A Church in and for the South Pacific – by Jordan Redding

Redding

A piece of street art in Pape’ete, based on Paul Gaugain’s famous Woman and Fruit. Gaugain was a French artist famous for going to Tahiti and painting an idealised view of life there. This piece of art challenges the underlying worldview of Gaugain and the West more generally and asks questions of the future identity of South Pacific nations.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity, along with Rev Dr Tokerau Joseph to represent our Church at a Council for World Mission event in Pape’ete, Tahiti. The purpose of the gathering was to participate in a series of “street” bible studies that addressed mission, racism and colonisation in the South Pacific in relation to biblical texts.[1] We were very generously hosted by the Maohi Protestant Church, Etaretia Protetani Maohi (EPM). The studies explored a number of themes including the complicity of the London Missionary Society in the global slave trade; French nuclear testing in the South Pacific; and the reclamation of local indigenous identity and theologies.

Upon my return a friend jokingly remarked that I’m turning into a bit of an ecclesiastical junkie, meaning someone who takes advantage of available funding to go from ecumenical event to ecumenical event in order to see the world. He wasn’t serious, of course. And I’m increasingly aware of the carbon footprint associated with such trips. It raises the question though, why should the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand – our Church – continue to place emphasis on ecumenical relations and interdenominational mission? Can we justify the resource and environmental impact associated with these gatherings? And what do they really achieve anyway? Continue reading