism in the 21 st century. I counted 5 denominations around the table today – all with a shared passion for mission, drawn together by projects.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Theological education in leadership formation
I’ve been asked to present at a colloquium in Melbourne in March. Titled Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation, the event is being sponsored by the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry and the University of Divinity. It involves scholars, church leaders and ministers, from diverse Christian traditions all picking away at a theology of theological education.
I’m one of 11 presenters and have been given the topic – Theological education in leadership formation. Here’s my 100 word abstract, due tomorrow:
This paper will interrogate the tagline of Uniting College for Leadership and Theology – learn! lead! live! – using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal in order to pay particular attention to the place of formation in a pluralistic world. It will explore the ethical implications inherent in notions of “founding texts” and “moments of meaning.” Some implications, for ministry practice (learn!), for ministry agents (lead!), for communities of faith (live!), will be outlined. The aim is a theology of ecclesial formation that might shift the conversation beyond modern dualities of head and heart, theory and practise, religious and secular, individual and communal.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
After rain: art and a spirituality of encounter
Over the long weekend, hoping to escape work, I picked up William Trevor, After Rain: Stories. Trevor has been called the finest living writer of short stories. He writes with a goal – to “illuminate aspects of the human condition.” I might have read After Rain: Stories wanting to escape work, but spirituality is etched through many of the stories.
The most fascinating is titled After Rain. A young woman, nursing a heart broken by a love affair returns to a childhood holiday spot. With rain falling, she shelters in a church and is captivated by an artist’s rendering of The Annunciation.
She has not been in this church before, neither during her present visit nor in the past. Her parents didn’t bother much with churches.
Harriet becomes absorbed by the painting, by the colours, by the details she hasn’t noticed at first glance. It leads to change.
The rain has stopped when Harriet leaves the church, the air is fresher. Too slick and glib, to use her love affairs to restore her faith in love: that thought is there mysteriously. She has cheated in her love affairs: that comes from nowhere too. Harriet stands a moment longer, alone on the steps of the church, bewildered by this personal revelation, aware instinctively of its truth.
So, an uncertainty toward faith, but a move toward experience, toward truth, toward a changed experience in her world. It’s a turning point in the narrative, from which flows a healing, a restoration, a willingness to face life anew.
And a final sentence, in which the encounter with Annunciation is recalled: “the angel comes mysteriously also.” I took After Rain: Stories to escape from work. I found a faith, formed through art, expressed through words, appreciated in mystery.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Jesus and popular culture
“the afterlife of the Bible has been infinitely more influential, in every way – theologically, politically, culturally, and aesthetically – than its ancient near-eastern prehistory.” (John Sawyer, 2004, 11)
I spent yesterday at Flinders, teaching in the Bible and popular culture course. The topic was Jesus and popular culture. Dan W. Clanton Jr., in The Bible in/and Popular Culture: A Creative Encounter explores the place of Jesus in American popular culture and argues that thinking about Jesus is thus not confined to the church. Anyone can seek to express Jesus and in so doing, can invite discussion about how accurate, helpful and ethical is their portrayal.
So I explored Jesus and popular culture under 5 headings, using some of the following examples.
1 – Jesus then: in original context – in films like Jesus of Nazareth and Passion of Christ
2 – Jesus now: Christ figures – in places like Narnia Chronicles or Jesus of Montreal or Harry Potter. This draws in particular on Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film.
3 – Jesus now: context - in which Jesus is placed in site specific contexts, like Manchester Passion or Baxter’s poem, The Maori Jesus.
4 – Jesus Elsewhere – in which Jesus is placed imaginatively in new world, like Deborah Bird Rose’s hearing of Ned Kelly being a Christ figure in some indigenous dream stories, or a comic series like Loaded, Jesus and Vampire gospels.
The term “elsewhere comes from DC Comic creator “heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow” (DC Comics Elseworlds)
5 – Jesus sarcastically - for example in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, in which with quite some irreverence, Jesus is explored.
It is always a lot of work to bring a lecture together for the first time, but an enjoyable and rich experience.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
pioneering workshop update
Yesterday I led a Pioneering workshop, a day in which I invited the Uniting church in South Australia to reflect on the processes of selection, discernment, training, placing of pioneers in our life.
The “agenda” was 3 questions
- what are we hearing?
- what is the biggest question?
- what could be a next step?
The day was based around hearing from pioneers – their experiences of our system. So we split into 3 groups and each group heard from 2 pioneers, who were asked in about 15 minutes to share their experience. Each group then shared back to main gathering “what are we hearing”? Ben Edson, from the UK was with us and as an external voice, from another church system, provided his feedback.
That was the morning. In the afternoon, I invited people back into the initial groups. Pioneers were still present. Each group was asked to clarify the biggest question needing to be asked as a result of the hearing – a question for selection, for discerning, for training, for placing. Plus an elephant in the room question.
That yielded 15 questions. Those were shared back in the main group and people then gathered around the question that most interested them, to try and come up with a next step. About 8 ideas emerged, all to be directed toward relevant bodies within the church. Some were affirmations, other were significant next steps. Some were quite radical and would lead to major change in our system.
Time will tell the results. But their was a really lovely feel in the room. And it was so lovely to be with 35 people, listening to pioneers share their story.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Ben Edson: hearing another story part 1
Ben Edson met with Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) this morning, helping start a conversation that went for 2 hours. It was an excellent time together. In the Uniting Church, this body assists the whole church in regard to the pastoral and administrative oversight of all ministers and pastoral charges within the Presbytery. It has a role in Ordinations; Supervision of vacancies; Placement Processes of specified ministries and variations.
Ben was brought in to help think through discerning, selecting, training and placing “pioneers.” As Ben defined it, those with an imagination to see the world differently.
As a church, in 2010, the Uniting Church in South Australia said yes to training pioneers. Today was a time to take our pulse. Together we talked about our progress, and lack of, since then. We identified some barriers that are holding us back. We heard, through Ben, from another church, the Anglican church in the UK, regarding how they select and train.
It is one thing to say yes to a change. It is quite another to do the work of shaping a system, the habits and culture of an institution, around that change. Today was, in my opinion, a very important next step in that process. We needed to say yes as a church in 2010. We needed time to experiment in the time since. We needed, today, to take time to reflect and to begin to ponder how, in ways true to being the Uniting Church, we can cultivate the systems, culture and habits that nurture and sustain those with imaginations to see the world differently. Ben did an excellent job of being passionate, grounded, well-prepared and challenging.
Ben Edson part 2 happens tonight – Monday, 7:30 pm at Citysoul, where Ben tells his story of planting Sanctus.
Ben Edson part 3 happens tomorrow, Tuesday, 9:30 am -3:45 pm when anyone interested (and so far we have 32 booked), will gather around our local pioneer stories. We will begin with 6 stories from individuals in South Australia who have come into our system with a pioneer dream and hear their experiences. From that, we will ask what we are hearing and what might be the next steps as a result. I’m hoping that together Part 1 and Part 3 will be important steps in the ongoing change processes, of the walk from vision to reality, from ideal to habit.
Friday, January 17, 2014
fresh expressions impact in UK
Overnight, research was released on the impact of fresh expressions in the UK. The research was designed to move from anecdote to systematic data and involved surveying 10 Dioceses in England. The results are so encouraging, with over 500 fresh expressions planted, numbering over 20,000 people, of whom 40% have no previous church background and 35% are people who used to belong to church. I hope to reflect more on the data in the coming days, but in the meantime, here is the summary (click to enlarge).
The timing is great, because here in Adelaide, through Uniting College, there are a number of training and resourcing opportunities in this area for those in Australia wanting to know more.
Stories of mission – Monday, 20 January, from 7:30 pm, at City Soul, Ben Edson is sharing his fresh expressions story, of pioneering ministry, among young adults, in city centre Manchester (more here).
Pioneering workshop – Tuesday 21 January, from 9:30 am, at Uniting College, a day to gather around pioneer training stories and reflect on what we’re learning for selection, training, placement (more here).
Pioneer training – a week long intensive with Dave Male and local stories, March 17-21, at Uniting College
Evangelism, conversion and the mission of God – a week long intensive with John and Olive Drane, March 31-April 4, at Uniting College, sharing place of faith sharing today.
All of these are chances for us in Australia to contextualise, grow and learn.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
the ethics of education and ministry formation
Currently I’m team teaching a summer school topic (Bible and Culture) at Flinders University. It’s the first time in years that we as Adelaide College of Divinity/Uniting College have been able to teach actually on campus at Flinders. It’s a new topic and it’s been great to see Flinders get excited and in behind it.
Of the 17 students enrolled, at least 13 are non-Theology students. Which makes for a very different teaching experience. I’ve heard comments like “Who is Jacob?” when explore the live performances of Bullet the Blue Sky. Or “Did Jesus, if he lived, have long hair? Cos all the pictures say he has.”
In other words, presume nothing.
Yesterday, in preparing for class, I was reading Mieke Bal and her introduction in Anti-Covenant: Counter-Reading Women’s Lives in the Hebrew Bible (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies). She begins by noting the place of the Bible in Western culture. “The Bible, as at least partially a religious document, has been formative of Western culture. The culture as it is today carries the Bible with it, as it carries the rest of its founding texts” (page 11). In other words, everyone can be involved in this interpretation of Biblical texts.
Her phrase “founding texts” has stayed with me. Being plural, it suggests other “founding texts.” Obviously other religions have other founding texts – Koran, First Testament – being examples. Thinking about Western culture, it seems to me that nations have “founding texts” not necessarily explicit or cogent, but surely celebrated in events like Australia Day, Anzac Day, Remembrance Day. Equally Western individualism and consumerism are again “founding texts” for our culture.
Bal then argues that the “text is one thing … its meaning is quite a different matter. Meaning … is a property of the act of reading.” (12-13) This then, can be applied to all texts, including all founding texts. So this brings into focus the role of the reader and the audience, who create meanings based on their prior experiences, values and attitudes. (Yes these are shaped by the founding texts, but they still exist separately, individually from the actual texts). She suggests that meaning is dynamic, a process, expressed in the phrase “moments of meaning”, present in both the text as a provider of meaning and the reader reading.
Further, Bal notes that rather than fall into a subjective, all readings are equal, or a imperialist, my reading is better, there still remains ways to question, and critique, ours and others meanings (“readings, without positivistic claims to truth.” (16)). She calls this the “ethical responsibility” of reading, that we need to reflect on how we read, the meanings we create, and their impact on ourselves, others, the earth. Specifically, she refers to the methods we use to read, and the nature of our discourse. Thus “every scholar of texts is a reader in the first place. Acknowledging that status, and accounting for the underlying guiding conventions, is a primary ethical responsibility for all scholars.” (15)
What these ethics might be remains open to question, but for Bal, this need for ethical responsibility keeps alive scholarship and justice.
Finally, Bal suggests that this need for “ethical responsibility” is especially important in relation to founding texts. In other words preaching the Bible. Or how Australia Day is named and practised.
Which helps me make sense of Bible and culture, and, more big picture, the task of education and ministry formation. It is about helping people to read their founding stories ethically. To develop the ability to think about how they use the Bible and it’s impact on others. To consider the discourse we create as we tell the narratives of an Anzac Day or Australia Day. To ponder the effect of individualism on people and planet.
This applies equally to those who use the Bible or who read a pop cultural text. It allows a wide range of people to sit in a class together, becoming more respectful of how to read, methods for reading, the discourse generated.
Such are my ponderings as I taught today, as we explored how U2′s live performance of Bullet the Blue Sky in Chicago was a reading of some founding stories – Jonny comes Marching home today, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Bible’s expression of desolation and lament.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
hi ho (to watch Lost and Banksy and U2)
It’s my first day back at work today.
And I get to spend it at Flinders, talking about movies, street art and concerts – more specifically Lost, Banksy and U2. It is part of an innovation, in which we are using the (new) Summer School window at Flinders, to offer courses on campus that might be of wider public interest.
So we quietly worked away last year, putting a new topic – Bible and Culture – through academic processes at Flinders.
It seems to have worked, of the enrolments, 12 are non-Theology students, which means a wider public engagement (and a much more diverse and interesting class-room).
So today I spend the morning teaching, talking about the “and culture” part of a topic called Bible and culture. I’ll chat about how I became a film reviewer and the tools I use to do that year after year, from a theology slant. We’ll look at the rise of popular culture and ways to understand the ongoing presence of Christianity in culture.
All while watching Lost and looking at Bansky and considering Bono’s hand gestures!
Friday, January 03, 2014
one of New Zealand’s finest private walks
Team Taylor are having a very relaxing holiday. Lots of catching up with friends, reading, doing puzzles, reflecting.
New Years included the ceremonial burning – all the stuff from 2013 we wanted to leave behind – and then dancing in hope of a better 2014 with sparklers.
We’re about to head off on the Kaikoura Coast Track, 3 days of walking – off the Christmas dinner! Day pack only, (not a real walk! says one member of Team Taylor) but still a great chance to walk a great piece of Coast. Expecting seals and hoping for a whale sighting!
Monday, December 23, 2013
postgraduate affirmation with TEQSA accreditation
Big news for us at ACD/Uniting College: TEQSA (Tertiary Education Qualifications Standards Authority) in Australia has accredited our post-graduate courses for another 7 years, with no conditions attached.
That’s like getting A+ for an exam, the best result possible.
TEQSA ensure quality control for all universities and higher education providers in Australia. On a regular basis, they audit courses, asking for extensive evidence of what we are providing and the quality standards we are working toward.
This is followed by a site visit (ours was held in October) before review by an independent panel of academics from three other providers, before a report is provided to their Commission. It is an ardurous process, one that has taken a huge amount of time and energy over the 2013 year.
In making our application for ongoing accreditation, we also decided as a College to take the opportunity to innovate, proposing a number of significant changes. In no particular order
- we created a Graduate Diploma in Ministry, a one year (full-time equivalent) offering, including an entry point for those who have not done theology study before. This arose out of a desire to provide pathways for lay training, particularly those who want to focus on ministry in all spheres of life
- we standardised the former 1, 3 and 6 credit point structure of our post-graduate programmes into 4.5 credits. This makes our postgraduate offerings consistent with our undergraduate offerings and with Flinders University, allowing smoother cross-crediting pathways for students
- we clarified the research focus of our Doctor of Ministry. Recently TEQSA announced changes to ensure that professional doctorates across all education spheres maintain a research focus. They wanted to see a professional doctorate as a research degree of excellence. We welcomed these changes, as they fit with our ethos, a practical theology that seeks a rigour of action and theory reflection. While other Christian theology providers have responded by moving out of the DMin arena, we argued to TEQSA that our existing structures, with a few modifications and clarifications, met these research standards. We’re delighted that TEQSA agree with us and that we can continue to offer a DMin with a high quality research focus on ministry practice
- at the same time, we wanted to maintain and underline our collegial approach to post-graduate ministry. The student working alone on an extended project is in sharp contrast to the realities of ministry, which require peer learning. So in making our application to TEQSA, we proposed a pathway which will ensure all our post-graduate (Diploma, Master and Doctor) form a regular peer learning community, in which they gain encouragement and peer review. We believe this will lift standards, enhance the experience of participation in a learning community, in a way consistent with the collegial nature of ministry. In other words, degrees to serve the church in ministry and mission, through high quality, creatively rigorous practical theology.
The response by TEQSA – 7 years accreditation and no conditions – we take as a huge endorsement of our direction, our standards and the research community with the focus on a high quality practical theology we are creating.
And a great Christmas present to ACD, Uniting College and our post-graduate community.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
An excellent writing week
I’ve had an excellent writing week, holed up in our shack/bach, no wireless, a flock of black swans for company and inspiration.
I’ve got my head back into the emerging 10 years on research project, which I’ve not been able to engage since Dad died. I’ve written three frames for analysing various aspects of the data. I’ve now got four almost complete chapters, with good work on another three. I’ve now written 40,000 words in relation to the 20 UK interviews.
Key moments this week included
- Finding a way to link the local stories with the recent World Council of Churches statement on mission and evangelism
- Finding five layers of church in Philippians
- Framing the local stories around images of God, patterns of growth, understandings of mission
- Realising again how rich the data set is
- Loving the humanity of each fresh expression story – like the moment when one community moved the photo of Rowan Williams to make way for their data projector screen!
It feels like a book.