In 2013 the Institute for Research and Social Analysis (now called the Research and Social Analysis Programme under the Institute for Mission and Research) of the Pacific Theological College in Suva has been mandated by the PTC Council and the General Assembly of PCC to undertake a regional research project under the title Strengthening ecumenical relations in Oceania.
Project Period: 01.02.2014 – 31.08.2017
Project Background: Looking at the churches in the Pacific Islands one cannot help but recognize that most of them are – for a variety of reasons – ill prepared to cope with problems deriving from rapid social change as a result of globalisation. A former moderator of the Pacific Conference of Churches, the late Catholic Archbishop Patelisio Finau stated 20 years ago that “there seems to be apathy and frustration with a seeming lack of progress of ecumenism. In general the clergy and church leaders are too busy with maintenance that they forget about mission and ecumenism.” These words, written 20 years ago, describe very much the situation today. In summary it can be said that upon the Pacific churches rests a great responsibility for meeting the challenge of rapid social change. The fulfilment of their responsibilities requires nothing less than a thorough review of their life and actions. They need to discover new ways and patterns of witness and service relevant to the context of their people. Therefore, ecumenism in the 21st Century must find fresh forms of expression, new avenues to overcome divisions, and inspiring vision that spiritually engages the churches and its members to confront the sometimes brutal facts. The main question that motivates this application to carry out research is “How could ecumenical cooperation contribute to address and help to solve the manifold problems Pacific Island communities are facing today?”
Project Objective: To examine the current situation of ecumenism in Oceania and provide impulses for the renewal and strengthening of ecumenical cooperation concerning:
(a) matters of church life and unity and
(b) socio-cultural, political, economic, ecological and gender issues
Project Team: Prof. Dr. Manfred Ernst (Retired Director IRSA & editor), Rev. Prof. Dr. Fele Nokise (PTC Principal and Researcher), Aisake Casimira (Current Director IMR), Mrs. Glenine Hamlyn (Research Consultant), Mrs. Katia Tupaia (Field research), Mr. Eckart Garbe (Research Consultant), Mr. Luaao Leasiolagi (Field Research), Rev. Dr. Gaston Marama Tauira (Reasearch Consultant), Lydia Johnson (Editor)
Project area: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Kiribati, Maohi Nui.
Project Partners Overseas: Bread for the World (Germany), Methodist Church UK, Missio (Germany), EMW (Germany), Mission One World (Germany), Council for World Mission.
Local partners: Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC)
UPCOMING RESEARCH: “Reweaving the Ecological Mat”
Project period: March 2017 – March 2020
Project Background: The ecological crisis the world is faced with today is not simply about the environment and its ecosystems. It is fundamentally about the whole of life and the linkages between the human community, development and the environment. It also points out the uncomfortable scenario that the ‘ecological crisis’ the world and in particular, the Pacific, is facing now cannot be solved by scientific and technical knowledge, and more and more money, alone; it urgently needs the contribution of indigenous and faith-based ecological frameworks (knowledge, ethics, and practices) to finding alternative solutions to our developmental issues.
The disturbing, yet challenging lesson is that the Pacific and more so, for the faith-based Christian organizations such as the churches, cannot afford to deny the gravity of the emerging ecological (and developmental) crisis. This project, which follows up on the findings of the ecumenical relations project, then is about the disruptions in the ecological balance between and within the human communities and their natural environment. The problems highlighted above indicate this fissure. It is also an attempt by the faith-based Christian organizations to collectively act to address these fissures in the ecological relationships. This will require fundamental changes to developmental and lifestyle ethics, and for the faith-based Christian communities, a fundamental review of their mandate, content and strategies on development.
One of the key concepts in this project and which links the faith-based mandates on development and leadership with these ecological and developmental issues is ‘stewardship’. In its broad meaning, stewardship is about the care of people and the care of the environment. This concept is based on an understanding that the ‘ecology’ is the way things relate and are integrated to make the home work. Stewardship, then, is the proper and prudent management of the home. In the Pacific, the home means and includes the natural environment, and the norms that govern a community’s relationship with it. Therefore, addressing the ecological and developmental issues, by implication, also means addressing the ecological frameworks of Pacific island communities, and the leadership and governance of the faith-based Christian communities, and their stewardship responsibilities. These are based on the religious understanding that creation is God’s gift to humanity and as such, we are not absolute owners but custodians of God’s gift. It is in this respect that faith-based Christian organisations have a leading role to play – internally among themselves and, with the social and governmental institutions. The task is to articulate and advocate habits of prudent stewardship and ecologically sound indicators, which is mandatory to ensuring the ecological well-being and wholeness of their people and communities.
In addition, as seen the 1960s, 70s and 80s when the faith-based Christian organisations pushed for the decolonisation of the Pacific island countries, active and ecumenical relations among the faith communities today can make significant and valuable contributions to an ecological (and developmental) framework that encapsulates the stewardship ideals briefly explained above. This is through strengthening their ecumenical leadership potentials and through a fundamental review of their mandate, content and strategies on development.
Project Objective: A regional missiological movement of Christian faith-based organisations and civil society groups are demonstrating a strong commitment in analysis, advocacy and community education on sustainable and ecologically sound development that is informed by sound missiological and ecological frameworks within their organisations and their governments.
Project team: Pacific Theological College and Pacific Conference of Churches
Project area: Pacific region – Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Maohi Nui.
Project financing partners: BftW – Germany, KAIROS – Canada, EMW – Germany, Pacific Conference of Churches.
The Social Analysis component under the Institute includes the following: –
1. We offer Social Analysis capacity building trainings/workshops as:
– Professional Development
– Undergraduate Certificate (Accredited)
- Conduct regional analysis of key socio-economic and related environmental issues which is integrated into other capacity building and research activities of the Institute
- Maintain and update a Pacific regional “vital statistics” database (includes relevant church statistics)
- Advocate and act for social justice in our region