17 June 2024

Indigenous theologians set to challenge Churches to hard conversations

Professor Anne Pattel-Gray. Picture: supplied.

Jenan Taylor

30 April 2023

Australian church leaders of all denominations will for the first time have the opportunity to gain insights into Indigenous theological perspectives at an upcoming First Nations theology conference.

Organisers at the University of Divinity said the inaugural Raising our Tribal Voice for Justicean Indigenous Theological Revolution conference aimed to stir non-Indigenous participants to engage with First Nations spiritual perspectives and take action in their congregations to address injustices.

Head of the School of Indigenous Studies Anne Pattel-Gray said she wanted attendees to gain a strong sense of spirit of being one with First Nations people in defining a theological future that was restorative and just, and that tackled the difficult conversations that Australians needed to wrestle with.

Professor Pattel-Gray said that Indigenous theologies were relevant to the Australian context, and if Churches expected to preach the gospel today, they had to be able to do so in way that engaged with the context in which people lived.

Read more: Bible being used to subjugate Indigenous Australians: Pattel-Gray

But she said churches ought to be spaces where people were challenged to speak and live the truth and to act justly.

If people were not being challenged on those points, then they were not hearing the Gospel, Professor Pattel-Gray said.

She said listening to Indigenous theologies was also a path to redemption for the nation because it enabled Christians to gain insights into the truth about the injustices that Indigenous people experienced.

School of Indigenous studies lecturer and research fellow the Reverend Canon Garry Deverell said many conference attendees would for the first time hear Indigenous theology and see how different it was from colonial settler theology.

Read more: First Nations initiative set to inform diocese on Statement from the Heart, Voice to Parliament

Dr Deverell said justice, particularly with respect to land and sea, would be a major theme at the conference because of the First Nations’ experiences in Australia with the Church.

“We will be challenging the Church to go beyond words of apology and actually do justice by returning stolen lands, and bringing in positive policies regarding how Indigenous people are trained and positioned in the Church,” Dr Deverell said.

He said organisers had invited Church leaders across all denominations to be part of the conference and to respond at the end.

A range of First Nations theologists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands will speak at the four-day gathering, and journalist and Charles Sturt University Vice-chancellor’s Chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging Stan Grant will present the inaugural Anne Pattel-Gray lecture.

The conference will take place at St John’s Anglican Cathedral Brisbane from 10 to 13 July.

For further details, see here.

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