2 March 2024

Indigenous spirituality gathering aims to help Christians echo truth and love

Jenan Taylor

5 February 2024

Christians have gathered at the first of an historic four-day conference to discuss Indigenous spiritual views, including of history, colonisation, justice, and ecology.

Raising our Tribal Voice for Justice: an Indigenous Theological Revolution aims to encourage participants to engage with insights about the oppression of First Peoples, and Australian churches role.

Speakers at the inaugural meeting include Queensland University academic Josephine Bourne, theologian Brooke Prentis, and Maori Evangelical Church leader Hohaia Matthews.

Organiser, University of Divinity school of Indigenous studies head Anne Pattel-Gray said she hoped participants would feel enabled to be involved with and lead truth, treaty and restitution negotiations.

“As Christians we’re called to lead this. We’re being obedient to the call. It’s our job. Anything less, we’re not Christians,” Professor Pattel-Gray said.

Keynote speaker Charles Sturt University chair of Indigenous/Australian Belonging Stan Grant encouraged Indigenous Christians to contemplate the power of silence, language, love, hope, truth and forgiveness.

Read more: Indigenous theologians set to challenge Churches to hard conversations

He urged people to be truly revolutionary as they prepared to raise their voice for justice, by adopting a voice of love and truth.

Professor Grant spoke of his Wiradjuri cultural and spiritual traditions and upbringing that helped inform his search for ways to speak that echoed truth and love.

For him, the Wiradjuri way demonstrated the essence of peace. It encouraged people who met in difference to learn to speak with each other.

“What is an Indigenous theological revolution? It is to me what it should be for Christians everywhere: A unity in God where we speak through our voices, our history, our cultures, that find an identity beyond identity,” Professor Grant said.

 “I do not need theology to make me Indigenous. I am blessed and steeped and secure in my Wiradjuri-ness, which opens me toward being in Christ, where my being is joined in unity with others.”

Read more: Community on the curriculum for Anglican teaching academics

Participant the Reverend Canon Dianne Langham said she hoped to get a few ideas at the meeting for talking to clergy about Aboriginal spirituality in the church.

A reconciliation director at the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle Canon Langham said she was trying to help point the Church, including at the parish level, away from persistent colonial attitudes.

“I realise we have a long way to go, and I think we have to not be afraid to push the boundaries,” Canon Langham said.

The conference runs until 8 February. For more details see here.

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