Friday, February 12, 2021

Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions

And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 18.3)

In April last year, in the midst of lockdown here in Aotearoa New Zealand, I was invited to offer some theological reflection on being church online, with the hope of an online publication. Then in July, the request came for me to expand the writing, from 3,000 words to 5,000, with the possibility of the work appearing in a book project.

News this week that the book project has found a publisher – SCM/SCM/Westminster John Knox – and a time frame for publication – November 2021 – in time for American Academy of Religion launch. The book has around 13 contributors, reflecting from diverse contexts including Ghana, Switzerland and Thailand, along with the usual UK and USA. Tentatively titled Ecclesiology for a Digital Church, it examines the impact of being digital on church thought and practice.

Here’s the title for my chapter, along with my current 1 sentence summary —

Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions

Enforced online first expressions are an invitation to attend to our enfleshment, appreciating ourselves as child-like, making visible the kingdom as we learn a new (internet) language.

My writing was shaped by a Nurturing faith online community of practice I had started as lockdowns began, seeking to support church leaders. Sensing the struggles, I had initiated the offer of a supportive environment to encourage action and reflection. As a result, I had the privilege of walking alongside some 25 leaders, from 5 different countries, all wrestling with the challenges of lockdown. This became an invaluable resource, informing my own struggles as I sought to lead a theological college community into enforced online formation and innovate with online education across the wider Presbyterian Church (called Bubble courses).

It’s a delight to see some of my theological ponderings – particularly the work of 11th century theologian Rupert of Deutz – find a published outlet.

Posted by steve at 11:47 AM

Friday, February 05, 2021

Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling

It was a privilege to provide this week a 90 minute lecture – Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling – to Uniting Church Deacons as part of the ordination training. It was online, me in Aotearoa engaging with participants from 4 different states in Australia.

In order to help with engagement, particularly touch and memory, prior to the lecture, participants had been invited to bring some

  • some wool in a colour that appeals
  • some knitting needles
  • a darning needle

The input had the following structure

Part 1 – Knitted dishcloths and the call to ministry
UCA Service of Induction of a Deacon
John 1:47-8, Psalm 139:13, 15, Jeremiah 1:5

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – who were you under the fig tree? What true colours will you bring to ministry? What gifts, talents, experiences might God be weaving?

Part 2 – Weaving the call: the shape of diaconal missiology

A cluster of character methodology. Since deacon as a title is only used once in the New Testament, I considered a number of characters who acted in diaconal ways.

  • God is weaving ahead of us, like Philip (Acts 6:1-2, Acts 8:5-8, Acts 8:26-38)
  • God is weaving fresh expressions, like Dorcas (Acts 9:36-38)
  • God is weaving resources, like Joana/Junia (Luke 8:1-4;24:1, 10; Romans 16:7)

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – how might these characters inform your practice of diaconal mission?

Part 3 – Resourcing and resilience (darning and knitting needles)

In order to explore spiritual resources for times of resilience, I showed an animation by Lou Baker, not of weaving, but of unravelling.

I offered a chapter from First Expressions to reflect on spirituality when communities experience unravelling. I then reflected on my own recent experiences of unravelling, offering 7 practices in a spirituality of resilience.

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – what has sustained you in times of unravelling?

For me …

  • Attend to your body
  • Add “season” specific practices
  • Attend to the big picture
  • Nurture blessing
  • Practice gratitude
  • Rituals of transition
  • New practices

I really enjoyed putting the session together, weaving my experience and missiology from recent years together. The work on spirituality of unravelling really struck a chord with participants and the levels of sharing were very deep.

Key resources:

Willie Jennings, Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible

Esther Rutter, This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History

Stanley H. Skreslet, Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission

Steve Taylor, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God

Steve Taylor, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration

William Willimon, Acts

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Monday, February 01, 2021

From X to A: salvific scenes in Coupland’s fiction paper proposal

I’ve had some ideas floating around for quite a few years and a Call for Papers – for the Douglas Coupland and the Art of the ‘Extreme Present’ Virtual conference – 23-24 April 2021 caused me today to rummage through the hard drive.

First, a perusal of the bookshelves and sure enough, five Douglas Coupland books in the Team Taylor library. Next a rummage around some research from my PhD in 2004. Finally, a lecture from Gospel in a Post-Christian society classes. Taught at Laidlaw College in 2005, 2007 and 2009, each time the material had developed. After about 30 minutes of rummage, there was some 3000 words sitting in a new document. Given virtual conferences are currently a great way to keep up academic networks and given that an interdisciplinary academic conference on Douglas Coupland conference sounds just the right amount of work and play, here’s the abstract.

From X to A: salvific scenes in Coupland’s fiction
Rev Dr Steve Taylor.

Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was instrumental in branding generational narratives into contemporary Western discourse. Coupland’s ability to trace the textures of our time gained him acclaim as a writer with “uncanny insight into what ails our culture” (Hanson, Voice of a Decade). Despite Coupland’s claim to be a novelist, generational frames became tropes to argue for shifts in culture. Christian writers like Tom Beaudoin (Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X) and Gordon Lynch (After Religion: Generation X and the Search for Meaning) appropriated the generational as a trope to argue for ecclesial innovation and a spirituality which prioritises the experiential.

This paper examines the “salvific-as-experiential” as a spirituality in four Coupland novels. Attention is paid to text, including the impact of a “faith-healing gesture” in Generation X, the wilderness secret that concludes Life After God, the framing of 1 Corinthians 15 in Hey Nostradamus! and Adam and Eve motifs in Generation A: A Novel’s epigraph.

Analysis will occur by approaching the “salvific-as-experiential” asking from what, for what and by what means? In Generation X, salvation is from aloneness into communal acceptance through surrendering to the love of the mentally challenged. In Life After God, salvation is from human selfishness into a life of giving and serving through creation. In Hey Nostradamus, salvation is from human loss and need into reconciliation of human relationships. In Generation A, salvation is from environmental harm into a new community through creative storytelling.

The argument is that Coupland’s characters are finding in the “salvific-as-experiential” an alternative vision of sociality. Coupland’s fiction is antagonistic toward forms of community that are arbitrary, intergenerational and guilt-inducing. Rather, his characters seek communities that interact in ways that deepen personal meaning.

The extreme present of a global pandemic invites a reappraisal of Coupland’s socialities. How might Generation X and Generation A speak to the challenges of lockdowns and conspiracy theories now faced by “Generation COVID”?

Updated: As of 1 April, 2021, an audio of my talk – titled “How Clear is [Coupland’s] Vision of Heaven, is here.

Posted by steve at 01:47 PM

Monday, December 21, 2020

Vocation, call and a burning bush

A prayer I wrote a few months ago, leading a Listening in Mission class online, beginning with the practice of Dwelling in the Word with a group of KCML interns.

Burning bush prayer

Lord,
When I’m working – tending sheep, being responsible
Help me turn aside to contemplate mystery, seek warmth, feel the burn of wilderness sand

Lord,
When I don’t understand – burning bushes not consumed
Help me trust you, hear you, in the crackle and pop of all that confounds as holy

Lord,
When I’ve nothing to go to – no clear future
Help me say, like Moses, like Isaiah, like Mary, “Here I am, send me,”

Posted by steve at 04:38 PM

Friday, December 18, 2020

Worship, work and witness: action research in a local church

Online resources to support, the book chapter by Steve Taylor, “Worship, work and witness: action research in a local church,” In Refaithing Work: Theological and Missiological Perspectives for a Disrupted Age, edited by Darren Cronshaw, Maggie Kappelhoff, and Steve Taylor (Leiden: Brill, 2022).

Footnote 38 – Occupations were grouped, and on a semi-regular basis, one of these groupings was phoned by the pastoral team. For example, …

Footnote 40 – Occupation prayers were printed and sent to each person who had been phoned. For example

Footnote 46 – A three-week course on “Where is God on Monday

Posted by steve at 07:35 AM

Sunday, December 13, 2020

First Expressions book review # 3

Another (3rd) positive academic book review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God in an international academic journal. Following reviews in Ecclesiology and Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal, this review is in Practical Theology, an international journal of the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology. The reviewer is Sally Rush, who is from Wesley’s Chapel and Leysian Mission, Newman University and Roehampton University, UK.

Sally begins by suggesting the book will have “particular interest to those who have a missiological interest, ecclesiologists, and those with an interest in the sociology of religion who have been charting the development and impact of these new religious groups. It will also appeal to a wider group of people, primarily in their 40s and 50s now, for whom this material brings back memories and allows them to revisit and re-evaluate their own past.” Well, that’s quite a range of people and of academic disciplines, which is great.

For Sally, a strength of the book “is that it does not flinch from examining parts of the history of the emerging church which some would perhaps rather forget …. Taylor is successful in achieving the delicate research balance of being a critical friend.” She finds the four innovation models: commerce, ecology, indigenous and craft are “useful measures … helping the reader understand how this evaluation can be applied in a truly theological nature.”

She has some critical questions. First, is my use of a leadership model to assess the development of Fresh Expressions squeezing “a messy reality into a clean typology” (although could the gender analysis to conclude the discussion of the leadership model have been a “messy reality” check)? Second, could I dialogue more with Sarah Thornton’s work on youth culture, particularly the usefulness of her concepts of ‘neo-tribes’ and the fluidity within them for my first expressions data (maybe a further journal article Steve?).

Overall, she concludes that the book gives “a new approach with which to (re)evaluate recent ecclesial and missional history … more tools to go back and explore further the case studies and material contained within them.” So that is very gratifying, an affirmation of my thinking as a springboard for others doing ecclesial research on innovation and mission. Thanks Sally.

Posted by steve at 08:09 PM

Friday, December 11, 2020

celebrating First Expressions with my graduating department

celebrating The Theology Department at Otago University have a lovely tradition, an annual end of year celebration of books written by Faculty and former post-graduates. Since I was a PhD post-graduate student of Theology at Otago back in the day, I was invited (back!) to celebrate First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, the book I had published late in December, 2019. Here is my “celebration” speech, trying to link the book with the PhD research.

First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is the 2nd book to emerge from my PhD research. I graduated with my PhD from Otago in 2004. As I finished my PhD, I wanted to make the research accessible to the wider church. So I wrote The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change. This was published by Zondervan, USA in 2005 and translated into Korean in 2008. I’ve even been to visit a new church plant in Korea named “Out of Bounds Church” in honour of the book!

There was a large chunk of empirical research – ethnography, interviews, focus groups – I had to drop out of my PhD thesis. Because it was already too big. So I was keen to find a way to do something with that PhD research. So I sought ethics approval and did a longitudinal study. This involved returning 10 years later to the church’s I’d researched in my PhD.

I found that half of the new forms of church were no longer meeting as gathered communities. Which raised ecclesiology questions. Does it matter if innovation doesn’t endure? How might Easter – dying and rising –shape our ecclesiology?

During that 10 year period, the wider denominations – Church of England and Methodists in the UK – had affirmed these new forms of church. They had developed structures like Fresh Expressions to partner with them. So that raised another set of ecclesiology questions – How do organisations discern what is of God and what isn’t? How do churches as organisations best partner with grassroots innovation?

So I interviewed denominational leaders –Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Cottrell who’s now the Archbishop of York.

Then I found a publisher – SCM. They have been great to work with.

According to Ecclesiology and international ecumenical journal – First Expressions is a “radical re-conceptualization of the marks of the Church” (more here).

According to the Scottish Episcopal Journal, First Expressions offers “in-depth theological hermeneutic, firmly grounded in Scripture and ecclesiology” (more here).

According to Rowan Williams, who emailed in January, saying he was – “impressed with the theological analysis .. [First Expressions is] an important book.”

Thanks to the University of Otago, who provided PhD scholarships and post-graduate conference funding. Thanks to the Theology Department for celebrating books emerging from PhD research. Thanks to any of you who might want to review it for Anglican Taonga or Methodist Touchstone!

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

Posted by steve at 05:32 PM

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

help the entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction – First Expressions book review # 2

Another review of First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, this time by Eleanor Charman in the Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal 4, 3,(Autumn 2020), 91–93.

Rev Eleanor Charman is a priest at St Peter and the Holy Rood Episcopal Church and the first full-time curate ordained in Caithness since 1746 (According to here). So Eleanor is a bit of a pioneer herself!

After a fair review of the 4 parts of the book (and a much more positive engagement with my feminist methodologies and metaphors of innovation than the review of First Expressions in Ecclesiology), Charman concludes:

Taylor’s book reveals the myriad of complex dynamics that weave through communities as they seek to establish themselves … [Taylor] has systematically researched various aspects of the communities, through interviews and extensive reading. Taylor provides an in-depth theological hermeneutic, firmly grounded in Scripture and ecclesiology … the reader will have a better and more informed understanding of the nature of pioneering. This in turn may help the entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction with their gathered communities as they seek to establish new first expressions.

The Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal aims to be a vehicle for debate on current issues in the Anglican Communion and beyond. It invites dialogue on what it means to think as an Episcopalian in Scotland in the twenty-first century and aims to be a catalyst for prayer and theological reflection at the heart of the Scottish Episcopal Church. So it’s a really interesting context in which to have my work read in relation to helping “entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction.”

Thanks Eleanor Charman. Thanks SCM for publishing and for working hard at reviews.

Posted by steve at 10:47 AM

Friday, December 04, 2020

Healing amid crisis: an analysis of theologies of healing #APTO2020 paper

With the wonders of modern technology, I “flew” to Melbourne today, along with Dr Lynne Taylor, to “present” (online) at the Association of Practical Theology of Oceania virtual 2020 conference. It was made possible through video conferencing, with creative use of pre-recorded papers, watched by participants prior, followed by live discussion, open to all conference participants, of the papers.

Here is a brief introduction to our paper: Healing amid crisis: an analysis of theologies of healing in public prayer as local churches respond in gathered worship to tragedy and trauma

We are Steve Taylor, Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership; Senior Lecturer, Flinders University and Lynne Taylor, Jack Somerville Lecturer Pastoral Theology, University of Otago.

Christians act. Christians act in prayer, witness and justice. Practical theology understands such actions as embodying lived theologies: theology lies behind and within them.

For John Swinton and Harriet Mowat (Practical Theology and Qualitative Research, (London: SCM, 2006), 5): Practical Theology is critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world, with a view to ensuring and enabling faithful participation in God’s redemptive practices in, to and for the world.

Working with this definition, we examined how churches prayed in gathered worship on the Sunday after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. What were the practices of the church at that time? How did they faithfully participate in God’s redemptive practices?

Some 153 churches responded to our questionnaire. In this paper, we analyse this data with a focus on healing.

A feature of the way churches prayed was their use of the Psalms, particularly psalms of lament. There was also evidence of other responses that were psalm-like, even if they did not draw overtly on the Psalms. Following Ellen Davis (Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, (Lanham, MD: Rowmand and Littlefield, 2001), we argue that this use of the Psalms and psalm like actions was a move towards healing. It was a first step which was a truth telling through an uncovering of the wounds.

Churches named (uncovered) multiple wounds. One was the wounds experienced by primary victims and their families. Another was a wound to Aotearoa’s self-perception as a nation. A third wound was that of a culpability, recognising the potential for evil in all of us.

In the data we saw a lived theology that named wounds as a first step in journeys of healing and was part of multiple commitments to remember, find compassion and express solidarity.

(For more on our research – see “Praying for Christchurch: First Impressions of how local churches responded in gathered worship to the mosque shooting,” Stimulus: the New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought and Practice, due out online (and free), later this month).

Posted by steve at 02:44 PM

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

radical re-conceptualization of the marks of the Church – First Expressions book review

There is a review of my book First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God in the latest edition of Ecclesiology 16, 3 (2020), 429-431 by York St John (UK) theologian, John Williams. Ecclesiology is an international, ecumenical and fully peer-reviewed theological journal. The main focus of the journal is on the mission, ministry and unity of the Church. So it’s great to have the book reviewed in that context.

There are lots of affirmations by the reviewer. My book is”substantial” (429) and I’m at my best when engaging in “critical theological and practical reflection on his empirical research” (429). While First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is considered “particularly useful for those involved in Fresh Expressions” (429) it also deemed to provide a “stimulating contribution to the conversation right across the ecclesial spectrum” (431).

There are some critical questions. My methodology is overtheorized (although better to be overtheorised than under, particularly when it comes to new areas of ecclesial research) and my fourfold typology for ‘innovation’ is confusing (need to be clearer that I am working with metaphors, which by nature require different ways of thinking).

So a mirror on my strengths as a thinker (theological and practical reflection on empirical research) and weaknesses as a writer (over-theorised). And some helpful pointers for further research and writing, for which I am grateful.

And an opinion – that I am offering something distinctly original – “an alternative paradigm for ecclesiology” (431). Across 20 centuries of Christian thought, what I am proposing is a “radical re-conceptualization of the ‘classical marks of the Church” (430), an ecclesiology distinct from paradigms of the church enshrined in historical continuity, hierarchical structure or ecumenical agreement. So that is very high praise – for my book and for Fresh Expressions/emerging church.

Posted by steve at 10:50 AM

Friday, November 06, 2020

Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study of relationships between Christianity and Ringatu in Aotearoa New Zealand

Today involved submitting a paper proposal for the World Christianity Virtual Conference, March 3-6, 2021. Being virtual, it’s a great way to connect with missiologists, without the expense and time of travel.  The conference theme is the borders of religion and it seemed a good chance to take some research I did last year on a “contextualized case-study” – of how Presbyterians in Aotearoa interacted with Ringatu into a world Christianity space.

SEO-World-Christianity-Conference

However it was also a wakeup call. Being 2021, it is after I finish as Principal of KCML. So when it came to “academic affiliation,” I found myself having to tick “independent scholar.”  While I have links with Flinders and Aberdeen University, they are not Faculty roles. While I’ve got some (very exciting) possibilities for 2021, they are all still conversations and none at the public stage. So a reality check.

Anyhow amid the swirl of emotions, here’s the paper proposal, with notice of acceptance (or not), in a few weeks.

Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study of relationships between Christianity and Ringatu in Aotearoa New Zealand

The crossing of borders of religion presents challenge and opportunity. In Aotearoa New Zealand, Christianity’s arrival resulted in new religious movements, including Ringatu, an indigenous religion, emerging in the 1860’s.

For Presbyterians in Aotearoa, a leading figure in the crossing of religious borders was Rev “Hoani” Laughton (1891-1965). Scottish born, Laughton ministered to Maori for all of his adult life. His approach to other religions is evident in an 1960’s lecture he delivered regarding Ringatu. For Laughton, Ringatu is seen as a living religion, in which Christians must immerse themselves as guests. As a result of Laughton’s participation in “hundreds of [worship] services,” he outlines a theology of fulfilment. Ringatu’s birth is a creative fulfilment in response to the historical actions of Christians in the New Zealand War. Laughton works in the hope of a new dawn for suffering Maori forced into an “arrested twilight” by colonization.

Analysis of Laughton’s approach will occur by way of comparative reciprocities. Initially, Laughton will be pairing with Maori contemporary, Rua Kenana. What is Kanana’s approach to the other religion that is Christianity? Are there signs of evolution, fulfilment even, in the Ringatu movement?

Further analysis will occur by locating Laughton alongside Presbyterian approaches to other faiths, in particular, that of John Nicol Farquhar (1861-1929), Scottish born, who ministered in India for much of his adult life. Farquhar published The Crown of Hinduism, arguing that Jesus fulfils the desires and quests of other religions. How might this resonate with Laughton’s approach to Ringatu and Kenana’s approach to Christianity?

The aim is to utilize a methodology of reciprocity in a contextualized case study. Theologies of fulfilment are tested by listening at the border between Christianity and Ringatu.

Posted by steve at 05:48 PM

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

innovation evaluation

One of my tasks this year has been innovation evaluation. As Principal of KCML, particularly in 2016 and 2017, I sought to develop New Mission Seedlings, local mission experiments in partnerships with wider church. The hope was to find spaces to encourage mission and the forming of leaders in mission.

With two New Seedlings developing in 2018, there was always a need to reflect on progress. So over the last 6 months, I’ve worked with one particular local seedling. Together there’s been a 360 design, finding ways to encourage grassroots reflection and generate missional reflection. Being 360, this needed to include children, along with those new to the various mission ministries. So there’s been some careful thought regarding language.

After the design was agreed, I’ve been busy interviewing folk, then compiling and feeding back to the leadership and external funders.

Tonight, there’s a further feeding back, to those invested in this particular seedling.  In preparing, I’ve played with shaping it in the arc of worship.  So tonight, everyone will get a coloured highlighter

IMG_8774

  •  if yellow, they are to look for things in the review to thank God for
  • if pink (purple/orange), they are to look for things in the review to seek forgiveness for (After all, to err is human, to forgive divine)
  • if green, they are to look for things in the review to ask God for help with

So after a bit of an introduction to the review, folk will get busy with their highlighter. This will allow us to move through praise and confession. Next, we will then gather around the Word – by considering some of the Jesus images present in the review, followed by the recommendations (response to the Word). Finally, those with green will be invited to offer prayers of intercession.

An evaluation of innovation, shaped by the arc of gathered worship, that should encourage the 360 participation of all involved.

Posted by steve at 04:28 PM

Friday, October 16, 2020

listening in mission

Leaving a role involves a stream of letting go’s. Yesterday was a letting go of Listening in Mission.

When I arrived at KCML in 2015, the hope was, in the words of the Council of Assembly Convenor, that my passion for contemporary mission and leadership would equip church leaders for today’s world.

With these words of invitation ringing in my ears, Mark Johnston and I looked together afresh at the existing Mission Course offered at KCML. We decided to experiment with our shared passion for contemporary mission and leadership in three ways.

  • first, given our location in the Presbyterian Church, we redesigned the course around the 5 faces of mission
  • second, we redesigned the assessment, increasing the focus on equipping leaders in the practice of mission. This involved a paired assignment, one in year 1, another in year 2, in which our interns formed small groups in their local churches to listen, discern and act in mission.
  • third, we wrapped tutorial support around the assignment. We wanted to provide just-in-time learning, walking alongside interns as they sought to lead in mission. This required us to decrease lecture content. It also required the development of online learning. KCML had no video-conferencing capacity or learning management capacity, so I had to do some self-learning, finding suitable learning platforms (the most recent prior learning technology improvement at KCML had been a binding machine to spiral bind printed notes!).

As a result, I found myself leading the Year 1 interns in Listening in Mission. Over four online learning sessions, I modelled missional spiritual practices and supported interns as they gathered a small group in their local context, to enact the same 4 learning sessions locally, teaching missional spiritual practices to listen, discern and act in their local context.

After a few years, Mark and I realised we might have stumbled upon a stand-alone, online professional learning option. We had ministers noting to us that KCML interns were learning new things about mission. So why not offer the assignment, the written resources and the cohort experience to ministers? Using the online technologies, they could be supported by KCML in listening, discerning and acting in their local context. They could learn with us and from each other, across different Presbyteries.

The result has been three consecutive years of Listening in Mission as life-long learning, advertised through Presbyteries, the PCANZ facebook and at the Connect conferences.

listeninginmission

I’ve even made little video’s to try and spread the word.

listening in mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

So yesterday’s last Listening in Mission class online was a letting go. There was a wondering (with anxiety), about the future of my gifts in teaching, along with Listening in Mission at KCML. A sense of grief, because I’ve loved this part of the role, being able to engage local contexts. A sense of joy and privilege at what has happened, the resources developed, the insights gained.

In some ways, it was a simple innovation, offering a defined piece of learning online. And the numbers add up

  • 8 – the number of online Listening in Mission cohorts I have taught in the last 5 years (5 cohorts of year 1 interns, 3 cohorts of ministers and church leaders)
  • 50 – the number of leaders, formed around mission practices (30 interns and 20 ministers/church leaders)
  • 300 – the total number of participants, given that each of the 50 leaders was required to gather a small group of 4-6.
  • 50 – the number of churches invited into mission experimentation, supported by KCML to learn locally in mission.

As the Council of Assembly Convenor noted – contemporary mission equipping church leaders for today’s world indeed!

As part of our ongoing action-reflection and leaving a record, we at KCML have written about Listening in Mission as one of our innovations in a number of places.

  • Mark Johnston, “Trusting the missio Dei in the midst of mission innovation education,” ANVIL 36, (2)
  • Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse, “Unbounding learning communities: Ako-empowered research in life-long ministerial formation,” Practical Theology 13 (4), 2020, 400-412. Doi.org/10.1080/1756073X.2020.1787005.
  • Steve Taylor and Mark Johnston,“The missio Dei embodied in local community ministry in Scotland,” Ecclesial Futures 2020, 1 (2) (accepted for publication).
Posted by steve at 04:05 PM

Monday, October 12, 2020

editor as detective and gardener and servant

I’ve just sent off to the publisher my first ever edited contribution.
– 1 editorial, of around 2,600 words
– 5 blind peer-reviewed journal articles, each around 6,000 words
– 3 reviewers, together reviewing 4 recently published books relevant to mission

IMG_8725

The edited contribution is Volume 1, Issue 2 of Ecclesial Futures, an international, ecumenical peer-reviewed journal, aiming to provide high-quality, original research on the development and transformation of local Christian communities and the systems that support them as they join in the mission of God in the world.

Ecclesial Futures began for me in August 2016. As part of the International Association of Mission Studies conference in Korea, a group of us met to reflect on what we felt was a gap in missiology – research focused on the local church, that offered a dialogue between academic and practitioner. Over the next few years, a number of organisations agreed with us, generously offering seed money for an initial four issues. Momentum developed and an editorial board began to form.

It was just over a year ago, in September 2019, that I met with co-editor, Rev Dr Nigel Rooms. We spent the day wandering York. Nigel is an experienced editor, of the Journal of Adult Theological Education and now of Practical Theology. During the day, we talked about an editorial ethos of encouragement, of prioritizing constructive peer review and a willingness to mentor potential writers who have not published before.

Volume 1 was published in June 2020 and has been well received. This includes affirming feedback about the visual appeal (“attractive, easy to handle,” “looks great”), the readability (“well pitched”) and connectivity (“interesting research and reflections on mission and the church and crucially it relates to what is happening on the ground”). There have been requests for permission to use articles in training and formation of ministers, along with affirmations from an acquisition librarian in an internationally recognized University regarding the quality and craft. There have also been challenges, including the need to further diversify our editorial board.

My task over the last 3 months has been project-managing volume 2. This involves finding blind reviewers for various articles, moderating between reviewer and author, providing encouragement to authors and gratefulness to reviewers, editing for argument and clarity. Finally, writing an editorial, which introduces the issue and maps out some trajectories we as editors want to encourage.

It’s been a new experience, chipping away in the midst of a myriad of other changes. I’m passionate about the local church and the interface between thinking and doing. But like any new thing, there’s been lots of learnings and plenty of questions.

Why be an editor?

You get to be a detective – It’s been a lot of fun trying to work out who might be a good blind peer reviewer. Each article is unique and each invites examination from different perspectives. Hence co-editing means asking around, seeking recommendations, checking CV’s online. In the process, I’ve been enriched. It has certainly extended my networks and I’ve met some really interesting new people.

You get to be a gardener – The 5 articles are quite different now from the 5 articles individually submitted. It has been fascinating to see authors respond to review, sharpen their argument, read more widely, draw in new material. To use the gardening image, each article is a different plant. Each has required different approaches to pruning. Each author has needed different amounts of fertiliser. As editor, it has been a great gift to watch a stranger read something an author is so familiar with and say “I think this is the heart of your argument.” And then see the author respond, and the article return stronger, more coherent.

You get to serve – The local church deserves the best of our thinking and acting, our research and our praxis. Co-editing Ecclesial Futures is one way for me to seek to serve the local church, for which I’m grateful.

Posted by steve at 01:56 PM