A candle is a symbol of hope. In these troubled times, we light candles to remember those living in strife, persecution and oppression. We remember those who have lost their homes and loved ones – and those whose spirits have been broken by tragedy. The glow of the candle reminds us there is hope – where we look to our risen Saviour to rise above the darkness and despair. 'Orthodox Candles' (oil on canvas, 92x122cm) is a painting by Peter Spriggs. The subject of burning candles was first observed and experienced during the Greek Easter when Spriggs lived adjacent to the Orthodox Cathedral of St Sofia in Bayswater, London. The function of candles is to illuminate – they embody a universal and potent symbolism functioning and operating on a number of levels, they may address religious, moral, cultural and personal issues. 'Orthodox Candles' is an intensely personal and deeply felt painting, touching on something very central to the lighting of our way through the world with Christ: 'I am the light of the world.' John 8.12 Peter Spriggs is a practising artist based in Wales. From 1990 to 2019 he lectured at Carmarthen School of Art in the University of Wales Trinity St.David's. He is a member of the Welsh Congregational Churches of Ebeneser, Cardiff and Capel-y-Bryn, Llanelli
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CONTENTS DEVOTIONAL 02
SEEN & HEARD
God Will Make a Way
AT A GLANCE 04
Member Church News
CWM Appoints Rev Dr Jooseop Keum as General Secretary
Strategy Framework 2020 –2029
Legacies of Slavery Update
TAKE A LOOK
VIEWPOINTS TAKE A LOOK 28
INSiGHT Reﬂection: Rising Up and Leaving Behind the Whitewashed Tomb...
Moral Vision and Moral Practice in the Public Square Imperative or Impediment— A Christian Perspective
The Certain Hope of Resurrection
Rising Up Emmaus and Beyond
From Life-denying to Life-ﬂourishing Curricula in Theological Education
Rise and irritate
YOUR SAY 62
Happiness: A Personal Reﬂection
Reﬂection on UCCSA’s Theme “Reaching New Frontiers: Hope & Healing” 50 Years and Beyond
When the Old Church Reopens: How will Churches Look Like After the Pandemic? A Personal Reﬂection
God Will Make a Way This Easter message is intended to greet us with hope and to assure us of life amid the relentless onslaught of challenging circumstances. It is an affirmation that the God of life beckons us to reject the notions of defeat and to rise and claim the possibility for renewal and transformation. This Easter confronts us with widespread grief and distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extent of the social disparity it reveals; the military coup and wanton killing of innocent civilians in Myanmar; the reality of endemic and systemic racism and violence; and the unfortunate train crash in Taiwan, which has claimed some forty lives and injured over 150 persons. These are only a few of the painful and emotionally draining situations that confront us in the world in which we live and the place we call home. The usual positive, and sometimes triumphalistic, message of Easter is challenging at this time; and yet at the core of our conviction, as resurrection people, is the belief that the God of life has a plan to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29: 11). Jeremiah’s message to the exiled people of Israel, at a time when the prospects of home seemed dim and remote, must have met them with consternation and confusion. And yet Jeremiah was resolute in his proclamation that yielding to, or surrendering under, the pressure of captivity was not an option (Jer 29: 1-14). This was also the message of the first disciples of Jesus, after the cruel execution that Jesus, their leader, experienced at the hands of both the political and religious leaders of his day. At that time, the message of resurrection was a risky one but Peter refused to be quieted. Speaking to a large crowd, he declared: “you handed him over to be killed; you disowned him before Pilate; you killed the author of life; but God raised him from the dead” (Acts 3: 13-15). This message got them into trouble and they were jailed but it did not stop them. Despite the experience of imprisonment and the threat of it, Peter spoke up yet again: “It is by the name of Jesus…, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed” (Acts 4: 10). Easter is the message of resurrection and rebirth. It speaks to the spirit of resilience and resistance that God’s activity portrays and God’s people proclaim. “God raised him from the dead” is a statement of defiance. It is another way of saying God turned the table, revealing the finiteness of life’s setbacks, of human suffering and struggle, and of systemic evil to have the final word. God acts to vindicate the oppressed, to heal the wounded heart and to revive the broken spirit; and in so doing, God keeps alive, the story of those who dare to be brave in living out their faith, even if it means suffering and death. Yes, Easter conveys a positive message, one that invites us to pause long enough to ponder its meaning, especially in times such as these, ravaged with the pain and bewilderment, caused by the current disruptions and dislocation. Council for World Mission, a partnership of churches spread out across the continents of the world, declares that its vision is “Life-flourishing communities, living out God’s promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth”. This articulation signals unrest and discontent with the present social order; and a determination to faithfully carry out God’s mission of resisting life-denying forces, affirming peace, doing justice and enabling life-flourishing communities. This is our way of living the resurrection story, rejecting the notions of defeat and renewing our faith, our confidence in and our commitment to the God of life. We greet you in the spirit of Easter and invite you to share with us the conviction that, “no matter what our circumstances may be, God will make a way”; and that we are prepared to stay on the side of God until our change is come. Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed. - Rev Dr Collin Cowan
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AT A GLANCE | MEMBER CHURCH NEWS AFRICA Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) tackles healthcare deficiencies through its development programme Located in the centre of the capital is SAF, an organisation set up as a Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM)’s development programme, which runs a medical clinic and main pharmacy to tackle deficiencies in healthcare. This project funded by the Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) since 2018/2019 has borne fruit in Madagasar, where medical care is also too expensive for the average person and the population to doctor ratio is high.
Image by FKJM.
Housed as part of the FJKM offices, SAF has acquired ultrasound equipment and built waiting and examination rooms, where they treat adult and child-related diseases and administer vaccinations at affordable fees. SAF also runs a maternity and contraception clinic, which serves 200 women and 80 pregnant women every month. As malnutrition affects half the population, SAF also runs a National Nutrition Programme in rural villages where they have pharmacies. For more information, please visit https://bit.ly/3tsXzrN 04
Easter Message by Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) General Secretary
The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) General Secretary Rev. Lungile Mpetsheni has reminded Christians to speak out in adverse situations, and to speak up for those in need in his Easter Message. Referring to John 19:28-29 where Jesus said that he was thirsty after six hours on the cross, Rev Mpetsheni wrote that those who suffer should use their voices in this trying time of COVID-19 infections, where issues of economic inequality and gender-based violence have worsened, and church ministers face difficulties in their work. Those at the cross responded to Jesus’ thirst and provided him with something to drink. Likewise, we should hear and respond positively the voices of those who are in need. Serving God includes serving the needy, homeless and destitute, since Jesus said that whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).
Image by UPCSA.
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CARIBBEAN The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) builds new columbarium and memorial garden Hope United Church in North Eastern Regional Missional Council of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) has constructed a columbarium and created Hope Memorial Garden, which were dedicated in late February. The environmentally friendly Garden is powered by solar energy, and offers 24/7 access with seating capacity up to six visitors.
Mr. Stephan Wright, elder shows the features of a section of the columbarium.
Members in discussion.
Construction had begun last August in a phased approach, and the first column was ready by January 2021, thanks to the dedication and skills of many church members and friends. The project is intended to be an income source for the church’s programmes and the vision is to construct four towers to house a total of 256 inurnments.
UCJCI re-imagines church through CWM Member Church Initiative (MCI) Project Combining performing arts with new information and communication technologies (ICT) is viewed as a powerful communications tool, especially in the colourful Caribbean culture that employs music, dance, poetry and drama. Recognising changes in the ministry landscape, the UCJCI embarked on finding innovative ways to communicate with those inside and outside the church.
Image by UCJCI.
Through the CWM Capacity Development Programme (CDP)’s Member Church Initiative, basic digital filmmaking equipment was procured for its performing arts ministry, and the UCJCI youth and young adults programme training. This empowers them to work towards developing relevant, creative digital content for its various platforms. It is also expected to enhance the ministry’s worship, advocacy, youth engagement and more, enabling them to reach audiences in a non-traditional manner.
Image by UCJCI.
SOUTH ASIA Church of Bangladesh (COB) Barishal Diocese builds new church in Sundali
Image by COB.
New church at Sundali Barishal. Image by COB.
Church of Bangladesh (COB)’s Barishal Diocese has purchased land and are in the process of construction of a new church building in the Sundali village of Khulna Deanery. New believers of the church at Sundali and Phulergati also gathered at the courtyard of a church member last year to celebrate their first Christmas after baptism, where church leaders from St Stephen Church, Rajghat and Jessore Christ Church shared in their joy. Rt Rev Shourabh Pholia, Bishop of Barishal Diocese of Church of Bangladesh (COB) expressed his gratitude to those who have generously partnered with the diocese in this church building for those in Sundali, Nawapara, Jessore, and urged them to continue their support. Besides this, there are plans for renovation of historical churches which have contributed greatly to the COB as a whole. Shalom, a development organisation of COB, continues humanitarian work The re-construction work of a 1,200 feet road at Kanainagar village in Mongla Upazila was inaugurated in mid-February. www.cwmission.org
Vulnerable families in Mongla, Bagerhat received hens and instruments for rearing hens, and improved sanitation through the installation of 100 clean toilets. 100th anniversary celebration of Katolmari Parish At the margin of Mymensingh division at the foot of North Meghalaya hills, lies Haluaghat Deanery. Katolmari Parish is one of its parishes, which celebrated its 100th year anniversary earlier this year. Among their guests was the COB Moderator Rt Rev Samuel Sunil Mankhin, who called on all their children, young men and women to live lives of complete trust, confidence and reliance on the Lord.
Katolmari Parish. Image by COB.
Church of North India (CNI) Moderator highlights World Immunisation Week, encourages all to get vaccinated For this year’s Easter greetings, Church of North India (CNI) Moderator The Most Rev Dr. P. C. Singh went beyond asking Christians to meaningfully participate in Holy Week 05
Week services. In the Moderator’s April message, he highlighted World Immunisation Week (24 to 30 April) 2021’s theme “#Vaccines Work for All”, and encouraged all to receive their vaccines to keep themselves and others safe. Calling it “a great health intervention”, he remarked that it was heartening to see the vaccine available to all free or at a nominal fee. Church of South India (CSI) opens tailoring training centre Earlier this year, Dorcas Tailoring Training Centre at St. John's (CSI) Church, Pondicherry was officially opened for community development and empowerment, especially for vulnerable women and the transgender population.
Towards an eco-friendly world: CSI green sermons and children’s performances
Image by CSI.
Through recorded songs, dances and activities, children of CSI have expressed their desire for an eco-friendly world. These performances have been captured in this digital bulletin of the CSI Department of Ecological Concerns, which also feature ten-minute “green sermons” by various representatives of CSI dioceses and organisations. Download through this link: https://www.cwmission.org/wp -content/uploads/2021/03/CSIEcology-Bulletin-March2021.pdf EAST ASIA
Image by CSI.
This Centre was started by the vision and the help of Rt. Rev. Dr. J. George Stephen, Bishop in Madras Diocese and Bishop Amma Mrs. N. Yamuna, and is “a missional attempt to redeem the lost, recognise the least and restore the last”. The opening ceremony in February was participated by the Department of Mission and Evangelism, Church of South India (CSI) Synod and the Board for Mission and Evangelism, CSI Madras Diocese. 06
their “immense courage in their determination to secure justice for their nation and in standing against the forces of evil”.
Presbyterian Church of India (PCI), National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and United Reformed Church (URC) release statements in solidarity with PCM Our member churches Presbyterian Church of India (PCI) and United Reformed Church (URC) have released separate statements of solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) as the situation continues to deteriorate in Myanmar. The URC added its voice to the many voices who have condemned the violence used to suppress nationwide protests by citizens, and commended INSiGHT | April 2021
Image by PCANZ.
It also affirmed the statement by 12 national defence chiefs including the UK’s Foreign Secretary, stating that a professional military is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves, and urged the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar. In addition, The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) expressed its hope that “this democratisation movement will serve as the cornerstone of Myanmar's true democratisation, where the right to live and the right to autonomy of various ethnic minorities are respected.” In its statement of solidarity, it also urged the Myanmar military to “respect the results of the general elections and immediately hand over power to the civilian government.” “It is the prayer of the church that violence and sufferings of the innocents must be stopped immediately, justice prevail, and peace be restored in the country,” wrote PCI Senior Administrative Secretary Rev G.S Lyttan in the statement issued by PCI.
Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) General Secretary’s reflection on future challenges and opportunities in Hong Kong The Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) General Secretary Rev Dr Eric So has shared the first of several reflections on the future challenge and opportunities in Hong Kong. Reiterating HKCCCC’s missional commitment to HK, the GS wrote about the need for the church to reflect on how it can reposition its role and mandate in the upcoming decade.
Reformed Church (URC) held a 100th anniversary online thanksgiving service on 6 March for Dr James Maxwell, the missionary doctor widely regarded as PCT’s founder.
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and United Reformed Church (URC) hold 100th anniversary thanksgiving service The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and United
EUROPE Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) expresses concern for Myanmar while offering local support with partner churches
Image by PCT.
Dr James Maxwell’s Grave to be refurbished. Image by PCT.
One such role is being a faithful prophet, who critiques social morality and monitors government policies with love, peace and justice as its core values. In addition, it should be concerned for the people’s spirituality. “A prophet would speak to God’s people, to call for their repentance, perseverance and to encourage their trust in God for a blessed future,” he said. Click here to read his full letter: https://www.cwmission.org/wp -content/uploads/2021/03/202 103GSsDesk.pdf
In the UK, in addition to the service, the PCT will be refurbishing Dr Maxwell’s grave and commissioning a memorial plaque.
In 1865, Dr Maxwell became the first missionary to be sent by the Presbyterian Church of England, now part of the URC, to Taiwan, then known as Formosa. During his six years in Taiwan as a pioneer in the practice of medicine and missionary work, he founded the Qiho Medical Clinic and the Fucheng Presbyterian Hospital, which later developed into the westernised Sin-Lau Hospital. He also established chapels in a number of places. In recognition of Dr Maxwell’s contributions, PCT will work with the Tainan City Council in Taiwan to hold exhibitions, and a guided tour visiting places of significance in Dr Maxwell’s work. Also, they will name a park and public library after him, and produce a series of postage stamps.
Dr James Maxwell’s Grave to be refurbished. Image by PCT.
Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) has expressed deep concern for Myanmar, and is calling for prayer while lending a helping hand. Together with partner churches, it supports a health centre just across the Myanmar border in Thailand, which provides healthcare to refugees. United Reformed Church (URC) raises more than £12,000 for vaccine campaign
Ibrahim (pictured) was selected to receive cash from Christian Aid's Covid-19 ‘C19NALPER’ project in Nigeria. An accident left him with limited work opportunities and reliant on constant support from family members. C19NALPER is supporting vulnerable households to access basic needs, and protect them from the impact of lockdowns and strict containment measures.
The United Reformed Church (URC) launched a campaign in February to raise funds to help global neighbours without access to COVID-19 vaccines. In the UK, half of the population has had at least one vaccination dose as of April, and this campaign provided people with an opportunity to show gratitude for their vaccines and to help others out. The campaign eventually raised more than £12,000 for Christian Aid, a charity that is providing 07
practical support on the ground to safeguard people from COVID-19. URC and Presbyterian Church of Wales (PCW) among church leaders urging government to cease housing asylum seekers in barracks
Napier Barracks. Image via Google Maps.
URC and The Presbyterian Church of Wales (PCW) are among church leaders appealing to the UK government to end the use of military barracks as accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK. In an open letter to the Home Secretary in February, church leaders across denominations voiced their concern about the refugees’ welfare as they watched events unfold at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent. The signatories of the letter also sought confirmation that the authorities would not expand the use of barracks as contingency accommodation and whether a timeline would be set for their closure. With the shared view that all humans deserve dignity and welcome, and understanding that the government intends to shift the residents into suitably dispersed accommodation, the church leaders appealed to the government to continue to work with local authorities, devolved administrations and support organisations to 08
re-locate asylum seekers in local communities. PACIFIC Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator encourages congregations to stay strong in faith The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator has encouraged congregations to hold on to their faith and focus on the Lord in the ongoing pandemic. “These past months have seen our resolve, our core, our faith put on the platform of public opinion. The scrutiny and comments have highlighted ignorance and lack of understanding that Christianity is not a social club - but it is faith in a God who is in the storm with the world,” wrote Rt Rev Fakaofo Kaio in his message for April. The Moderator also shared about the official opening and dedication of Crossway Community Church, a testament to a resilient community and people. After
Image by Crossway Community Church.
21 March dedication service. Image Crossway Community Church.
INSiGHT | April 2021
the Christchurch earthquake and the rebuilding that followed, the parish had moved 11 times to different sites before settling on its current site. Ably led by their minister Rev Dr Jooh ong Kimm, the Union parish is a Presbyterian and Methodist partnership. Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator calls on NZ government to help end Myanmar coup After Presbyterian Church in Myanmar (PCM)’s statement condemning the country’s military coup on 1 February, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator wrote to the New Zealand Government to express deep concern on 17 February.
In his letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, the Right Rev Fakaofo Kaio applauded the government’s efforts in support of democracy in Myanmar*, and even indicated their “willingness to share information received from their contacts in Myanmar if required”. Due to PCANZ and PCM’s partnership, he was aware that the developments have affected people they personally know such as the Chin ethnic community in NZ who have family members in Myanmar.
Lastly, the PCANZ Moderator urged the government to “monitor this crisis closely and use all diplomatic channels to work with the international community in helping seek a peaceful resolution”. Without international support, Myanmar risks entering another long period under a military dictatorship, devastating for millions of its residents, he said. World Day of Prayer 2021 led by women of Vanuatu The World Day of Prayer is a global ecumenical movement initiated and carried out by Christian women who welcome all to join in prayer and action for peace and justice on the first Friday of March. This movement led by women of many Christian traditions from more than 170 countries and regions is symbolised by this annual day of celebration.
Cyclone Pam II, 13.3.2015. WDP Vanuatu Artwork by Juliette Pita.
This year’s material was prepared by the women of the Vanuatu island, based on this year’s theme “Build on a Strong Foundation”, which also points to the foundations of the World Day of Prayer - “Informed Prayer - Prayerful Action.” The service of worship service can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watc h?v=edQMgNFdRdo&feature=y outu.be
World Day of Prayer 2021 by Vanuatu women.
CWM APPOINTS REV DR JOOSEOP KEUM AS GENERAL SECRETARY
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The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that at a Special Members’ Meeting, held on 31 March 2021, Rev Dr Jooseop Keum was appointed as the next General Secretary of Council for World Mission (CWM). Rev Dr Keum will succeed Rev Dr Collin Cowan and assume office on 1st July 2021. Rev Dr Cowan leaves CWM having completed two successful terms of service. Dr Keum is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and currently serving as the Distinguished Professor of World Christianity at the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary and Director of the Korea Institute for Future Ecumenism. He comes to CWM with a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion for global mission and ecumenism, amassed over 25 years of working in leadership roles in various ecumenical bodies, CWM member churches, and academic institutions. Not completely new to CWM, Rev Dr Keum served the organisation as the Executive Secretary for Mission Programme from 2003 to 2007. Thereafter he answered the call to serve as the Director of Commission on World Mission and Evangelism at the World Council of Churches. Rev Dr Keum comes to this leadership position at a Kairos moment for mission engagement in the wake of an unprecedented shake-up in the global missional landscape. As CWM looks to the future, the Board is confident that Rev Keum is uniquely equipped and ready to lead this extraordinary mission organisation, working at the cutting edge of modern mission, especially in light of the CWM 2020-2029 Strategy Framework - the roadmap for the prophetic journey to be pursued. "The successful outcome of the search process during this Easter season is a reminder of the power of the Holy Spirit who empowered and enabled the process to be done with energy, dedication and perseverance in the current unfavourable and pandemic-ridden global environment,” said CWM Moderator, Rev Lydia Neshangwe. Reflecting on the detailed process, Rev Neshangwe said, ”We give all glory and honour to God for the progress and completion of this process with the outcome of a General Secretary-elect”. In response to the news of his appointment, Rev Dr Keum said, “It is my honour to be called by the member churches to lead CWM as its General Secretary. I sincerely appreciate their support and trust in my experience and leadership in the world mission. I was formed, developed and matured within the CWM missional perspective and praxis since my youth. Having been inspired by, journeyed with, and contributed to the missionary movement for the last three decades, I respond to this call based on my faith in the missionary God. Indeed, the world has been facing various challenges, many of which can be addressed with a shared vision, deeper commitment, stronger cooperation, and mutual partnership among the churches and ecumenical partners. We are called to live in the light of the resurrection, which offers hope-filled possibilities for transformation in the pandemic-stricken world. Therefore, we are called together towards our vision of life-flourishing communities.” “I am delighted that, after a healthy and robust process of discernment, CWM has called Rev Dr Jooseop Keum to be its next General Secretary. Dr Keum comes to this role at a strategic moment in time. The Covid-19 pandemic is only a glimpse into the pandemics that plague the global community dividing the peoples of the world and destroying the environment”, said Rev Dr Cowan, the outgoing General Secretary. “Our brother, Jooseop, he continued, “is rightly placed to lead CWM into this next phase of the prophetic journey, with our vision, ‘Life-flourishing communities: living out God's promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth’. His sensitive pastoral heart, passion for justice, commitment to the ecumenical movement and love for the Church are among the gifts he brings that will serve to advance the Mission of CWM for such a time as this. It is my great joy to pass the baton of leadership to him, with my prayers and best wishes.”. Dr Keum received both his PhD in Mission and Ecumenism and MTh. in World Christianity from the New College, University of Edinburgh; his MDiv. in Ministry from Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary; and his BA in Christian Education from the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary. The entire CWM family looks forward to welcoming the Rev Dr Jooseop Keum as its next General Secretary.
Rise to Life: Confessing Witness to Life-Flourishing Communities CWM 2020 - 2029 Strategy Framework Council for World Mission is pleased to present, for public release, its 2020–2029 strategy framework. The strategy framework is the outcome of a wide consultative process involving individuals and groups from a broad cross-section of the CWM family. The Board of Directors, at its March 2018 meeting, agreed on the planning process and appointed a Strategic Planning Group (SPG) to lead this process. The SPG worked under the distinguished leadership of Professor Park Seong-Won, an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, outstanding Church leader, social activist, academic and ecumenist. In keeping with the decision of the Board, which stipulates that the process be consultative, participatory and open, the SPG set out to engage a cross-section of individuals and groups spanning the entirety of CWM’s community. The process also included our ecumenical partners and people’s movements to obtain their insights in the reading of the signs of the time and discerning the direction for the next ten years of CWM’s life. The responses, which were further analysed by working groups, have been immensely insightful and have provided meaningful data to inform the development of the strategy framework. The 2010–2019 strategy framework had three major components: Programme – aimed at enabling member churches to develop missional congregations; to express solidarity and prophetic witness to a world in chaos; and to deepen partnership and ecumenical engagement as a way of witnessing to God’s justice in the world. Location – in response to the 1977 decision to link location to the ideological shift in mission thinking and practice, thereby making London a temporary home for the new organisation.
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COUNCIL FOR WORLD MISSION STRATEGY FRAMEWORK 2020 –2029
RISE TO LIFE
Confessing witness to life-flourishing communities
Structural realignment in governance and management – to enable more effective accompaniment of member churches in doing God’s mission. In this exercise of discerning the path to the next ten years, all three aspects of the strategy underwent a review, and its outcome has influenced the SPG in formulating this strategy framework. The preliminary outcome of the programme evaluation has contributed to the reading of the signs of the time and has informed the shape of the missiological mandate. Both the location and the structural reviews are incorporated in the strategy framework and show the various nuancing of these over the years by the Board of Directors. Analysis of data collected from member churches as well as insights from working groups have affirmed the relevance of both the location and the governance reviews in the strategy framework for 2020–2029. The strategy document offers CWM a challenging and inspiring future, which builds on our life and witness so far. The strategy is shaped around several key elements: A prophetic reading of the signs of the time A theological underpinning of our prophetic calling A missiological mandate for responding in faith and witness Key organisational implications and insights for governance, location, finance, and communication This strategy framework is designed to guide the Board of Directors and Management in developing strategic plans of action for different stages along this ten-year trajectory as we explore specific ways in which God is calling us to engage with God’s mission in the world. The framework does not dictate what the programme of CWM should be from year to year; nor does it dictate what member churches are doing in response to God in their contexts. Instead, it offers principles, signposts and insights based on a reading of the signs of the time, on our theological reflections on this reading and on our discernment of their meaning for engagement with God’s mission over the decade from 2020 onwards. It is hoped that member churches and ecumenical partners may draw inspiration and guidance from this framework for contextual engagement with God’s mission as well. CWM, through its Secretariat, will be guided and informed in discerning and developing programmes and activities for the different implementation phases of this framework; and to deepen the CWM strategy of working through member churches and in collaboration with ecumenical partners to bear faithful prophetic witness to the God of life. CWM also anticipates that member churches and ecumenical partners will benefit from this framework. This framework also invites them to engage with this collective reading of the global mission issues from their context, and thus to inform and shape the vision and practice of life-flourishing communities, rooted in justice and peace. There are several appendices to this strategy framework, offering additional information and more detailed explication on aspects of the framework. Among them is the full report of the Legacies of Slavery Hearings, a project which was undertaken by CWM to expose complicities of London Missionary Society (LMS) with enslavement and colonisation; it offers CWM a clear mandate for making racial justice
central to our work and witness as God’s people. There are several recommendations in this report, and the Board of Directors, as well as the 2019 Annual Members Meeting, have authorised that these recommendations form part of the framework to inform CWM’s mission throughout this coming decade. This is an opportune moment for CWM. The theology statement, which is appended to this strategy framework, is a rallying call for all the people of God. “Rising to life: Breaking out from Babylon” is an invitation to rise with the Risen Jesus and to proclaim that death is defeated and “Babylon is as fallen as the tomb is empty”. This statement is as audacious as it is subversive. It is intended to defy the forces and systems of death and destruction and to declare that Jesus alone is Lord. In articulating and affirming a theology of life, we assert that rather than succumbing to the gloom and doom that characterise so much of life as experienced by the majority, we will claim an alternative vision of hope and freedom. This alternative vision can only be claimed by resurrection people, people who, like those on the road to Emmaus, feel a strange warmth in our spirit as God meets us in the Risen Jesus and accompanies us in our struggle and search for meaning. We commend this strategy framework to CWM and its member churches, our ecumenical partners and the wider Christian community. We pray that it will inspire us to rise with Jesus in the midst of forces and powers which despoil, destroy and deny God’s vision of justice, love and peace. By sharing in Jesus’ daring and life-transforming mission, CWM can play its part with others in enabling the emergence of life-flourishing communities, where justice and peace are experienced by all. God has endowed the people of God with the spirit of resilience; and, accordingly, we share the theology of St Paul that invites God’s resurrection power to make us a new people, a new movement which offers today the life and love of the coming new Heaven and new Earth: But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So, he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:13–20) Shalom! Collin I. Cowan General Secretary The 2020-2029 Strategy Framework document is available to download at https://www.cwmission.org/cwm-presents-2020-2029-strategy-framework/ Alternatively, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for a copy.
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CWM’s legacies project is primarily about addressing the roots of racialised inequalities and injustices today and owning that they lie in part in the rhetoric, praxis and fund raising of mission societies like CWM’s forebear London Missionary Society. LMS, with others, developed and perpetuated a racist colonial anthropology with which it recruited, made money and occupied White and Black minds, lands and bodies, dressing in in Christian vision.
CWM continues to pursue the legacies project work, following the Board’s commitment to address our complicity through acts of repentance and reparation. The work focuses on these general areas: Strategising and advocating the long-term scope of this work with the CWM Board and with member churches Continuing scrutiny of the CWM archive Critiquing Whiteness Promoting Black critique Extending and connecting the legacies work with regions beyond the geography of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade
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CWM Act of Repentance and Apology August 23rd 2021
The Board has set this date for CWM’s act of repentance and apology. It will be a virtual event hosted on-line by CWM and led by the Board of Directors. In this we aim to confess the legacies of slavery in our life and begin the process of sending CWM to being an organisation committed to reparation and anti-racist action. It will be a moment in which CWM speaks for itself, not its members, but calls on its members to bear witness to the same need for self-transformation if we are to enable life to flourish in a world where race continues to divide and oppress. It will also enable CWM to press for similar action by other mission organisations and especially the governments of the former and current colonial powers.
Regional gatherings (March – June 2021)
There will be a series of regional meetings to familiarise the wider membership with the Legacies findings as we move to the act of repentance
Member church Legacies processes CWM staff are also engaging with and available for legacies conversations within the member churches. Two churches in the Europe region, the URC and UWI, have launched their own Legacies processes, through which they are addressing their own history and complicity in enslavement and the racism which has grown out of that. An ecumenical conversation has begun in the Netherlands responding to wider community pressure to address Dutch colonial history. Conversations with colleagues from member Churches (and ecumenical Partners) in the Caribbean underscore how the legacies of slavery agenda is timely and urgent to highlight and expose the historic roots of contemporary inequality in the Jamaican (and Caribbean) context, especially over land rights and access
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Developing regional models for ongoing work CWM is moving beyond the first phase of the Legacies work, particularly addressing the dynamic of Anti-Black racism within the framework of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. We want now to examine the inter-sections with the other regions and spaces, White Colonial Christianity occupied in the name of Christ. This is to show the continuities and be open to dis-continuities, but to continue to confront the global pandemic of Anti-Black racism. There will be regional gatherings to plot out a relevant process. Exploring intersections with Indentureship will provide a key plank in this work, as it gathers South, East Asia and the Pacific into the legacies of slavery.
Pacific Legacies Talanoa process CWM has arranged with Trinity Theological College, Auckland a series of 6 talanoa to address the legacies of slavery and colonisation in Aotearoa and Oceania. They will address the impact Christian mission has had on Pasifika history, rhetoric and politics. Scholars and activists from several Pasifika contexts will gather to map out some of the key areas mission must address in order to fully de-colonise itself of its racist premise and practice. History March 20th and March 27th Rhetoric June 20th and June 27th Politics Sept 19th and Sept 26th More details from CWM Pacific firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Trinity College firstname.lastname@example.org
Research on Children and Racism It is clear from the CWM archive how much of the racist mission thinking of LMS and others was targeted at children. They were told stories of native cruelty and white missionary heroism so that they might give their money to the work of LMS and so that they might consider becoming missionaries themselves. We are seeking to consider how to amend for this through two research projects based in the UK. The first is based in the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture who are overseeing further archival research on the materials produced for mission Christian education. The second is based in Birkbeck college, London, who are overseeing research into contemporary Christian Education materials to examine what materials exist or need to be created to enable churches to be safe spaces for children of all races. Both are scheduled to report in the summer of 2021.
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Caribbean art project visualising Legacies of Slavery CWM is working with the University of the West Indies Institute of Caribbean Studies and Reggae Studies and the Edna Manley College to produce artwork that further unmasks the legacies of slavery in a Caribbean context. These will be community art projects enabling artists and communities to name for themselves the ongoing legacies. Artwork is scheduled for presentation by Aug 2021.
Reparations and Economic Justice work (ZacTax) The legacies of slavery are not only located in Christian mission organisations but root themselves in the economic and political systems which grew out of colonisation in the dominance of Capitalism, which is itself a legacy of slavery. CWM is committed with World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches and The Lutheran World Federation in economic justice work together through the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) project. CWM is working with these partners to make reparation for colonisation and climate change a key piece of our advocacy and action. As a result, CWM has commissioned Ms Priya Lukka, an economist and
reparations activist, to map out some key elements of a campaign which calls for a global tax to enable reparation, the Zac Tax. Meetings are planned to engage member churches in Europe and Caribbean, alongside our NIFEA partners to help steer the work and shape the outcomes.
Whiteness work: Covid revealed again the racialised nature of inequality and injustice in our world. 2020 also gave a moment of challenge whether in reality Black lives matter. CWM legacies work has begun to address Whiteness therefore in a series of ways. We will shortly launch the Mayflower project which will address the history of White colonial violence from the perspective of the communities worldwide who have had to spend 400 years resisting it. Materials have been produced to open up anti-racist visions of Church and the implications this has for how white people and systems function in churches. Work will begin shortly to look at the ways Liturgy has been a vehicle for White supremacy, especially in the Ecumenical and Development sectors. A series of symposia will begin to unpack this further. Inter-religious perspectives on whiteness are also being sought, which will connect with the ways White supremacism became Christian supremacism as well as see if Whiteness is being addressed in other faith traditions to Christianity.
Praying down the Statues Building on the legacies street bible studies where people have gathered to read the Bible on sites of colonial and racist violence work is beginning on examples of how churches can pray down the statues and sites commemorating historic figures with connections to enslavement and racist oppression. 2020 saw moments inspired by the Black Lives Matters movements which exposed the lauding of figures whose exploits and profits from enslavement are commemorated in statues and public sites. This has spurred calls for statues to be removed and for history to be told more honestly and critically. As we move to our own act of confession CWM is developing other public and virtual acts of witness to expose hidden history and challenge the veneration of such figures as Nelson, Rhodes and others.
Protesters throwing the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston into a harbour on Sunday. Credit: Ben Birchall/Press Association, via Associated Press
Wider Advocacy CWM legacies work continues to be shared with other partners as requested, particularly with the World Council of Churches as they restart their Programme to Combat Racism, it has also enabled dialogue with new partners like the The Presbyterian Church (USA). Plans are developing to bring together UK based mission societies to see if there is common concern and energy to develop a wider legacies commitment.
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OBITUARY | Mrs Hardy Wilkinson, former Partner-in-Mission
Mrs Hardly Wilkinson and her husband Stephen.
In Memory of Mrs Hardy Wilkinson It is with much sadness that we received the news of the passing of Mrs Hardy Wilkinson, who died peacefully Saturday, 27th March 2021 following a two-year-long battle with cancer. Hardy was appointed to serve in Madagascar in 1972, the year in which she married Stephen Wilkinson. For over 30 years, Hardy and Stephen offered themselves to the mission field in the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM). While in Madagascar, Hardy operated a home for girls called Akany Avoko just outside the capital, Antananarivo. This home assisted families at risk; had a small baby unit and a “halfway house” for older teenagers preparing to leave to earn their own living. The other cases were social cases, (often abandoned children) and girls placed in the home by families with special problems. In 2006, the number of children being cared for at the home was approximately 150. This is a testament to Hardy's strength and dedication to the task. Hardy continued to support the Center’s Management Team whilst also dedicating her time to training new social workers and childcarers in Antananarivo even after retiring from the position as Director. We thank God for Hardy’s life and witness. Her character exuded love and care and could be seen through her leadership of the home. The FJKM and its communities have been significantly impacted by the Wilkinsons’ work. CWM was truly blessed by Hardy and Stephen’s commitment to the Partner in Mission service. We celebrate Hardy’s life and pray for God’s peace and comfort for Stephen.
The Paciﬁc Draws the BLUE LINE Against Deep Sea Mining CWM Pacific and least 389 NGOs, institutions, academia, parliamentarians, scientists, movements and individuals internationally have endorsed this joint statement against Deep Sea Mining (DSM), calling for recognition of a common responsibility to protect the ocean. The Ocean is the living blue heart of our planet. It is our common heritage, but also our common responsibility. We are its guardians. We recognise its significance and its essence as the basis of our Pacific identity and wellbeing. We Are the Ocean. In its preservation, we are preserved. For millennia, our ancestors have held this mantle of stewardship, embedding the wisdom of their resource management and conservation practices into their culture and traditions. Their vision was always beyond their temporal needs; the survival and wellbeing of future generations was central to their view of the world. As custodians of the responsibility to protect the Ocean against its exploitation and destruction in our time, we have a moral obligation and longstanding legacy to uphold. Our forebears have, on this frontier, stood firm against the ruinous incursions of nuclear testing, driftnet fishing and bottom trawling, and marine pollution. Against impossible odds, they united to move a world to adopt a nuclear test ban treaty, a ban on driftnet fishing and the London Dumping Convention. Awareness of the connection between climate change and the health of our Oceans gathers momentum globally. Deepsea mining is the latest in a long list of destructive industries to be thrust into our sacred ocean. It is a new, perilous frontier extractive industry being falsely promoted as a proven answer to our economic needs. While its promised benefits remain speculative, its pursuit is insidious. Even at an experimental stage, deep sea mining (DSM) is already proving harmful to Pacific communities, their livelihoods, cultural practices, and their wellbeing. We call for a total ban on DSM within our territorial waters and in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Mindful of the nuclear legacy in the Pacific, and determined to not see it repeated, our Ocean must never again be used as the ‘testing grounds’ for dangerous pursuits that serve the interests of powerful states, institutions and industry. Rich states, promoting their multinational companies, facilitated by powerful institutions have been working with our own Pacific Island governments enticing them with the promise of wealth, despite technologies for extracting minerals on the ocean floor remaining untested in terms of environmental safety. Land-based mining also came with the promise of economic, social and environmental benefits for our people. Pacific peoples have carried the environmental and social costs of phosphate, copper, gold and bauxite mining in the region and continue to feel the impacts of its devastation. Our lived experience in the Pacific shows clearly, however, that powerful corporations benefit the most while our people bear the costs of the destruction of our natural environment. Across the resource frontiers of our region, history records this deception time and again. The corporations, institutions and their government backers advocating DSM promise great wealth from the unexplored depths of our oceans. Their claim that DSM’s environmental impacts will be minimal is audacious given the fact that very little is known, let alone understood, about the ecologies of our oceans. We will not be fooled by predatory actors who frame the discussion and set the rules to advance their interests. We call on our Pacific Governments and the international community to stand, once again, on the right side of history. What is actually known about our ocean depths runs contrary to the push for DSM. Scientists increasingly warn of:
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the devastating and irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats, the resulting biodiversity loss including of many known endemic species, and others yet to be identified that will be affected and that most likely will never recover, the risk of giant sediment plumes traveling beyond the mining sites, smothering and potentially destroying all lifeforms on the seafloor, the danger of wastewater plumes, including potential toxins lethal to marine life, discharged from the mothership, impacting ocean ecosystems at various depths with attendant risk to our already threatened fisheries, the risk of toxins entering our food chain via contaminated fisheries, potentially devastating oil spills from vessels occurring. Pacific governments keen to pursue DSM have to ask themselves, to what extent are they willing to destroy the ocean’s life support system during a time of climate, and planetary emergency and in what is commonly known as the age of extinction. Our governments must ask themselves who stands to gain the most from the destruction of our ocean. Furthermore, scientists acknowledge the critical carbon sequestration functions of deep-sea hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, and are cautioning that the release of sequestered methane (a greenhouse gas thought to be 25 – 50 times more potent that carbon dioxide) could be a ‘doomsday climatic event’. The health of oceans is already under unprecedented threats including from a multitude of human induced stressors such as overfishing, pollution, plastics, nuclear waste and radioactive material, and climate emergency along with related impacts such as ocean acidification and warming of oceans. To mask their profit seeking motivation, proponents are attempting to ‘greenwash’ DSM, arguing that seabed minerals are necessary for so-called green technology and to enable the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This is a spurious argument as the minerals needed can come from better recycling efforts, ethical consumption and production, and prioritising the reuse of minerals in circulation. It would be beyond ironic if leaders of Pacific Island countries, which are already at the forefront of the impacts of climate change and facing existential threats to territorial integrity, allow themselves to be persuaded to mine the ocean floor, thereby pushing the world into the doomsday scenario. Although our own governments and industry actors have argued that the mining of resources on the deep seabed are entirely the provenance of the state, governments are still required to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the people, particularly indigenous peoples, over any development activities which would adversely impact their lands, territories and resources. The fact is our governments do not have the free, prior and informed consent of our people to proceed with DSM in the Pacific Ocean nor in areas beyond national jurisdictions. There is no scenario in which DSM is permissible. If it’s not safe in our EEZs, it’s not safe in the Pacific as a whole, and therefore not safe for the world. A total ban on DSM is the only way to ensure the integrity of the ocean, the heart of our planet. We therefore: call for recognition that, as our common heritage, the ocean demands our common responsibility for its protection; call on all Pacific leaders to join the growing ranks of governments, scientific authorities, CSOs, global leaders and indigenous groups the world over opposing the rush to mine the ocean floor and, in doing so, destroy our common heritage; and welcome the stand taken by some Pacific governments of a moratorium on DSM within their EEZs but strongly urge all of our governments to move beyond their EEZs and support a global ban on DSM.
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UCJCI seeks a Communication & Information Technology Coordinator Long-term mission opportunity with the Partner in Mission Programme Summary The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands is seeking a mission partner to assist them in the area of communication. The Communication and Information Technology Coordinator will work under the supervision of the General Secretary on external and internal communications, and information technology systems, services and strategies, with the primary directive to communicate and promote the vision, mission and witness of the United Church.
Minimum Qualiﬁcations • Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Public Relations or Management Studies.
General Expectations of the Partner in Mission • Is current on creative, communication and technological trends, and seeks opportunities to use this information in innovative and effective ways to advance the strategic communication plan of the UCJCI. • Is responsive in anticipating, planning, and implementing innovative, contextually relevant and high impact communication strategies for Synodical programmes. • Develops an annual comprehensive programme and budget, aligned with the strategic communication plan for approval by the General Secretary.
• Five years related work experience or the equivalent combination of training and experience.
For more information or to send your PIM application form, email -
• Specialist training in Communication Technologies and Methodologies including Digital Content and Social media Management.
Mrs. Vickeisha King Burke Partner in Mission Coordinator Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Duration – 4 years, at minimum Location – Kingston, Jamaica
Rising Up and Leaving Behind the Whitewashed Tomb... By Peter Cruchley, Council for World Mission
In these reflections I propose to explore how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection offers not just hope, but challenge
to the legacies of white colonial power ever present in our world and lives. A generation of contextual theology should by now have put to death the White Jesus so familiar to us, but yet this remains the dominant way we imagine Jesus’s power and therefore his personhood. As we shall see, the biblical text contrasts Jesus’ power with the colonial power of the (White) Roman empire, and this stands out all the more in the midst of the global Black lives matters struggles and CWM’s intention to repent and make reparation for the legacies of slavery in our life. Our journey to Easter began with the temptation of Jesus, a moment when he is confronted with how he wants to use his power and what kind of Messiah he is called to be. This became all the more urgent again in Holy Week when Jesus was confronted with the Imperial power of Pilate, the complicities of Caiaphas and the punishment for insurgency, execution. Even in the garden Jesus refuses to call on the symbols of Imperial power, the legions of angels, (Matt. 26: 53) and he does not back down from the confrontation with the only White man in the Bible, Pilate.
“The Devil offers Jesus a vantage point on all the kingdoms of the world in hope of their glory and adulation. Isn’t this God’s normal vantage point, looking down on Creation looking up to God? The witness of the Bible to this point suggests that this has not worked out well for God.” 28
In the first Temptation, a hungry Jesus is invited to turn stone into bread: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ 4 Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’ Luke 4: 1 - 4 Forty days and nights without food is going beyond the experience of Israel, who at least had manna in the desert. Famished and starving as he is, Jesus still allows Scripture to speak more loudly than the rumbling of his stomach. The Devil invites Jesus to do what human beings do, which is to put their needs before everyone and anything else. But Jesus refuses to objectify creation, he seems willing to let stones be stones, rather than process them into something he can use and profit from. Jesus’ curious loyalty to stones will be rehearsed again at the entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus tells the Pharisees that the stones themselves would herald his messiahship if his disciples were silent, (Luke 19:40). Jesus, understands his calling speaks to the identities and dignities of all creation and they are not to be used and exploited for his purpose. As Jesus remarks, one does not live by bread alone, one lives by the relationships we inhabit and loyalties we honour. When we come with Jesus to the table, we realise that far from taking a self-denying approach to bread, in fact Jesus, values bread so highly, he is ready to become it himself, (Luke 22:19).
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Far from crushing stones into bread, he breaks his body, not so that he might live, but that ‘whosoever might eat this bread will live’ (John 6:51). Jesus dies thirsty, (John 19:28) rather than give in to the imperial longings Pilate and others like him live by. Contrast this with all that the limitless hungers and urges which have driven 500 years of Colonial Imperial Capitalist whiteness. All that has done to objectify, and commodify products like Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Tobacco, Cotton, Tea, Teak, Oil and so on. And then all that has been done to objectify, and commodify persons of African and African descent, and to persons indentured from Asia into the Caribbean, Pacific and Africa, especially in the profit and production of those resources. In the second Temptation, Jesus is tempted by complicity with power and empire: 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ 8 Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’ Luke 4: 5 - 8 The Devil offers Jesus a vantage point on all the kingdoms of the world in hope of their glory and adulation. Isn’t this God’s normal vantage point, looking down on Creation looking up to God? The witness of the Bible to this point suggests that this has not worked out well for God. Even his own people have been stiff necked and refused to look up in love, (Exod. 32:9). It must be tempting for God to impose God’s authority and power and settle for a ‘quid pro quo’ deal with the powerful and the popular, after all this is what the Church has done and does. Here we have the temptation for God, and God’s Son in particular to come to the earth as Emperor and settle for a worship he knows is unfaithful, but at least enforceable because it’s the product of fear and envy. Instead of the Emperor’s throne Jesus chooses the position of the rebel and this becomes apparent several times in the Temple in Holy Week. Jesus’ rebellious spirit in shown in the cleansing of the Temple, (Luke 19: 45-46), the prediction that it will be torn down and three days later rebuilt, (Matt 26: 61, John 2:19). The position God takes is not from above, but from below. When Jesus sees the widow make her gift to the Temple, and predicts the destruction of the Temple, (Luke 21:6) he looks up, (Luke 21:1). Jesus, in this way comes not from above but from below, not from afar but from amongst. His presence and power are not concerned with getting the agreement of the powerful but beginning the liberation of the powerless. Thus, he steps out onto the streets of Yangon, Hong Kong or Delhi because his mother gives him this rebellious Spirit, when she sings her Magnificat over him, (Luke 1:46-55). This is the Spirit Jesus is as full of in the wilderness, (Luke 4: 1) as the Temple is empty of in Holy Week, which is why Caiaphas collaborates and emulates the power of Pilate.
The third temptation is to show a fake vulnerability: 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”,11 and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ 12 Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4: 9 – 13) The Devil invites Jesus into a show of power, that will fake jeopardy to impress and entertain the crowds: ‘Show them you cannot die’, hints the Devil, ‘show that you are indeed protected and upheld by divine love’. In that tempting drama, the crowds spectate his possible death and this angelic intervention will confirm that Jesus is undoubtedly the Son of God. The Devil knows that the Tomb is the test for God, that most think the argument for faith in God is that it should, God should, offer protection to the faithful, (Ps.16:10). The irony is of course, that Jesus, will take up a place on a pinnacle. Not on the Temple Mount, but on Mount Golgotha, on the cross. And he will throw himself down, even to the place of the dead, but no angels will come to minister to him there, and even precious few of his friends. This will not be fake jeopardy. Indeed, God in Jesus will be put to the test, as Jesus wrestles with accepting the cup of suffering in Gethsemane, (Luke: 22:42) and then at that moment, the angel does come to give him strength, Luke 22:43, not to evade death but to choose it. And the Devil is right, the stone will not harm him. We come to Easter morning, and there we discover the faithfulness of the stone, for it rolls away for him as he steps into new life. (Luke 24:2) When Jesus spoke about the grave, he gave it a colour, Whiteness, (Matt 23: 27), and it represented hypocrisy. When Jesus rises from the tomb, it is to assert God’s counter creation to the world White Colonial power has both co-opted and corrupted, and has, for 2000 years, said is without alternative. The Holy Week narratives deepen, confirm and complete the resistance Jesus shows to imperial colonial power from the start of his ministry. Jesus dies in the face of the White colonial gaze of Pilate and the centurion. His crucifixion echoing George Floyd’s words beneath the gaze of Derek Chauvin, ‘I can’t breathe’. But he rises to his Jewish sisters and brothers, to confirm them and us in believing God will not bow to the idolatries, powers and certainties of empire, that ‘Babylon’ is as fallen as the tomb is empty, (Isa 21: 9, Rev. 18:2). We are challenged then to leave behind the many implicit and explicit ways we look on Jesus as White, which also means to challenge the many ways church behaves as if Christianity is an empire to defend and extend. Then we can heed the voices in whom the risen Jesus is calling us away from the dead, dividing racist ways of living we have known, finding instead we are at the beginnings of a restored creation making peace with its past, and embodying a transforming healing humanity (Ephesians 2: 13ff).
Moral Vision and Moral Practice in the Public Square Imperative or Impediment—A Christian Perspective By Garnett Roper JP PhD
t the very outset, let us admit that any focus on morality nowadays raises questions of integrity and credibility. It is the case that often those who shout loudest about morality and moral causes have been found wanting on the frontlines when moral courage is required. The real vanguard of morality are not the traditional voices and the traditional centres. Often there seems to be two overarching considerations to which complete loyalty is given: power and profit these are the new gods, these are what capture and captivate the spirit. How to make a buck and how to gain and maintain power. These voices range from those who call profit blessing to those who swear there is no alternative to the market. What is the use of our high- sounding words used in the name of morality, if when push comes to shove, we lack the courage to make moral choices on the cutting edge issues? The credibility of the voices that speak loudest in the name of morality is waning because they have been guilty of cherry picking among so called moral issues. They have reduced moral struggles to certain pet issues like abortion and the rights of LGBTQ community. The culture war issues from the metropolis to the North are the only concerns for these who shout loudly in the name of morality. There is no consensus that these two issues and the way they are framed are essentially moral considerations. However, what is clear is the choice of these issues of abortion and homosexuality is governed largely by ideological considerations. Those who proclaim in the name of these issues are concerned about the threat of marginalisation of the power of the church. These issues are dog whistles to betray where one’s political 30
allegiance lies and often these issues are sponsored by connected commercial interests and the sources of donor funds for NGOs. Whether or not this is so, those with eyes for these issues have no eyes for the more vexed moral consideration of certain existential issues in our midst such as social exclusion and the debilitating social condition that are part of the antecedent causation of high crime and violence. At any rate, this morality that is a single-issue based morality is just not holistic and contextual enough. The credibility of the voices that shout in the name of morality is undermined because we have failed as centres of moral examples and moral conduct. The mistreatment of each other and the excuses we make for ourselves fly in the face of our moral proclamations. Some have argued that the focus on the malfeasance in the church has been disproportionate and has been borne out of the desire to discredit the church as a centre of moral authority. That however does not excuse or explain away our moral failings. The failure of many in leadership in their personal lives who fail to live up to the standards they set INSiGHT | April 2021
for others to attain and in some respects who fail to be decent and honourable as human beings are too glaring. Morality is a seamless garment. When we come calling in the name of morality our own actions and inaction are called into question, the finger points back to us. Let us determine that when we are calling for a moral vision and moral practice in the public sphere we are also at the same time, pledging ourselves to exemplify moral courage and moral consistency in the little things that we do in our own everyday life. The world is longing for moral examples from all of us. Morality is not just a big-ticket item; it is a day-to-day matter both for the public space and our private lives. First of all, I will frame the topic, Moral Vision and Moral Practice in the Public Square: Imperative or Impediment—A Christian Perspective as a thesis: ‘From the perspective of Jesus and the prophets a moral vision and moral practice in the public square are an imperative rather than an impediment”. I am building upon and reflecting on two Grace Kennedy Lectures given in 1989 and in 1992 by G Arthur Brown and Dr Burchell Taylor respectively. G Arthur Brown spoke about “Patterns of Development” in which he referred to what he considered the golden years between 1955 and 1970 and period of decline due largely to the oil price hike which succeeded those years. G Arthur Brown advised that Jamaica, in order to get ahead of the curve, should focus on the knowledge economy. The clear objective of development was to increase GDP and per capita income. Taylor’s lecture was about the place of morality in the public square. He argued that morality belonged to the nature of our humanity and he argued that it ought
not be pushed out of the public square into the margins, and he argued that the church has a legitimate role to play in shaping of this public morality. In fact, he bemoaned the deterioration in the way in which the church carries out its role nowadays. Three decades ago, Taylor warned of the danger of anti-clericalism and anti-authority which targeted the church and rejected its voice. He did not say it in so many words, but this would be sowing to the wind and the society would soon reap the whirlwind. If one reads the preamble to the 2030 national plan put out by the PIOJ, one sees that the wording of that summary accepts moral vision and moral practice as imperatives in the public square: it is based on seven principles – Transformational leadership Partnership Transparency and accountability Social cohesion Equity Sustainability (economic, social and environmental) Sustainable urban and rural development
1. There is morality insisted on by agents of the American/evangelical culture wars that are against abortion and LGBTQ rights. This often obscures the fact that these issues are more ideological than moral as we said above, or that these issues are ways to deflect from the struggles for more fundamental rights of the subordinate groups. 2. There is a puritanical and judgmental bent that focuses on those sins which are called the sins of the poor. That body polices a section of the population to render them less than worthy of full participation in the economy and society. 3. There is a longing for theocracy in which we seek to join those who exercise dominance in relation to the rest of the society. In this way, morality is a ruse to maintain the status quo ante and to reinforce the dominance of the ruling elite; it is not a profound coming to terms in the name of God and history with the structural inequities in the society. The moral vision that emerges from the bible is one in pursuit of equality, dignity and the humanity of the people by ensuring access to the basic necessities that are essential to their quality of life. This ensures that these basic necessities that are required to sustain life are available and accessible to the most vulnerable in the population. It is best expressed in Micah 4.4 “every man shall have his own vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid on God’s Holy Mountain.”
It begins with what it advocates as a return to core values and attitudes that guided our fore parents such as, it says, these include: trust, honesty and truthfulness, respect, forgiveness and tolerance, love, peace, unity, discipline, responsibility, cooperation, integrity, punctuality and good work ethic. Problematising the topic: The public square implies a space of consensus in pursuit of the common good. It often ignores the voices and players that are excluded from the public square and also that there is nowadays, no longer one public but many publics. There are a variety of enclaves of class, religion and politics that have diverse values, needs and interests. The idea of a shared communal interest by these diverse interests and that there is parity of participation by them is overly idealistic and optimistic. There are many competing publics defined separately by their needs, values and interests. Secondly when moral vision and moral practice are spoken of there are three tendencies that need to be resisted:
The question is whether or not such a moral vision of the community is an imperative or impediment to development as it is now conceived, or what is the notion of development that makes equality, dignity and humanity achievable? Micah is interacting with the account of the reign of Solomon as a kind of golden age in Israel in 1 Kings 4, as well as with the prophecy of Isaiah. The summary assessment of the period of Solomon’s reign offered by the Deutoronomist is that from Dan to Beersheba there was safety in Israel and everyone sat under his own vine and fig tree. The Isaiah assessment is more Messianic in nature and speaks of the righteousness as the dominant feature and ends by saying the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
In this regard, the moral vision is of prosperity and security and the moral practice is one marked by equity, equality and a guaranteed quality of life in which the basic necessities, plus, of life are available to all. In a word this is righteousness and faithfulness. Micah is interacting with circumstances in the 8th century B. C. in which large plantation have spread out over the country sides in Israel, while the small farms holdings have been decimated. At the same time, because of the Assyrian siege that has led to the overrunning of the ten northern tribes in Israel, the monarchy was organising the militarisation of places like Micah’s home village of Moresheth. This is the reason Micah speaks of beating swords into plowshares. And none shall make them afraid. He imagines a golden age of prosperity and security. But the prosperity is measured in the experience of the vulnerable and the poor and rural peasant farmers. There is little faith that any targeted development aimed at improving the lot of the poor and vulnerable, the so called “everyone” is viable. Development is in terms of the investment in the owning classes, the rising tide will lift all boats in the harbour approach to economic practice. Development is thought of in terms of the expansion of access to certain very conspicuous consumer durables. Whether or not the basic necessities on which a higher quality of life depends are available and affordable. The question is whether or not this vision of development which is a moral vision and requires moral practice is an impediment to total and sustainable development. The first peril to be overcome is the one that arise from the fact this is the vision of development that is nicknamed and demonised. When we want to dismiss it, we mock it and nickname it “socialism”. There are those idealogues who are waiting to put on a poisonous label and a disqualifying tag. Even persons who have no experience of socialism are afraid of it. All that has to happen is to nickname something by that label and it has killed it in its infancy. The idea of everyone having the emblems of prosperity and security on God’s holy hill is offensive to these idealogues. By contrast, the images of development with which we are more sympathetic are of few people with yachts and jets and acres of undisturbed lawns. We want to see the skyline and the shoreline dotted with high rises in which buildings are giants and people are dwarfs. This is the image of development with the idle rich enjoying extreme opulence. This is a vision of development for the few but not for the many. The moral vision and the moral practice are necessarily for the many and not just for the few. What Micah describes is a moral vision committed to entrenching those things that affirm the humanity of all its people. In this way, the basic necessities required to sustain a basic quality of life are provided to all. There is food and there is comfort food, there is shelter and there is safety, and everyone has a stake, or a franchise, (his own vine and fig tree) in the land. This is a critique of what was obtained in the social environment in which they were huge plantations but the decimation of small farmers. It was an ethos for some but not for all. It is a challenge to systems that are for the few but not for the many. It is a counter foil to those systems which assume and deepen the yawning gaps within the society.
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Micah’s moral vision is one in which the dignity of each citizen is assured and protected. Everyone shall have his own vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid is a simple goal and a simple lifestyle but one therefore that is attainable for all. The bar is set in manner that is replicable throughout the society. The extras are missing but the essentials are provided. The vine and fig tree according to the Targums are not just for food but they are a space to meditate, not just to consume but to contemplate, not merely to possess but to aim to be and to become. This is the very thing that is lacking in many of the spaces that are too cramped for social distancing in which people are forced to live in spaces where basic human needs are ignored and neglected. Perhaps above all else Micah’s moral vision is one of equality. It provides for all without distinction even if it is not for all without exception. It is the layers of the society and the classes of the society and the enclaves within the society that are included in the community that the prophet envisions. It is a levelling of the playing field, it is a removing of the boundaries and barriers that can result in everyone being provided for. Are we convinced that all persons are equal or must we believe that some are more equal than others? One of the most profound divisions in the communities in which we live is that there remain two social classes, the dominant and the sub-ordinated. Usually this means that one is accounted for, and provided for and included and the other is not. We have yet to believe and to understand that there are some who if they are not specifically included, they are excluded. This is the case with the disabled. It is also the case with sections of the population with inherited disadvantages. One of the things that the Covid-19 pandemic has done is to provide litmus paper to make visible and palpable the demarcations of the inequality within the society. We now know for example that 55% of our household do not have either the internet connection, the platform nor the equipment to participate in virtual learning. This is a fact has been occasioned because they were never included in the development agenda before. In the past, we would have been blinded to this factor. We are often befuddled by our violence producers and by our hot spots of crime and violence, why we ask ourselves are they like this? But it seems to me that if we look below the surface at the public goods which they have been denied and the personal goods that they have been unable to afford it might give us some clues. But more profoundly, the society has done too little to affirm their equality with the rest of us and their dignity and humanity. (The vaccine roll out in which 142 Countries have not had a single dose of the vaccine while 75% of the doses that have been distributed have been in ten Countries. There are allegations that only the wealthiest quintile in Jamaica have so far had access to the vaccine that just like the Sigma run the Government has permitted them to get their vaccines.) We have not invested in them and they have not invested in themselves or the rest of us. Their lives are under-valued and so they place no value on human life. To be fair, part of the miracle of this society has been that every time this Country has been put on the map internationally, whether through sporting competition or otherwise, it has been by persons from these under-served communities. That is not intended to reinforce our social inequality but rather to challenge us that we could do far more and better for ourselves if we pursued policies of social and economic inclusion.
What would make a vision of equality, dignity and humanity of all our people an impediment to development? Why would it get in the way? I think it is because we frame these things in an otherising tendency and a polarising tendency and an economising way of validating things. What about the pursuit of equality, dignity and building the infrastructure for a better quality of life for all human persons that could constitute impediments to developments or what about developments and those who pursue it in those terms that would make them impediments. I offer the following three features: the first is what I am calling our habit of otherising. The word first came into use in an attempt to identify the attitude of birtherism to President Barack Obama; they otherised him, they assumed that he belonged to a group that was alien to themselves. The problem of otherising is however part of our cultural thinking in Jamaica. If I may illustrate it by referencing to our crime fighting and policing strategy. The Public Defender, Ms Arlene Harrison recently gave the crime statistic for detentions by the police in the ZOSOs in Mount Salem, St James and Denham Town in Kingston. Between 2017 and 2018 the police detained 572 persons, 40 of whom were children, and only one was criminally charged. In Denham Town they detained 722, only four were criminally charged. The assumption in the society is that in order to make us safe the police have a right or ought to have an option, to take away the freedom of persons who live in these places. Somehow we excuse and tolerate it because we otherise them, we make them alien to ourselves. It seems to me that we are not going to succeed at a moral vision without affirming our common humanity as a community. We have to return to the philosophy of Half Point and Junior Reid “One Blood”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4xr2665JOk The other thing that gets in the way of developing an ethos of equality, dignity and humanity is a tendency to polarise or to deepen the polarisation of the society. Or put differently our fear of polarisation and of being accused of polarising causes us to shy away from directly advancing these considerations. This is because matters related to the deepening of inequality and undermining human dignity and denying vulnerable populations the basic essentials on which the quality of their human life depend are rooted in the very structure of the economy and society. It is not the result of the policies of any one administration or is it dependent on the members of the political class alone, what they do or fail to do. It is institutionalised. This is the glue that holds the things together, it is the wheel within the wheels. Therefore, when focus is given to these things, the cultured despiser, the punditocracy pigeon hole and demonise those who advocate for equality and in addition to this, they stoke the fears and hatred within the society. They do this in order to intimidate and or force you on the defensive. When this happens, the proverbial temperature increases and the language becomes harsh and vitriolic. This requires us therefore, to insist on morality with the language of love and spirit of temperance and forbearance. Even our quest for a moral vision and moral practice must be tempered by love and forbearance.
“What about the pursuit of equality, dignity and building the infrastructure for a better quality of life for all human persons that could constitute impediments to developments or what about developments and those who pursue it in those terms that would make them impediments. I offer the following three features: the first is what I am calling our habit of otherising.”
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While being evicted from her Milwaukee apartment, Danielle Shaw (left) and relatives wait until the movers carrying down her refrigerator and stove are no longer blocking the stairwell. Photograph by Michael Kienitz. Via harvardmagazine.com
A third thing that gets in the way is what I am calling economisation which I am using economisation to speak of things in the way we do them in economistic terms only. Often those with moral voices talk themselves into a corner because they think they lack the economic means. While there are economic implications for a moral vision and moral practice, often what moral vision and practice require is not for an increased cost to be paid but an agreement to accept less return. We suggest that they are unworkable in economic terms. It is greed that is the real enemy of equality, dignity and security of the humanity of all our citizens. May I illustrate this. The National Housing Trust (NHT) when it was first developed was both moral vision and moral practice. It did not impoverish anyone. If anything, it has proven with the construction of Greater Portmore in St Catherine to be the single greatest act of economic enfranchisement in the history of this Country. This year many of the original mortgages have been completely liquidated (burned) so people have the equity in their homes to engage in further and better economic activities. One is not convinced that the Inswood and Bernard Lodge experiment is likely to be effective in the same way because at the start of the project, it has sought to exclude the subordinated classes in favour of the economically dominant classes. It took moral imagination to take the social security approach to housing with the NHT. The question is not whether we ought to seek to so order our society in a manner that guarantees the basic necessities to all. The question is whether we can afford not to do so. Spaces like Montego Bay that from its inception, was called meagre bay and fat bay was based on the principle of enforced inequality and still it is surrounded by 18 squatter communities. It is where the primary space for commerce for the majority black population is 12 acres of land at the Fustic Road, Charles Gordon market without adequate parking or sanitary convenience. And then we wonder why there is such extra-ordinary levels of violence in that space. There is no solution to its violence that does not also deal the problem of economic exclusion. Land tenure is a central feature of the social and economic reality of that space. There is a human and moral and justice imperative that is required for the amelioration of those issues. If you ask me and I would begin with the road that runs to Salts Spring and open it up through Flowerhill to Holiday Inn and therefore give the homes on that side of the hill a chance to be included in the economic bonanza of resort development and make it possible for people to travel to and from work on the seaside corridor in relative ease. The road to development is the development of a road. Moral Vision and Moral practice are imperatives of development, the question is whether or not we possess the moral courage to pursue development in our space to guarantee security and prosperity for all. I think time come for everyone to have their own vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid on God’s holy mountain. The mouth of the Lord Almighty has spoken. This lecture was delivered in 2021 at 171st Annual Assembly of the Jamaica Baptist Union during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Jamaica in the midst of a surge or spike in the numbers of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths and on the eve of the announcement of a national vaccine roll out. Dr Garnett Roper is the former President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS). He earned his PhD in Theology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and his subject of research is the Development of a Caribbean Public Theology. Dr Roper was also one of the presenters at the Council for World Mission (CWM) DARE conference in 2017 and 2018. www.cwmission.org
The Certain Hope of Resurrection By Gwilym Tudur, Seion Congregational Church
ndoubtedly, 2021 has so far proven to be a difficult and challenging year for humanity. Whilst the rapid administration of the Covid-19 vaccine is certainly promising news, this dreadful virus continues to wreak havoc throughout the globe, afflicting pain, suffering, and death wherever it spreads. As was the case in 2020, this year has also been filled to its brim with tragedy, sadness, and darkness. The virus itself – as well as the extended periods of national lockdown caused in its wake – have taken their toll on our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Although we’re told to remain positive about the future, it is unclear how human optimism is nothing more than whistling in the dark. After all, our nebulous positivity is as incapable of stopping a future pandemic as it is of fixing a broken humanity and of saving a fallen world. Nevertheless, the poignant tone of the past few months has stirred within us a profound longing for something deeper, surer, and clearer than mere optimism. Our painful circumstances have provoked us to yearn intensely for a certain hope which can never falter or waver. Indeed, in an erratic year like 2021, we thirst for some genuine assurance to embolden us for the future. The startling message of Easter is that such a hope exists. As Coronavirus continues to besiege humanity, the Bible reminds us that everlasting hope is found – not ultimately in the chambers of our parliaments, the laboratories of our universities, nor the hospitals of our cities – but in the crucified and risen Son of God, Jesus Christ. In him we find a sure hope which forgives our past, strengthens us in the present, and empowers us for the future.
The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians authored at Ephesus between AD 53 to 55, defines the nature of this glorious hope. He explains that Christian hope is not a groundless sentiment, but an absolute certainty established on the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day. The Christian faith itself and the hope it produces, the Apostle asserts, either stands or falls on the historical resurrection of Christ. Paul declares that if Jesus had not actually risen from death to life, our Christian preaching and faith are all but useless and vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). After all, for the Apostle, the resurrection was irrefutable proof that Christ’s sin-bearing death had been both effective and salvific (Romans 4:25). Throughout the New Testament, resurrection is not a vague notion that Christ metaphorically ‘rose’ in believers’ hearts; nor the abstract idea that Jesus figuratively ‘resurrected’ with the coming of the church; rather, it is the belief that – on one day in real, tangible history – the crucified Son of God miraculously began to breathe and walked out of his tomb alive. For Paul, the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is the sole anchor of our assurance. If the risen Christ is the foundation of our hope, what is its object? Or, to phrase it in a different way, what does the Christian hope for? Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, reveals that our hope is that we will also, one day, resurrect like Jesus to be with him. He makes clear that since ‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead’, he is the ‘firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Cor. 15:20). ‘Firstfruits’ were an early sample of a farmer’s crop which prefigured the quality of the season’s harvest. Paul’s point is
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crystal clear: Jesus’ resurrection was the firstfruits of a future harvest, namely, the resurrection of every Christian at the end of time. The Apostle reiterates this theme again by asserting that ‘since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man’ (1 Cor. 15:21). In other words, whilst death first devastated humanity through Adam, resurrection first came through Jesus: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’ (1 Cor. 15:22). This is the essence of the Christian hope. Our certain confidence is that we – since we’re united by faith to Christ – will one day resurrect bodily and spend eternity enjoying him in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Revelation 21:1). On that glorious day when Jesus returns, God will finally abrogate the Fall and all of its terrible consequences. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sin, death, crying, mourning, or pain (Rev. 21:4). Cruel diseases, infectious viruses, and deadly pandemics will be banished irrevocably from God’s new creation. On that day, resurrected believers – as well as the cosmos we inhabit – will attain a perfection finer than Eden since our relationship with God will be fully restored. This hope is not a utopian fantasy nor an idealistic pipe dream, but the authentic truth about the future. In fact, Christians can be as certain of their coming resurrection as they’re sure of Christ’s past resurrection on the third day. This is the hope we must share with our broken and hurting world, ravaged by a pandemic. Indeed, Christ commands us to share this hope with others by inviting our families, our friends, and our communities to trust him – his cross and resurrection – for their salvation. In comparison with superficial and shallow optimism, Christian hope is both authentic and unabating. This distinction between worldly optimism and Christian hope was encapsulated excellently by the late English theologian, J. I. Packer, in his Never Beyond Hope (2005):
“If the risen Christ is the foundation of our hope, what is its object? Or, to phrase it in a different way, what does the Christian hope for? Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, reveals that our hope is that we will also, one day, resurrect like Jesus to be with him.”
Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God's own commitment, that the best is yet to come. (p. 15)
Originally from Cardiff, Wales, Gwilym became a Christian whilst reading the Gospel of Matthew as a teenager. Having studied at Aberystwyth University and the University of Oxford, Gwilym is now minister of Seion Congregational Church in the town of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. He is married to Alexandra, who is originally from Romania, they enjoy reading, drinking tea, and going for long walks by the seaside.
Rise Again By Karen Georgia A. Thompson
Christians around the world celebrated the high holy
days culminating the 40 days of Lent, with thanksgiving and joy for the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. The journey across Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday focuses on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his observance of Passover, his death at the hand of the Roman rulers and religious leaders, and his resurrection. The mystery and miracle of Jesus being raised from the dead contains the wisdom of the ages pointing to the power of God present and at work among us, if we choose to believe in the greatness of the Divine. The resurrection of Jesus is framed in the presence and power of God revealed through Jesus and his ministry. The resurrection is the salvific work of God, providing new life for the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18).
“Jesus brought ministry to the poor and the marginalised. He stood up against the religious institutions of his day and named for all he encountered that the religious elite were a part of the problem (Matthew 23:1-39).”
While Christians celebrate Easter annually, the resurrection is more than a moment in time to be celebrated. Easter holds deep meaning and possibility for our lives because it points to new life. The resurrection of Jesus points to new possibilities, new hope and the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting newness of life and spirit among us. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:25-26). Possibilities abound in the promise of Easter joy. These are individual and collective possibilities for the church, for the world, for all. Easter with its symbols of eggs and bunnies is also connected with ancient festivals that pre-date Christianity. These festivals were connected with the celebration of the equinoxes and spring in the northern hemisphere. The spring equinox was a sign that the cold and darkness of winter were drawing to a close, a sign that the light and warmth of summer was overcoming the darkness and cold of winter. These festivals were also a sign of the people’s connection to nature and the rhythms of the earth. It was in 325 A.D at the first major church council, that the Council of Nicaea determined Easter would fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/the-origins-o f-easter-from-pagan-roots-to-chocolate-eggs/8440134) The connections between the resurrection, the celebration of new life in the world and the new life in Christ invite us to create space for this new life to emerge among us. The seasons of life are a sign along the way as are the cycles and rhythm of the earth. Where new life emerges, it means change is present - death has occurred, endings have been realised and something new is on the horizon. 38
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The Way of the Cross Resurrection is associated with Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The primary dictionary definition of the word is the rising of Jesus from the dead (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resurrection ). In addition, the word resurrection means revitalisation or revival of something. The word comes from the latin resurgere and resurrectio which mean rise again. Rising again is the essence of resurrection. Jesus was laid in the tomb and rose again - as recorded in the Gospels. To get to resurrection we have to pass through death, change and the deterioration that comes to living things. Nothing lives forever. Nothing stays the same. Death resides among us, coming and going in ways that remind us of our human frailties and our mortality. We see the cycles of change all around us. The flora and fauna around us exhibit this cycle. The flowers bloom and die. The trees shed their leaves. The animals give birth. All things living experience death. The organisations we support and are a part of experience demise and decline. This too is death. Even as we are witnesses to this cycle among us, we are challenged in our ability to cope and respond to this cycle among us. Death is hard for us to come to terms with when experienced as a part of human life. Decline, deterioration and demise also bring stress and crisis as we attempt to adapt to what the changes mean for our lives. Perhaps it is the permanence of death which causes discomfort in talking about how death affects us. Our inability to experience death as a part of life and living is a hindrance to our ability to live the possibilities of new life offered in Christ. Good Friday becomes a day in the week on the way to the joy of Easter Sunday. The death of Jesus is experienced as a temporary moment in his life and ministry because we know if we wait the three days, we can celebrate the resurrection. And yet, the Bible clearly states that Jesus died and records the pain of the Good Friday torture and trial. His disciples mourned. They sat together in grief and anger, having lost their friend and leader. His mother shed tears and was devastated at the loss of the life of her child. Her presence at the foot of the cross is an expression of deep pain and grief. A mother weeping for her child as she stands by watching him beaten and dying.
The death of Jesus was cruel. The cross that Christians experience as an act of redemption and liberation was a form of capital punishment used by the Romans. A person was hung or nailed to the cross, a punishment resulting in a painful public death. As Jesus hung on the cross, his sides were pierced an act which accelerated his death (John 19:31-37). Jesus was punished for ministry labelled as seditionist. He challenged the Roman occupation of the land in which he lived. He challenged the treatment of the people of his day. He demanded justice and change. Jesus brought ministry to the poor and the marginalised. He stood up against the religious institutions of his day and named for all he encountered that the religious elite were a part of the problem (Matthew 23:1-39). They were not sharing God’s love with the people, instead, they were contributing to the economic decline and suffering of the people. They were supporting the rule of law brought on by the Roman occupation to perpetuate their own existence at the expense of the quality of life of the people. The cross requires that we pause and examine what Jesus endured and the lengths taken to silence the ministry and mission of Jesus. His was a mission to the margins. Jesus disrupted the authority and oppression of the Roman Empire. He provided the people with a spirituality which gave them new life as they navigated life under occupation. He gathered the people and taught them God had more and better in store for them. He taught them God loved and cared for them. He taught them in ways that inspired their lives and encouraged them through a time of crisis and oppression (Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus was concerned with justice and righteousness. He sought justice for the people. He met the people where they were and gave them what they needed. He provided for the people physically and spiritually, to sustain them during challenging social and economic times, and a time of spiritual dearth. We are invited to mourn at the foot of the cross, mourning the cruel ways in which life was interrupted for Jesus and the ways in which empires negate the voices of those who confront the treachery and disparity they support. We must
mourn those for whom suffering has been normalised. The way of the cross is death that has to be named, acknowledge and mourned if we are to experience the new life possible in the aftermath of death. We cannot fear or ignore death if we are to receive the new life offered in the hope and promise of Jesus Christ. There is no resurrection of Jesus without his death. There is no new life without the demise and end to habits, plans, thoughts, ideas and the ways we are accustomed to living and being. Death is inevitable, as is the promise of new life. As Christians, living the joy of the resurrection is tied to the death of Jesus. As we remember the joy of Easter, that joy is accompanied by the grief and tyranny of Good Friday. Life beyond Easter Sunday carries pain and joy, life and death, grieving and celebration because our reflections and commitments to follow Jesus are the catalysts for change in the places where we live.
Beyond the Resurrection During the past year of COVID-19, there have been over 3 million deaths attributed to the virus (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/). As the virus spread, it disproportionately affected the most vulnerable communities. Women, children, the poor, those in service industries which are typically low wage were further marginalised, as were persons living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. As the vaccine rollouts increase, these communities are not prioritised neither are the countries with less resources than the developed countries located largely in the northern hemisphere.
Globally, women’s rights advocates are noting the increase in gender-based violence. There are escalating numbers of calls to domestic violence hotlines. Women and girls are not safe in their homes. These are not new issues, and in the year of sheltering in place, lockdowns and distancing they have become worse (https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/in-focus-gen der-equality-in-covid-19-response/violence-against-womenduring-covid-19 Poverty, disease, discrimination, unemployment and underemployment are staples among us. The world normalised living that is unhealthy and oppressive in the embrace of empire and pursuit of wealth. Suffering, disease and death do not receive the protest and outcry they should, and some among us are oblivious to the disgrace and discomfort of the injustices running at pandemic proportions among us. These days of COVID-19 also focused our attention on the global spread of the virus and amplified social ills living among us. In this season of Eastertide, Christians are rising to new life in Christ, and as such we are called to action, called to be a part of the change needed in the world. Christian are children of the resurrection, believers holding hope in God who can triumph over death and promises to make all things new. God promised hope and change, the church is the evidence of renewal and renewing of life, each member of the body of Christ a symbol of God made present in the world.
While COVID-19 continues to capture our attention, the numbers of displaced people have increased globally. According to the United Nations, “there were 79.5 million people forcibly displaced world-wide at the end of 2019. Among those were 26 million refugees, half under the age of 18. There were also 45.7 million internally displaced people, 4.2 million asylum seekers, and 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement” (https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/refugees).
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possibilities for renewal rest on the ability to call out the injustices and challenges present among us and bring them to an end. Renewal and revival begin with individuals to affect the change we want to see in the world. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are waiting for something new to emerge among us. We are awaiting the end of injustices. We want to see justice in the world. We are awaiting the end of discrimination, xenophobia, racism and violation of human rights. We are awaiting the flourishing of God’s love among us. We want to see the end of sickness and disease. We want suffering to end. We want all of God’s people to live the full expression of life, joy, health, hope and happiness. We want a world that is reflective of God’s love for all. We are living through one of the most challenging times of our generation. Pandemics have come to reside among us and we are perplexed as to how we got here and even more perplexed about when change is going to come. Week after week I hear people longing for the way things used to be. Longing for what was - being able to go back to recreational activities, meeting publicly, traveling widely and living the way things were. And yet, what was a time of good living for many was not so for others. The world cannot return to the way things were. The renewal that comes with spring is the resurrection of lilies pushing out of the frozen earth. The revitalisation is the blossoms and the birds, the light returning and the cycles and rhythms of the earth that are both death and life, renewal and transformation, letting go and embracing new intentions, new hope, new thoughts and new ideas. We can shake off the past, let go of the things that no longer serve us in the shadows of the full moon and hold new intentions for the journey that lies ahead. We are people for whom life promises a new beginning each day, with new hope, new promise and the newness of change emerging in and through us. God shows no partiality. The promises of life are for all God’s children. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. New life is possible for all.
Rising to Life Rising to new life is a radical call for this season. The church and the world are ready for renewal and revitalisation. The
Christians are renewed in Christ. The joy of the resurrection is the change affected by Jesus’ ministry, his death and his resurrection. Christians are called by Jesus to be light and salt to the earth. We are the message of hope and promise. What is the message you hold for new life in Christ? What do you hope for your renewal, revitalisation, and transformation in Christ? The celebration of the resurrection is a reminder we are no longer the same. We encounter the power of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead. Rising to life with Christ is an expression of bold courage and commitment to be advocates for our siblings who are in need. We must hold a vision for the world built on the foundation of the love of God for the world given through Jesus Christ. This vision requires that we bring prophetic imagination to ministry and mission. We have to be willing to let go of “the way things were” and imagine a future where all are free, healthy and have access to the resources they need to live full lives in God. We rise to live with Christ. This is an invitation to deepen our spiritual lives. We are a new creation in Christ. Relinquishing old habits, thoughts and ideas, old ways of relating with God and with neighbour will create the space for God to be at work in us, with us and through us. We are the children of the resurrected Christ, called to love God and neighbor, and to bring our gifts to change the world for all. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“Globally, women’s rights advocates are noting the increase in gender-based violence. There are escalating numbers of calls to domestic violence hotlines.” www.cwmission.org
By Karen Georgia A. Thompson
We are light born of the light children of the resurrection products of truth and love bringing with us the essence of Divine grace. We are the possibilities for renewal bearing expectations of revitalisation and transformation. We are living through moments in time beckoning us to rise again suggesting we are more than these junctures, we are more than the failures or the lack we identify we are more than the flaws and the limitations of our human frailties. These are days of transfiguration we are rising to life with Christ. The renewal that comes with spring a sign of new life emerging among us the resurrection of lilies pushing out of the frozen earth rains watering the earth, renewing life trees blossoming, the flowers returning. The revitalisation is evidenced in the songs of the birds the light returning as the earth tilts toward the sun the cycles and rhythms of life are at peace united together as one heartbeat. Death and life are one, renewal and deterioration giving birth to change balancing the journeys around the sun the oneness creating new intentions new hope, new thoughts, new ideas. These are days of restoration we are rising to life in Christ. We relinquish the past letting go of practices that no longer serve in the shadows of the full moon light we hold new intentions to the light for the spirit filled journeys that lies ahead. We are children of the resurrection products of light and change transmuted over time children of hope and grace. We are the renewal of life bringing new vision to the world rising to new life. These are days of resurrection we are rising anew. We are the message of hope and justice prophesying new life and a better future. 12:13 13 April 2021 KGAT Olmsted Township, OH 42
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by Rev Dr Karen Georgia A. Thompson, Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations in the United Church of Christ and Co-Executive for Global Ministries www.cwmission.org
Rising Up Emmaus and Beyond By Michael Jagessar, Council for World Mission
presence, engagement, and detour
he Emmaus Road walk remains a popular post-easter narrative that has grabbed the imagination of generations with its powerful storyline, a 7-mile walk, two conversation partners, a stranger joining in, the progression of the conversation, reaching home, meal sharing, heartburns, jaw-drops and much more. For this reflective piece allow me to take a detour towards current walks and ongoing journeys along roads of despair, displacement, terror, violence, and protests and various attempts of these walks to rise-up against current crucifixions and the ongoing struggle for full and flourishing life for all. Unconsciously, I may have been thinking of the comment from John Dominic Crossan: "Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens”. Crossan, of course, may not have had my detours in mind especially since mine will be somewhat wayward and unpredictable. I am playing with the French root of detour meaning to ‘turn aside’. Mulling over the piece, I came across what may seem largely amusing with no bearing on what will follow here. It was a news item about a woman who decided it was time to do something about the disgraceful state of some of roads in Britain starting with her own local and surrounding areas. The woman spray-painted images of various bugs around potholes (to warn others) after it damaged her car. In some of the deeper potholes she floated toy ducks! The local authorities were more concerned about the time and cost it would take them to remove the paint rather than fixing the holes or offering some sensible answers as to why these holes seem to multiply and stay around for some time. The community-minded woman was “alone” on that road, protesting to make other travellers aware and at the same time shaming the status quo to act. The authorities, like Cleophas and an unnamed companion, found it difficult to catch-on to this unfamiliar/maverick voice and her way of sending and signalling a message. Like the local authorities in the above, can it be these supposed friends of the ‘rising-up’ One were actual stumbling blocks?. Was their unawareness designed or undesigned – missing all sorts of signals? What kept them from comprehending? What keeps us from 44
comprehending, especially the connections and systemic causes of injustices? Can it be that friends of Jesus were suffering from some form of bandwidth deficiency: an inability to see beyond the immediacy before them, even though forewarned on numerous occasions? They were overly talkative about Jesus on their road walk. They were saturating the air with words, ideas and ‘what ifs’. A lot of speaking got in the way of seeing, listening, discerning, analysing, and acting. Perhaps what we have here is a tension between ‘rising up or arising’ (resurrection if you prefer) and the new possibilities and Empire’s narrative as being the only possible familiar reality however disastrous. Or is it a case of the ongoing effects of trauma, as a result of the crucifixion of hope, that is, the overwhelming nature of traumatic experiences (the force of the violence) hindering their ability to orient the resurrection experience into a new framework of meaning? Can this be why in the other resurrection appearances, the rising-up one shows the nail marks with a minimum of words? There are many situations and circumstances today that are in desperate need of resurrection: from pandemic to endemic, the injustices within and between nations are multiple as they are intersecting and systemic. If Emmaus seems to suggest that gestures of hospitality, friendship and openness is where faith thrives, grace breaks through, and life may just flourish again then perhaps, we may do well to consider the many roads around us where protests against the agents of death continue to threaten and kill, and re-commit to walk those roads in solidarity. The Zapatistas of Mexico deployed the expression: preguntando caminamos (walking, we ask questions) pointing to a model of witness-solidarity-struggle. As people of the Jesus way, have we forgotten what it means to join the struggle, these walks? Have we become co-opted chaplains to the systems or shitstems?
detour and retour So, onto to my detours around some roads/walks where numerous rising-up are taking place, roads that we need to be on protesting and in solidarity with those taking INSiGHT | April 2021
on the injustices and their avatars. Consider the current crucifixion of the people of Myanmar and Hong Kong. The contexts are not the same. But there is a pattern which can be named as geopolitical bullying. It is not new and the ones I am referring to are those embodying imperialist habits and acting with impunity. Be it nations or their puppets the agenda is to deny life and living through threat, terror, geopolitical manoeuvres, and death. The above two examples of people or country at the receiving end of bullying can be seen in other places such as Ukraine, India, the Middle East, Venezuela, and Haiti among others. Consider, for instance, why a country like Haiti cannot even procure Vaccine for COVID-19 yet armed to the teeth? Guess who is supplying Haiti with arms and who are the beneficiaries? Who benefits from social and political upheavals? Geopolitical Bullies remain the few powerful nations, engineered monetary institutions, large corporations, and their proxies whether dictators, government officials, the military, the beneficiaries of the arms industry. The underlying motivation remains greed and a deadly neo-liberal extractive capitalism. On this road walk, people of the way of ‘rising-up’ will have to put their lives on the line! Wherever people are rising up in protests, economy and economics are implicated. We are all caught up in the endless commodification of everything. The current pandemic exposes this and the lies that are being spun and to which many of us are lured to believe in or even co-opted to become part of. What ought to be a health emergency is also an economic and political crisis induced by the insatiable and predatory reach of neoliberal economics. This reality did not appear from nowhere: it is the consequence of the collision and collusion of neo-liberal capitalist economic system. Achille Mbembe’s use of ‘necro-politics’ is helpful reminder. Simply put it is the socio-political - economic organization of powers that can decide which populations are disposable, discardable and should be left to die - the expendable ones within and between nations. It is predictable who the winners are. Just consider the very small minority who have seen their economic worth balloon during the pandemic. Are we ready to join the many protesting the systemic boot on their necks, throats, and hearts daring to ask the critical, collective, and systemic questions, irrespective of the costs? I recall a conversation with some teaching colleagues who found my comparison of two male world leaders as outrageous. I identified one as a ‘thief’ and the other as a ’robber’, contending that while one ‘stole democracy’ by guile and the other did so by brute force. The trenchant ‘worshippers’ of these leaders, considered my comparison as rubbish and were unable to see my point. While my comparison was not thought through, most of www.cwmission.org
these colleagues may now be very concerned with what has been and is happening to democracy across the globe, especially places that claim to be beacons of democracy. Consider as one example, the current peoplepower ‘taking to the streets’ over the UK Policing Bill (readers can identify examples from their own context). This Bill when located in the context of Brexit (that will re-establish British Sovereignty in the name of the freedom of her citizens) reveals how unfree Britain is becoming. Alongside new plans for immigration attempts to limit judicial review and the outworking of the Human Rights Act, the Police Bill sets the seal on a new dawn of state power where marginalised groups and political dissenters/protestors will be governed more as subjects. And there is a link and growing conflict between market forces and democracy (Mbembe). Democracy is no longer the rule of the majority when the minority (that is the rich) run things! Will capitalism ever give itself up to democracy aimed at redressing deficits and more equitable distribution? ‘Lockdown’ is taking on a different meaning as democracy and democratic rights are being starved of oxygen. The examples are multiple, and the imperative is clear: we must ‘rise-up’ against the deception of the thieves and robbers stripping democracy. The only ‘normal’ protest in this regard has to be a radical one! “Memory is everything” writes Elie Wiesel. It is the case more than ever when there is an intentional agenda to ‘whitewash’ the racist frameworks of Western coloniality and its ongoing legacies. Milan Kundera may not have had such racist frameworks in mind but his insight that the human struggle against power “is the struggle of memory against forgetting” could not be more apt. The Black Life Matters (BLM) protest marches and the toppling of racist icons ought to still be fresh on our minds. Is this the Kairos moment to bring about and cascade the transformation of racist frameworks? The pushbacks already evident and the continuing racist attacks underscore that the anti-racist road is certainly a long-haul walk. Consider what has been happening to Asian-Americans; reflect on why many Haitians are still being deported from the USA; consider how Churches (episcopal in the USA and the Church of England) are currently wrestling with their racist habits; mull over the recent UK Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report that severs issues of race from class, putting institutional racism as something past, focusing on ethnic disadvantages largely down to cultural and genetic factors. The reach of racism, racist frameworks, ideas of exceptionalism, supremacy, and whiteness with its long, embedded, and subliminal history continue to rule. And extractive global capitalism needs massive racial subsidies (Mbembe). Solidarity is most critical and urgent on this walk, where less talk and more protests and actions are needed. 45
retour: beyond dead-end captivity Discerning the potential for roads to take us where we need to go is crucial to faithful journeying. Some alluring roads turn out to be oppressive dead ends. Some will co-opt us to the ways of empire while others may be escape routes from any ‘taking on’ of the systemic issues. It may be the case that our rising-up walks need new tactics and approaches toward that destination we are all seeking: the heart of God which is one of flourishing life for all. “Please, I can’t breathe” has a far wider reach into the asphyxiation and crucifixion of the impoverished millions. What more should be toppled - thrown out? What new alliances are needed? How will you in your church and community spaces create empowering ‘breathing spaces’ that redress deficits, inequities, and foster life flourishing spaces? What are we going to give up? How can we live out our liturgical practices, as the work of the people, on the streets with the protestors? Rethinking and locating what happened to Jesus (collisions and collusions) as a consequence of his resistance to Empire is a necessary and urgent undertaking. This misunderstood Jewish Rabbi took a
trip up-stream, against the flow that brought him into public spaces where systemic evil, collision and collusion were at work. The gatekeepers of organised religion were angry at him for breaking religious rules, for threatening the temple economy, and for generating a large following. He took on the system and their distortions of God’s dream for the whole of creation and it was costly. He paid the ultimate price, with his life. A decolonial scrutiny would challenge us to rethink the ecclesial/theological mantra that Jesus died for our and the world’s sins. Was this an astute hegemonic (think ‘colonial’) move that hides the fact that Jesus was killed because of evil and the collusion of powerful forces? The ‘forces’ that nailed Jesus are still with us today, causing much brokenness, pain, crucifixion, and death. The sooner we recognise the above and the many forms Empire continues to take today in our ecclesial and liturgical life, the more able we would be to become communities of resistance and rising-up. Death and its agents will not have the last word. Transformation is God’s work of rising – up, resurrection. We are not alone!
INSiGHT | April 2021
From Life-denying to Life-ﬂourishing: Curricula in Theological Education By Dr Eve Parker
“Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” ~Rosa Luxemburg “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.” (Matt 22:15)
heological education in the UK remains dominated by Eurocentrism and white male middle class heteronormativity. As a result, a small number of theologians have been asking critical questions about the existing inequalities that dominate academic spaces of theological discourse, with some calling for a (de)colonising of the curriculum. Yet for the most part theological education in the UK remains Eurocentric and the norms of colonial Christianity remain ingrained in the academy. This is in part, as a result of the Mission Christianity of Western imperialism has had a lasting impact on theological education, where, as Gascoigne has remarked, “the English drew on their deep reserves of Christian thought and tradition to explain to themselves why they were entitled to have an empire.”1 After all Empire’s need creeds as they seek to conquer and control the land of others, in order to sustain and justify their acts of violence and control, and the British did so in the name of God. Under the guise of a discourse of respectability and morality the British developed a Christian theological narrative that like previous empires used Christendom to attempt to theologically ground its colonial conquests. In doing so it created boundaries and barriers of belonging, shaped by social and moral acceptability and decency and those who violated the boundaries were condemned as heathens, dogs, harlots and sluts. The boundaries enabled the sustaining of the orders of power that were fundamentally white and patriarchal and were embodied in dichotomies that have enabled a simplistic understanding of good and bad, that
being Christian and heathen, virgin and whore, gay and straight, black and white. The Bible has been used to justify such dichotomous thinking as have the dominant discourses of theology, because, as the sociologist of education Paulo Freire remarks, education enables for “the transference of power and privileges…”2 By applying such theory to the theological education institutes – we can witness how social structures such as classism, racism, patriarchy and sexism are reproduced and have enabled for theological curricula that has given the impression of universal theological truths. We see this in the curriculums, the reading lists, the staff representation, and the methodologies of teaching. The Victorian-era paradigm of discipline, obedience and deference has enabled such systems to go unchallenged and to dominate our theological education institutes whilst being further instilled in and by church bodies. The question then is how to go about deconstructing the ingrained notions of belonging, inequality and domination that are fundamentally life-denying to those who have existed and continue to exist on the margins? This is not however about simply creating environments of integration within the current systems that have enabled and justified oppression, it is about the need for transformation of the education systems so that students and staff can become “beings for themselves.”3 In order to create life-flourishing and life-affirming curriculums in theological education it will not be enough to go about a process of diversification of reading lists and staff bodies – this is too often a superficial process used to give an
impression of transformation. This has been made apparent by the many education institutes that are going through processes of curriculum development where liberal efforts are being made to diversify reading lists, and include more black scholars and women on the list, yet the systematic injustices of existing inequalities remain intact. There has to be an acknowledgement that the ways in which theological knowledge and power has been historically imposed has been done so through the violence of racism, sexism, heteronormativity and classism. Consequently the issue of inequality is systemic and deeply rooted, failing to address these realities will offer little transformation for those who have been marginalised by the dominant concepts, norms and values that have prevailed from the norms of empire to the pedagogies of theological education institutes in the UK. Exploring such realities requires a conscious awakening and interrogation of our own complicit self. Because in order to create life-flourishing curriculums staff and students must become conscious of the life-denying aspects of the curriculum. To become conscious is to become aware of the unequal power dynamics that exist both within and outside of the classroom, and to recognise one’s own complicity in the systems of inequality in order to challenge the unequal relationships of dominance. The black womanist writer Toni Morrison makes the point that we need to “take away the gaze of the white male” and notes that “once you take that out, the whole world opens up.” (Morrison 2012) This is about addressing the imbalance of power and not seeking to theologically define who we are before God in ways that have been normalised by white, male, middle class, heteronormativity. It also requires a profound questioning of what world or whose world theological questioning and formation is being developed in. Any serious efforts to address the imbalances of power cannot simply be a process of adding books to reading lists from black and ethnic minority theologians and women, or adding modules to the existing arrangements of knowledge that leave the existing power dynamics intact. Though this is needed it also requires deconstructing systemic injustices through education and action by critically examining existing presuppositions of knowledge and theological thought.
Theological Education and Consciousness Theological Education Institutes and universities in the UK remain uncontested sites of power, places in which social and societal norms are being reproduced. As such we are often not given the spaces or even the tools to contemplate God in ways that may help us to challenge systemic injustices. Questioning the politics of church and society is often not encouraged, as theological education has been dominated by what Freire has referred to as a “banking system” of education, where “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing.”4 Ignorance is most commonly bestowed on the students and scholars who are black, women and working class, as there exists a hierarchy of opinion, knowledge, theory and critique where the ruling classes are deemed the most trusted in their insights. This can lead those at the bottom of the hierarchies to internalise feelings of inadequacy, un-belonging, and unworthiness. And this remains the case despite the rise in diversity of students studying theology in the UK because the social powers remain intact and have not been critically challenged, thereby perpetuating existing inequalities. Those in power therefore retain control over not just theological education but also mission, because they perpetuate their understandings of God’s will which can enable them to justify their own social positioning but also profess exclusive or patronising theologies to the detriment of those without power – the LGBTQ communities, women, the working class and people of colour. Consciousness demands an awareness of the systems of oppression that have forced people into the margins inclusive of racism, sexism, and patriarchy. This requires what Anthony Reddie has referred to as “serious analysis of the wider socio-cultural and political construction of Empire and the ways in which the embedded nature of Whiteness has formed a world in which notions of manifest destiny and White exceptionalism have given rise to a toxic reality built on White supremacy.”5 Such analysis requires an exploration of Britain’s colonial past that has impacted theological
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“Consciousness demands an awareness of the systems of oppression that have forced people into the margins inclusive of racism, sexism, and patriarchy.”
education not just in the UK but around the world. As the South African theologian Marilyn Naidoo has remarked: “the lens of colonial difference in institutions has not always been named or given the attention it deserves. Colonial difference is a reference to the spaces—the borders and peripheries of empire that have suffered the negative consequences of modernity.”6 As colonialism has not only impacted the structures of power in nation states but also the minds of the people and the colonised mind is “more subtle and more difficult to identify, resist and transform.” Colonialism has dehumanised indigenous communities, stereotyped people and disregarded their beliefs and religiosities as mere superstition and irrational thought. Through the process of ‘othering’ the colonial gaze distinguishes humanity into hierarchies of worth, the same process is used within the Bible to condemn other nation states and religious groups of being deserving of the wrath of God for believing in other Gods. Education has been used to legitimise such processes of dehumanisation and control and oppress the colonised through the mind. Producing dominant ideologies such as racism, patriarchy and classism that have been adapted into the structures of oppression and remain ingrained in former colonies of the British Empire and within the structures of power within British society. There has been no process of reckoning for the atrocities of empire and the complicity of the church in the UK, therefore there has been no reconciliation or forgiveness because the past has been suppressed to meet the needs of the present for those who maintain power and privilege. British society is very good at brushing things under the carpet, keeping a stiff upper lip, and masking its sins and failures. For the British elites and establishments to critically address British imperialism and to confess to its atrocities would lead to critical questions about those who maintain the power in this nation, and it is much easier to live in denial, excuse slavery, racism and exploitation, and to suggest it is simply a thing of the past, despite the Prime Minister openly rejoicing in its glory, and society becoming increasingly intolerant. Consequently the legacy of theological education remains Eurocentric and rooted in the imperial idealism of the empire and its church, meaning the ways in which we have historically contemplated God and reasoned with our place and purpose on earth has been understood through the lens of the white ruling class in this country and this too often remains unchallenged. As not all theological educators and students are content with discussions of identity, racism, and patriarchy in theology, with some ridiculing theologies of liberation including feminist and black theologies, and others more subtly choosing to keep such discourses off reading lists and modules. The Mud Flower Collective of theological educators
in the USA, a group of feminist and womanist scholars, outlined that those who ridicule such theologies, “are those who have sizable investment in holding the power in place in prevailing patterns of social organisation – often those who are already holders in institutional power...”8 The same applies in the context of the UK where theological truths and methods are maintained by the custodians of knowledge and the views of those on the periphery are not trusted or respected. This epistemic struggle therefore demands a rethinking of theological education in the shadow of empire and in the midst of patriarchy, racism, classism and heteronormativity, in order to gather the untrusted insights of the oppressed and contemplate God in resistance and solidarity. To do so requires a conscious awakening to the interrelated narratives of struggle – where theological education must situate itself in the histories of racial violence, interreligious intolerance, sexism and LGTBQ hatred and abuse. Awakening to such struggles enables a challenging of the systems of knowledge that have enabled such violence and subjugation to occur, the systems that have said ‘trust in the white, straight, middle-class priest’ but not in the othered. The system that has enabled and justified centuries of theological oppression and abuse. As “there’s no such thing as neutral education. Education either functions as an instrument to bring about conformity or freedom.”9 For the theological educator that does not seek social transformation for the oppressed, their interest lies in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.”10 In other words, ‘educating’ the oppressed to accept the white, heterosexual, patriarchal, middle class way of thinking and being. A tool used by the missionaries during colonial rule in order to infiltrate the colonised mind with Victorian norms and ideals. For the liberal theological educator they give off the impression of promoting diversity, adding a seat at the table for one scholar of colour and a few spaces for white middle class women, in order to suggest that transformation has occurred. Yet in reality this is tokenism in diversity used to appease the conscience of the liberal educator whilst maintaining the status quo. This way trust in the knowledge that they profess and their social status remains intact within the system that granted them their powers. The theological educator that believes in a life-flourishing and life-affirming education believes in emancipatory education, a theological education that is in itself an act of liberation – not oppression and control. Where the theological educator enters into affirmative spaces of dialogue and enables transformative contemplations on God where students are able to be truly critical and conscious of their own identities and being. In doing so, they are committed to structural analysis and institutional change.
Towards a Life-Affirming Theological Education Christianity is a radical faith, its Scriptures speak of resistance and revolution, and its disciples are called on to be countercultural, to take up the cross and resist the oppressive systems that killed their Messiah. Our theological education must then be radical if it is to be Christ-like and life flourishing. To be radical is to be committed to human liberation, it requires a curriculum and pedagogies that are not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. One that is not afraid to meet the people or enter into dialogue with them and it must be aware of the context in which seeks to form people in their education and ministry. In the context of the UK this means acknowledging that our missional and theological history has been rooted in the complexities of the legacies of war, slavery and occupation. And it requires acknowledging the context of today, one of global inequality, where we are at times capable of drowning out the cries of the poor, the plight of the refugees and those who suffer the most from climate change - another link on the shackle of colonisation. And, of course, I write today during a global pandemic, that is fuelling existing inequalities. As alongside COVID-19, what runs rampage around the world is a virus of inequality, one that plunders our planet for profit that comes in the suit of a lobbyist calling for tax cuts for the rich and the privatisation of healthcare for the poor. One that violates a person’s right to the fullness of life, denies reparations for slavery and colonialism, and manipulates the spread of a global pandemic to fill the pockets of the billionaires. A theological curriculum that is life flourishing is therefore dialogical as it involves addressing the history of colonialism whilst acknowledging embedded colonial norms, where whiteness and patriarchy continue to oppress the colonialised. It challenges cultures of dehumanisation and impunity and gives focus to the indigenous theology and theologies of liberation born out of struggles and resistance. A theological education that focuses on being life flourishing like the Canaanite woman subverts the master’s tools and challenges notions of theology and mission that are imposed from a position of privilege, power and possession, by addressing such power dynamics. It must also resist the temptation to embed itself in the safety of the academy and in doing so distance itself from the reality of the struggles of the people.
Dr Eve Parker, MTh, MLitt, PhD (University of St Andrews) is a feminist theologian in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University. Her recent publications include Theologising with the Sacred 'Prostitutes' of South India: Towards an Indecent Dalit Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2021). She is also currently working on a book entitled: Trust in Theological Education (London: SCM , 2022).
John Gascogne, “Introduction: Religion and Empire, an Historiographical Perspective”, Journal of Religious History Vol. 32, No. 2 (2008): 159-178, 164.
See, Dirk Michel-Schertges, “Free Choice of Education? Capabilities, Possibility Spaces, and Incapabilities of Education, Labor, and the Way of Living One Values”, in Facing Trajectories from School to Work: Towards a Capability-Friendly Youth Policy in Europe eds. Roland Atzműller et al. (Switzerland: Springer, 2015): 73-87, 77.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 47.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 45.
See, Anthony Reddie, “Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness”, Religions, 11, 497 (2020): 1-17, 6.
Marilyn Naidoo, “Racism, whiteness and transformation: reforming the space of theological education in South Africa”, International Academy of Practical Theology Conference Series, (2019): 168-175, 169.
Marilyn Naidoo, “Racism, whiteness and transformation: reforming the space of theological education in South Africa”, International Academy of Practical Theology Conference Series, (2019): 168-175, 169.
Katie G. Cannon et al. God’s Fierce Whimsy: Christian Feminism and Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1985), 12.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 34.
Simone de Beauvoir, La Pensée de Droite, Aujord’hui (Paris); ST, El Pensamiento politico de la Derecha (Buenos Aires, 1963), 34.
INSiGHT | April 2021
Rise and irritate By Jione Havea
Easter also constricts. For instance, the season and
celebration of Easter constricts how we understand CWM’s theme – “Rising to Life with Christ” – making us think that we should understand it in relation to resurrection. In other words, Easter makes us understand “rising to life” in terms of “rising from death.” In the big talanoa (story, telling, conversation) of Jesus of Nazareth, on the other hand, rising to life is also about rising up from illness (healing), rising up from poverty (economic injustice), rising up from old teachings (tradition, heritage), rising up from corruption, from oppression, from unhopefulness, from hypocrisy and from several other struggles. Beyond Easter, the CWM theme becomes inviting. As such, in this instalment i muse around the theme in the vibrations of two other calls to rise – in the beats of reggae, and in the verses of womanism.
Stand Up “Stand Up” is one of reggae’s signature songs. That is to say that this is one of the songs that any artist needs to sing in order to be considered as one who does (real) reggae, and many reggae artists dub and remix it into new versions (as one would expect).
The full title of the original song is “Get Up, Stand Up” written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and first appeared on the Wailers’ album Burnin’ (1973). The original lyrics are very powerful: Marley and Tosh were critical of the “Preacher man” who teach that “heaven is under the earth” and that “God will come from the sky [to] take away everything.” For Marley and Tosh, that Preacher man “don’t know what life is really worth.” On the contrary, those who know what life is really worth will look for heaven on earth. To know this part of the story is to “see the light” and this is the context for the chorus: Get Up, Stand Up, stand up for your right Get Up, Stand Up, don’t give up the fight I understand the call by Marley and Tosh to be a communal call, for everyone to rise up together for “your” (plural) right. All as one. Together. That is the spirit of reggae, calling out both systemic oppression as well as the Preacher wo/men who mislead the people. The communal aspect of reggae may not be heard in contexts where individualism is preached and preferred – that is, contexts where everything is about “my self.” In some ways, modern projects that hide behind the label of human rights have fallen into this trap – one fights for one’s own rights, for “my” rights, but not for the rights of the collective. Individualism is against the philosophy of “I and I” (a RastafarI equation for the oneness of Jah/God with humanity) and the theology of “solidarity” (preached in Liberation theology).
Because of the temptation of individualism, i appreciate the rendition of Stand Up by Caribbean Pulse (2001). The Marley and Tosh song is remixed through the voice of someone sitting in solitude, thinking of what’s going on to the people—“they living in so much poverty and self destruction,” on the “path of hopelessness.” To rise out of such unhopeful situations, two things are needed: “one love in Jah love” and “come together as one for real.” The communal drive of this remix is repeated in the chorus: We got to fight for the struggle I say we gonna stand up together The struggle, according to the Caribbean Pulse remix, includes the absence of truth, living day by day, living for tomorrow, trust in fast money, and mass corruptions among the youth – who are “the endangered species of our race.” But truth be told, among the youth also are “the mothers of creation.” There are other teachings in this remix, but i draw attention here to the affirmation of solidarity and collectivism. In light of CWM’s theme, this reggae remix invites us to think that “rising to life” (read: the struggle) is attainable when we stand up together. The truth might be in heaven, but the struggle and the solution are on earth – among the mothers of creation.
As a womanist activist, Angelou’s “I” is collective and advocating. This aspect is clearly stated in the closing lines of Still I Rise: “I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.” Angelou brings the gifts of her ancestors and she rises not for herself alone, but for the slave. I begin with the end of Angelou’s poem because, in the context of CWM’s theme, it asks of us a critical question – What do we do after we rise? It is not enough to simply rise to life; we should rise to (do) something. Angelou was ready to rise, and she was clear for whom she rises – for the slave. With that clarity, nothing could stop her. Her rise could not be stopped by bitter, twisted lies; not by trotting boots; not by shooting words; and definitely not by the cutting eyes of hatefulness. Like dust, and like air, like moons and suns, and like tides, Angelou was unstoppable – “I rise.” Angelou puts into words the courage of those who, in the face of struggle, will not give up. The determination to not go down, but to rise and rise and rise, would irritate the hell out of (her) tormentors. There are two points of irritations that i wish to highlight here. First, there is an economic point of irritation: Does my haughtiness offend you?
Still I Rise
Don’t you take it awful hard
Maya Angelou (1928–2014) was a phenomenal woman. Her talanoa spans from the streets among civil rights activists to libraries and the big screen, influencing young and old, hip hop and many other hops of life. She has written many poems, but the one close to the drive of this reflection is Still I Rise (1994).
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. This verse echoes what she says in the second verse, in which she knows that her sassiness would upset the tormenters “‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in
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my living room.” Against White slave owners, Angelou walked and laughed on behalf of Black slaves who refuse to go down.
Rise in order to irritate and annoy ‘cause torment is not the final word
Second, there is also a queering point of irritation:
nor the final world.
Does my sexiness upset you?
At this intersection also, we do not wait for nor depend on someone to raise us up –
Does it come as a surprise
No no no
That I dance like I‘ve got diamonds
‘cause we rise together
At the meeting of my thighs? The economic irritation continues here with the reference to diamonds, but the sexual element should not be overlooked. Against White slave owners who sexually abused Black slaves, Angelou danced because “at the meeting of my thighs” is something precious. There are other readings of this sassy poem, but i highlighted the irritating elements as a platform for presenting these invitations. In the context of CWM’s theme, may we rise in order to irritate those who torment. But our rising, alone, is not enough. May we also collaborate to enable more and more tormented people to rise, for their own sake.
with gold, oil, and diamonds which are one another. At this intersection, finally, we rise as one so that – Easter no longer constricts and every day and every season may give breath for all souls and souls for all thighs.
Rising is irritating Beyond the constrictions of Easter, CWM’s theme can come to life. In this reflection, i drew on the inspirations from reggae’s remix and womanism’s sassiness. At the intersection of these inspirations, it is clear that rising is an opportunity to irritate tormentors and oppressors. At this intersection, we are purposeful with “Rising to life” –
SEEN & HEARD |
The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.
~ Peter Marshall
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22 April | Earth Day
The Earth is what we all have in common.
~ Wendell Berry
Standing in Solidarity with Myanmar 2021 CWM East Asia and South Asia Regions
In light of the sudden political developments in Myanmar, an hour-long solidarity and prayer meeting was facilitated for the CWM global family to pray for Myanmar on 24 March 2021. Rev. Dr Collin Cowan delivered a welcome address, following which each of the East Asia region church leadership and CWM’s Partners in Mission contributed pre-recorded prayer of solidarity in support of the people of Myanmar. The Presbyterian Church of Myanmar’s (PCM) General Secretary, Women Secretary and youth representative were given a space to share through pre-recorded speeches and a live sharing segment where they presented insightful updates on the situation. The meeting was attended by more than sixty participants from around the world, including the CWM Moderator Rev. Lydia Neshangwe, Rev. Dr Collin Cowan, CWM Directors, East and South Asia church leadership and their Synod member and staff, CWM Partners in Mission, CWM staff members and other partners and friends across the regions. There was an interactive session during which participants were assigned into six small groups led by CWM staff, where everyone joined in prayer for Myanmar with the intention of standing together to seek an end to violence and suffering, and for peace and order to be restored. Standing in the gap and in solidarity with PCM and the people of Myanmar, the meeting identified several key areas for prayer and intercession: Nationwide ceasefire A strong government that engages in healthy politics Justice, peace and order will descend upon Myanmar True democracy and true freedom to be restored Safety and security of the people of Myanmar, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups Unity and reconciliation among the people of Myanmar, regardless of races ethnicity and status. God’s healing and hope for the people of Myanmar Let us all continue to stand together in solidarity with Myanmar and pray for a quick end to the people’s struggle and suffering, and for peace and order to be restored soon. We pray for the Church to be a shining beacon of hope to all amidst this confounding darkness. Amen. 56
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MOTHER NATURE by Michael Mc Gregor, Guyana Congregational Union
When the word green is mentioned the word nature usually follows but the understanding of this term to the average person is shallow So many questions can be asked about these pictures but first we need to understand “What is nature?” It can be referred to as the phenomena of the physical world Also everything, in and around that exists The earth is shaped as a ball from a distance, From a very far distance that our activities as human beings, Have separated us from Genesis Most of man’s activities disrupt the natural order For nature, nurtures her own way of life; her own culture Instead of blending with the natural green Mankind is mostly concerned about the printed green Life is no longer about its need but, it’s about greed The natural green has everything to satisfy our needs Greed tempts us daily to tamper and destroy Mother’s beauty How ironic that when the iron strikes hot the results are cold Companies usually hold press conferences to claim the consequences were unknown The consequences of our current advancements are inescapable Destruction of coral reefs and oil spills Deforestation and Global warming Now, we are here patching this dysfunctional relationship Hopefully, these green initiatives can help us from sinking We should be thankful for scientists who go beyond the procedures To help human beings connect closer to Mother Nature Painting a safer and cleaner picture of human advancement And a lifestyle which is contributing to Mother’s development
This poem first appeared in the April 2019 issue of INSiGHT.
TAKE A LOOK |
Voices of Lament, Hope, and Courage
A Week of Prayer in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic Edited by: Marianne EjderstenAlbin HillertDr Manoj KurianRev. Dr Odair Pedroso MateusRev. Dr Mikie RobertsRev. Dr Benjamin SimonLyn van Rooyen
To commemorate a year since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, the World Council of Churches provides this resource for a week of prayer. This book was designed as a resource for use in prayer groups, congregational services, personal prayer, and in the pastoral accompaniment of those directly affected in different ways by the pandemic. The prayers, messages, reflections, statistics and WCC resources have roots in faith challenged by mourning, fear and uncertainty in different contexts worldwide. For more details, visit - https://bit.ly/2PilJXJ
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Constance - Pioneer, Pastor, Preacher Edited by the Rev Dr Janet Wootton – is a celebration of pioneers – of one in particular: the Revd Constance Coltman, but also many wonderful pioneers in our own day, women and men.
The book is published by the United Reformed Church (URC) on behalf of the Council for World Mission, the Congregational Federation and the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women. Constance Coltman was one of the first women to be ordained to Christian ministry in Britain. Lydia Neshangwe, Moderator of the Council for World Mission 2020-24, the first woman to serve in this role, adds: "The legacy of her courage is a perpetual challenge to the many churches who are yet to embrace the ordination of women." For more details, visit - https://bit.ly/3rw4Qpx
On The Way To School Follow four children from diversely different backgrounds, cultures and way of life who shares a similar predicament when it comes to navigating their way to their institution of learning. They face a long and arduous journey that sets them back daily, especially with the mode of transport that gets them there, something the modern and privileged world is very unfamiliar of. From Kenya, Argentina, Morocco and India, these children open our eyes to the convenience they lack but the extraordinary determination they possess, just to receive the education they need. https://bit.ly/3137cBy
Girl Rising The film looks at the lives of 9 resilient girls, all from developing countries, overcoming daily adversities and seemingly impossible obstacles in order to be educated and informed. This powerful glimpse into their lives gives as an unforgettable perspective of what we’ve always taken for granted of, which is the gift and power of when education can do for our lives.
Surviving COVID: Behind each statistic lies a human story It’s hard for some to understand the devastation, pain and suffering of what COVID-19 has brought unto those who have experienced it and who have felt the brunt of the epidemic which floored the economy of the world and the way of life of its inhabitants. Here, we look at the real, raw and personal insights of those unfortunate to have contracted the deadly virus, how severely it has affected them in their health and well bring, and how their families had to do to deal with it. Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times Achieving sustainable development goals has been the aim of Nations United since its creation by the United Nations 75 years ago. In this presentation, it focuses on 4 major areas in which requires urgent solutions as our world Is plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are, Climate and our planet, Poverty and inequality, Justice and Human Rights and Gender Equality. Various artistes and celebrities lend their support to the movement, as Mr Forest Whitaker points out, “There’s power in every decision we make. We can shape society and the future of our planet and people in every choice we make.” https://bit.ly/3nKhmzP
The End of Poverty? Juxtaposing developed countries with those that are underdeveloped, it gets much easier to see how severely impoverished those people are, in their conditions due to poverty. Wealth which is not known by most in those parts of the world, makes one wonder if it’s plainly a bad situation which keeps the underclass growing in those parts of the world or is it a deliberate move of the rich and powerful, for control and exploitation? https://bit.ly/3r6Kbbx
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Real Value Real Value gives us an inside look at the true value of things in which we cannot live without in our daily lives. From the shirt on our backs to the fuel than runs our engines, could their value be priced beyond just dollars and cents? To purely profit driven businesses, do they realise the detrimental effects they have on our environment? Will business leaders be open in taking up sustainability measures if proven that their profits will not be compromised? Can businesses be synonymous with environmental responsibility and activism? https://bit.ly/3s6SAwB
Thank You for The Rain This film took over 5 years to shoot, it follows a modest, small scale farmer in Kenya and how he turned into a globally inspiring climate activist. Through the masterfully filmed footages of the Kenyan landscape, Kisilu managed to capture the damages of what and how climate change has done to his home and affected his family.
13th The painful injustices of America’s racial history appear to have no boundaries. The exploitation and unjust treatment of Black Americans is also alive and well within the high walls of the high security prisons in the United States. The documentary allows the viewers to understand how slavery of the old has evolved into a systemic issue of racism where Black people are kept repressed and afraid as their rights are not the same as their White counterparts, and how it has been taken from them. Easily persecuted and thrown into the slammer even for crimes they did not commit. https://bit.ly/2PcZAtg
Taiwan: China's next target? “Despite China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour both at home and abroad, Beijing’s open threat to take control of Taiwan by force is receiving comparatively little attention – leaving this flourishing liberal democracy uniquely isolated and vulnerable. The threat may be far more imminent than many imagine. According to Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu “the Chinese authoritarian leaders may find Taiwan as a convenient scapegoat. Therefore Taiwan needs to be doubly concerned about a possible Chinese use of force against us.”” https://bit.ly/3f38epm
Every Three Seconds A child dies from hunger due to extreme poverty every 3 seconds in the developing countries. The documentary is about the people who have decided that they are done with listening to such grim statistics, and are taking up the task to end hunger and extreme poverty everywhere, which goes to show that there never really is a problem too big one cannot solve; you just need your will and determination and stand for what you believe in. https://bit.ly/3tHaruw
YOUR SAY |
HAPPINESS: A PERSONAL REFLECTION By Hadje Sadje
Happy? My partner asked me when I finally see the ‘See-through Church’ or ‘Doorkijkkerk’ of Borgloon, Belgium. But why I should be happy? In 2011, the two young Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenberg designed and constructed the Doorkijkkerk (Argyriades, 2011). It was built as a traditional local chapel but, uniquely, a transparent church. It is made of steel (100 steel sheets) weighing a colossal 30 tons (Argyriades, 2011). Purposively, Gijs and Van Vaerenberg separated the 100 steel sheets so that the landscape around can always been visible, from inside and outside---BRILLIANT! (Argyriades, 2011). Perhaps, for my partner this is the reason why I should be happy, but deep inside me, I am searching for happiness, not just being happy. I believe that is not what happiness means. I felt this battle in me. Of course, it is very important to live in the present moment, and be happy every single day. However, many positive psychologists argue, being happy is not the same as happiness. For them, being happy is a product of short-term events (momentarily), while happiness is a product of meaningful life events (Goodman et al., 2017). When we travelled back home, I was remained haunted by the questions, what is happiness? how can I find happiness? and what is happiness means in the age of covid? As might be expected, various people response to these questions in different ways. Yet, many people find it hard to realise happiness in troubling times, for example, in the midst of COVID-19. Today, an extreme preoccupation with happiness. In fact, happiness became a philosophical, psychological, and cultural obsessions (Gregoire, 2014). This become evident that there are hundreds, even thousands of self-help books that will help people find happiness (de Merwe and Johannes, 292-293). While there are many different understandings of happiness, happiness is generally linked to experiencing more positive feelings than negative. For many, it is difficult to experience authentic happiness while people experiencing anxious and no peace. In short, happiness with sadness and pains has no meaning. Conventionally, happiness constitute feeling of joy (personal strivings), satisfaction, contentment (materialistic and non-materialistic aspirations), and fulfilment (Nesse and Williams, 1994). For example, many people believe that if a person spend more time with friends and family, it makes a big difference to how happy we feel. Others argue that if a person attained his/her dream, one can live a truly happy life. While some believe that people have to be rich and famous to become happy in life. Or perhaps, millennials assert that traveling around the world makes them a happier person. But when a person defined happiness too individualistic (“I don’t give a shit” or “I don’t give a fuck”) over sense of community, I believe, it leads to a path of self-destruction. In his book titled, Happiness (2019), a French philosopher, Alain Badiou problematises the concept of happiness. For Badiou, our concept of happiness must seek to move away from egoistic, capitalistic, and economic functions. For Badiou, happiness is not about getting what you want, everything is perfect, and pleasurable. Badiou argues that happiness is risk-taking experience because it asks how to change the world (89). It is a risky task, as Badiou argues, that may lead to social change or social transformation (41-42). Badiou writes, ‘...happiness is not the possibility of the satisfaction of everyone. Happiness is not the abstract idea of a good society in which everyone is satisfied’ (89). Happiness is about more than individual attainment and pleasure. In other words, people are more likely to become unhappy because injustices everywhere. Happiness arises to challenge innumerable injustices against the poor, weak, and marginalised groups. More importantly, happiness sought to promote the service to others, public commitment, and common good---Change the World.
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Although philosophy and theology have diverse and often opposite views of happiness (Verhoef, 2018), I believe that Badiou’s concept of happiness conglomerates of what the Scripture view of happiness. Like Badiou’s concept of happiness, what biblical view of happiness brought to believer’s life was allowing themselves to feel connected to the pain of the world. Jesus said: Blessed (Happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed (Happy) are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed (Happy) are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed (Happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed (Happy) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed (Happy) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed (Happy) are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed (Happy) are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5: 1-12). Although overwhelmingly the bible translators preferred the word ‘blessed’, it can be also be translated as ‘happy’ (The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 2003). Moreover, for Christ, it is impossible to serve God at the same time and ignore God’s call to care for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups. He argues that happiness is found in serving others, especially the poor, weak, and the marginalised groups. He wanted his disciples to meet a single person who is needy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with personal achievement (Western bias of individualism). Yet one of the best ways of discovering happiness is by contributing to the happiness of our fellow human beings and society. Happiness is realised, as Christ shows, if our care for the most vulnerable group is tantamount to the way we serve God. This radical call may involve personal sacrifices of goals and aspirations. In fact, Christ demands his disciples to lay down their lives for others (1 John 3: 11-24). It does not sound very good, but that is what happiness means for Christ. In short, that is the cost of discipleship. In his famous book titled The Cost of Discipleship (1948), Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ---suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death---we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god---fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die (44). Alive, Alive, Alive Forevermore! My Jesus is Alive Forevermore!
REFLECTION ON UCCSA’s THEME
REACHING NEW FRONTIERS: HOPE & HEALING 50 YEARS AND BEYOND By Motsilisi Morobe
The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) adopted the theme “Reaching New Frontiers: Hope and Healing” in 2017 ahead of and in celebration of its 50th celebration since the Congregational Union of South Africa, London Missionary Society and the Bantu Congregational Church of the American Board had joined together in 1967 to form the UCCSA. The theme encompasses some sentiments of the past, future and present challenges, opportunities and achievements of the UCCSA. With hope and healing, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that the coming together of the UCCSA in 1967 was a direct violation of racial segregation laws of South Africa at that time. All the joining member churches did lose members who were not ready to be in a mixed-race church. It also lost some of those who were xenophobic as the union meant that the so-called “foreigners” would be part of the church. It is my understanding that segregation laws were abolished but scars of the people never healed. It is also my understanding that no African can be a foreigner on African soil; but this view of being “foreigner” was given to us by the scramble for Africa era and nurtured by our colonial masters. It is a view that has outlasted its creators. Racial and xenophobic scars sit upon our members. Not everyone can heal on their own. During apartheid, in South Africa, many local churches have had to give up properties and land. As an institution we have had to walk away from schools such as Tiger Kloof, hospitals such as Livingston and at some point, we were at the brink of losing heritage sites such as Moffat Mission. We later lost Joseph Wing. These are injuries that have hindered our missional heritage and capacity; and also impacted opportunities to make means for mission. In the 80s Zimbabwe went to what we today know as Gukurahundi. It was a terrible time that split the nation as the national army intentionally targeted and brutally killed Ndebele civilians. These are some of the scars that our members in Zimbabwe have. There are those who have healed and those who have not. Those who were directly affected and those who were indirectly affected. One can only assume that it also split the church because to my knowledge there is no Shona-speaking UCCSA. I am also uncertain about the acceptance of Shona-speaking members within our church in Zimbabwe. These make one question the commitment of the church to issues of peace, reconciliation and justice in Zimbabwe. Perhaps there have been attempts to do mission among the Shona-speaking people before Gukurahundi. Perhaps there are reconciliatory programmes that the church as a whole has been involved in. Perhaps the current political and economic state of Zimbabwe is not a result of their past hurts. Perhaps the Zimbabwe synod is not left to fend for themselves in this difficult time. As I type this, Mozambique is going through extreme youth radicalisation which was earlier said to be ISIS operating within the country. But the pattern is different, they are doing a religious cleansing which is not specific to any religion as though they are trying to wipe out religion completely. These are scars that are affecting our members both directly or indirectly. In the 80s when the country had a civil war, it also caused different types of scars that have affected our members. Some people have lost loved ones while others lost their homes. It does not end there; Mozambique is prone to natural disasters. There is so much healing that needs to happen there. The church can do better. We have a heritage of public service and building each other up; we can do definitely better.
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So, to hope is to look forward to a place where as a church, we have overcome the national borders, tribalism, racism, classism, xenophobia and other boundaries that limit our missional efforts. To heal is to deal with our past and anything in it that still causes us pain. It is to be reconciled to ourselves and each other in order to rightfully take our place in the Missio Dei without dragging along any hindrances. It is not an easy task but with God as our help, we will and we can. To reach new frontiers we must first be certain that we have crossed the old frontiers. We must get to a place where we speak of equity in all aspects of the church instead of equality. A small synod must have an equitable piece and so must a large synod. Gender must be equitable in all respects, regardless of sexual orientation. We must be in a place where all our children go to bed with full stomachs regardless of our backgrounds or areas of work. These are frontiers that my observation tells me we still have to cross. For now, we are hoping and healing. Thereafter, having settled across those frontiers and having dealt with our pain and scars we can begin to move. As a church created for unity out of unity; to continue where we left off. To continue to seek unity with those with whom we share ancestral missional links, such as Angola and the likes. Then turn to seek unity with others; such efforts as this have previously led us to the beautiful work done by the Church Unity Commission. Proving that we do not have to merge with everyone but seek to work with many to fulfil our covenant and work towards the building up of the Body of Christ together with others as the Church. Then get to a point where once again as Congregationalists in Southern Africa, we publicly express our voice in issues of peace and justice for the benefit of our members and all of God’s people without waiting upon others to speak first. Only then can I as an individual agree that we are reaching new frontiers. We once broke South Africa’s segregation laws for the greater good, we definitely can move mountains.
Note: The segregation laws and bylaws of South Africa included but were no limited to laws that forbade different skin colours(races) from living in the same area, getting married to each other, sitting in one chair together, eating at the same restaurants, worshiping together, and other types of segregation. Disposition of land was also part of these laws. Although apartheid was the highest form of racism legally practiced, it was not the first action in South Africa to attempt racial segregation.
Motsilisi Morobe is a former CWM Young Women Enabling Transformation (YWET) Programme participant and is currently pursuing a Masters in Theology under CWM’s Academic Accompaniment Programme (AAP).
WHEN THE OLD CHURCH REOPENS:
HOW WILL CHURCHES LOOK LIKE AFTER THE PANDEMIC? By Sindiso Jele, Council for World Mission
The concept of the ‘Old Church’ is an attempt to locate the missiological mandate of the church before the pandemic and as it continues in the context of the pandemic. The idea of the church re-opening is premised on how it responds and or responded to the pandemic. Measuring the impact of COVID-19 is relative, contextual and depends on the subject area and the intentions of the assessment. I will avoid the fallacy of assuming that what is true with the fraction is true with the whole – that is theological carelessness and a luxury as a mission practitioner I cannot afford. The article is divided into two: the impact of the COVID on the church and the church after the lockdown (when the ‘Old’ church re-opens).
Impact of the COVID-19 Firstly, churches depend on offerings from members. Now that members no longer have income, the churches’ economy is impacted. Also as it is during the fellowship where the collection is received to support the life and work of the church. What it means is that churches in developing countries will now turn to those in developed countries to seek funding for mission programmes and social responsibility. Secondly, the world’s current focus is on the COVID-19 vaccine. The question that Africa is dealing with is: ‘Who gets it and when’ This question exposes the economic inequality in the body of Christ. When I grew up, I was taught the African proverb: ‘When the sun rise, it will shine first on the taller trees.’ This is what will happen in the rollout programme of vaccination here in Africa. The Church is defined as one institution that thrives on fellowship, physical support, and presence. Lockdown has created a mentality of individualism, and thus the Bible is no longer read as a community book with community narratives. Fellowship and physical support are areas in which churches are impacted negatively in Africa and the world over. Most people in Africa go to church for fellowship and social support, where the elders would always say: ‘When I die, who will bury me?’ Now, even if one is sick or bereaved, no one from the Church will visit due to the lockdown, or fear of COVID transmission. This has had a negative impact on mental health, especially among the elderly, who feel neglected, isolated and lonely. People are losing close relatives and friends due to COVID-19 and the Church is not there to give physical support or grief counselling. And there are some also who believe that if they are sick and the minister doesn’t lay hands on them, they will not be healed. Prohibiting this simple physical act has affected them not just spiritually but also mentally. This is another way in which churches are affected. Theology is a community project that speaks about how people have a conversation with God. As such, the conversation with God, in the context of COVID-19, has emerged with new grammar. One of the notable example is ‘being a church’ in the context of COVID-19, where the ecclesiology of the global Church has always been defined in terms of physical and spiritual presence of the membership. Now, people read the Bible and pray as individuals, not as a community, meaning that being a church, in this pandemic, is being redefined.
An excerpt of this article first appeared in Reform Magazine produced by the United Reformed Church (URC) which provides fresh perspectives on theology, personal spirituality and Christian viewpoints on current affairs. Visit https://www.reform-magazine.co.uk for more info.
Choosing between death and death: A COVID-19 reflection by Rev Sindiso Jele https://www.cwmission.org/choosing-between-death-and-death-a-covid-19-reflection-from-sindiso-jele/
INSiGHT | April 2021
When the OLD church reopens Re-opening is an attempt to describe the future of the church in relation to the pandemic. In my former INSiGHT article titled “choosing being death and death” 2, I based my reflection on my experience of the lockdown subsequent to COVID-19. There I painted the picture of how the people were affected, especially the poor communities, with soldiers were deployed among them. People had to choose between staying indoors and dying of hunger, or going out to face possible exposure of COVID-19 and the guns facing its citizens. I built my submission on this line again, when the church emerges after the lockdown must:
The church pay attention to the emerging grammar, e.g. ‘NEW NORMAL’. This concept can be misleading and non-progressive in the public and prophetic theology. It may be read to suggest that things need to go where they were before the pandemic. A situation that would not be accepted who were finding it difficult. This would mean normalising the un-normal. As the church emerges after the COVID-19 related lockdown, it must challenge the missiological glass ceiling. This refers to a belief that the church has reached height of their mission calling. This calls for the visit to the trans-Jordan theology, how would the church look like on the other side of the crisis. The COVID19 must be taken as one of the live-denying situations - not ‘the’ but one of ‘the’. This would help the church not to lose focus on other life-denying situations, such as economic injustices, climate change, and gender-based violence (GBV). The church must not take its eyes off the ball. If it all it must use the pandemic as one of the hermeneutical keys to interpret these lives denying situations of economic injustice, and GBV, both in the context of COVID. This provides an opportunity to see the crisis in the context of the marginalised.
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