Q&A with ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS RT REVD DR Winston Halapua

I’d like to give thanks to God for this space and when you were kind to invite me. I thought of other places and this morning, and that is one of the things you will find out about me, the guidance of God is very clear. Its only this morning I said, why go to other places, go to the place that impact on you a lot. And that is why I say, this is God’s guidance to be here.

I grew up in a family, my Dad was a Minister and later on, the first Bishop in Tonga, and Assistant here in the Diocese of Polynesia. In that kind of background of a church family, your whole life is about churchy things. At the same time you think about your life and career. The first inspiration about my future came to be in the Navy. On my mother’s side, they are naval people. When we first out on school picnic, we went by boat. I stepped into the boat and I was seasick when the boat was still there, and that career went out the window. Then the next thing came, to be in the Army. Something totally different from the church but my friends wanted to join the ministry and some people said, ‘did you hear God say ‘join the church?’ Or I heard other answer, ‘I was called’ etc. No, my friends wanted to join the ministry and I joined them.

Who is Dr. Halapua? What were you liked as a child?

Dad was a Methodist, and his forebears were Roman Catholic. The Anglican Church wanted someone in Tonga, A Tongan, to involve in their school. The Vicar of the Anglican Church at the time went personally and invited Dad to join the school. It was through the years working in the school he joined the Anglican Church. He was the first Principal of the school. He came from an educational background. Four boys in the family. Three of us got PhD’s. One on economics, Stephen known on Talanoa and one in Psychology at United States. He worked there and died there. And here I am. I think what I am really saying, it is a family atmosphere that Dad was a teacher. And the school atmosphere somehow impacted on us. 

You have spent a long time in Fiji?

I’ve spent 54 years in Fiji. I came from Tonga for higher education. I think I was 18. I came here to our theological college. Also went to Derrick Institute. I came here as the first Anglican. There were two of us, sent by the Diocese of Polynesia to do our Bachelor of Divinity here. That is how this place laid the foundation on me at the upper level. 

How has the foundation formed at PTC impacted your life, church leadership and your life in Ministry?’

First of all, theological colleges at the time mostly serve their own church. There were other churches joined in but there as no commitment to be ecumenical in the way this place gave us. The first impact here, is that I came to a Pacific Insitutte for degree level. That kind of ecumenism, is all the churches together. And I was clear in that time, because the Bishop of the Anglican Church at the time as the chair of the council here, of the PTC. The Archbishop of Canterbury opened this place. So with that influence, to come here and see fellow students from other churches and countries you know, not all of them. Something you knew about those churches but here you learn more about what we didn’t know. So the impact of the place, you come from Tonga, suddenly you realise how wide churches in the Pacific. And it was the first to offer degree level. Diploma was offered in some of the other theological colleges. Worshipping together, eating together, playing rugby together, all these things were new. But the most important thing for me, I came to realise I belonged to a big family of the Pacific. You also saw God’s gifts of other churches. How narrow I was. Because the kind of stories, sometimes when referred to us as young people growing up, they were not quality stories. But when you come here and see the richness of students and you saw the churches through them, and you saw the academic backgrounds, leadership and you say ‘wow, I came from a very small place.’ Theological College at that time did not reach to the level of theological colleges now. So, when I left here, you are know longer the same. You are not from one country. Or some of the countries that you have the same church. You belong to a bigger family, to the bigger body of Christ. The community here was excellent, life as excellent, teaching staff were excellent. When we in the Pacific come to a good feast, you know what a good feast is. 

Spirit of Ecumenism – how has it been a strength in your journey in dealing with many issues?

It is not only here at PTC. It is Fiji. Because ecumenism made sense here. But interfaith was not in that time. So, you come here for ecumenism and your learn deeper than that, and you walk out of the boundaries here to the wider city of Suva and beyond that you see other religions. And that kind of profound discovery became very very deep in me. Not only the profound faith, but also their delicacies. Eating all these varieties widened my horizon. And trying to communicate beyond you with others, that is actually the blessing of this country you won’t find elsewhere. Its Fiji as a multiracial country. Trying to be together. You will see the ecumenical side. And for me, the profound thing you will find the interfaith, multiracialism and you will find ecumenism. You are well equipped. Then this place offers the academic level. You have a taste of it and it is no wonder that the vision of the leaders of the church before they came here, was to lift the level of theological education in the Pacific in the 1960s and Fiji was chosen. For me that is an amazing thing for me to see God’s will. So I was shaped, not only here, but outside the gate, in Fiji as a country. And from here we were equipped to go beyond the Pacific. And that is how my other part in Ministry only extended what I was gifted by God here.

Most challenging issue you had to deal with as a church leader here and across the Pacific and the knowledge gained here helped you deal with it?

The beautiful dimension of what I have found here and that has been part of my entire Ministry and I will go to the grave with it, it is the joy and that is to do with what our Principal here works on and some others, it is to do with Relationality. When I came here, I knew something about my faith. But it was in this place, I was trying to communicate with others, my faith as a human being, my faith in the church where I belong. And when I talk about relationship, it is trying to listen to get what they have that I did not know. That’s the beauty of coming together here. You see the different dimension of ministry, vision, mission and so forth. But at the end of the day you have to live together. That is the most impotant issue. What I call the most important gift of this place. We all come here because of Christ but at the end of the day when we ate our dining table, we all had behaviors that belonged to our context. And we were trying to match it in a way to fit with what we have in common. To be common in Christ. Then when we were in the worship, in the time the Anglican Church did not recite the Eucharist and open to everyone. I came here and discovered how difficult to be part of family here and we had a behaviour like that. But we individually couldn’t change things that belonged to the identity of the church. And I saw other change. Some of us played rugby. When you ran out of energy, you became a real human. You forgot you are Christian. Your behaviour on the ground. But we were together with other Christians. It is making that Christ, we are passionate about and grateful to God, meaningful and also living it. And that is the greatest joy of being a Christian. I learnt it here. Thank you Winston for coming here and being a Christian. But can you listen deeply to where others are and their jou and passion. Not live denominationally, own Christian faith, or your nationality and race and so forth interfere with all of this. It is that when you learn when gender issue came into being, and its dynamics, you take one and apply to try to live on the common faith. So all this and my later work on climate change it is all part and parcel of something that was given as God’s gift here. 

Problems, shared problems, climate change, NCDs, and all other problems facing Pacific. What will be your advice to other church leaders?

I’ve arrived at the point that the talking is far too much for too long. I have seen in what I’ve been part of in my journey, is simply to say, perhaps what we need is to live what we believe and what you say. Because I have seen in my journey, when I came here, the journey of trying to come together on ecumenism, was only developing. Then emerged, gender issues, feminist theology, contextual theology and you put any type of theology and look at it, the theology is there. But making it happen is not there, clearly. And when I marvel at people who do marvellous things in the name of the church, you look at it, people outside marvel at what they do. And in my journey on climate change and I look at that again, I speak as a Christian, I think Christians need to do more on living our love of God and our love of our neighbour including the environment. If we live that and they are seen in churches, they are seen at our schools, they are seen at association that belong to the church, people would understand us as the body of Christ in a dynamic way. I believe we are moving towards now a situation that young people are on the public space and they question our integrity because what we say to them –‘this is yours for the future’ when we talk  about the planet. The leading voice is simply saying, what you say, and what we’ve been told to have education in order to arrive on that. I hear them say –‘what you say is not what you see.’

I want to put it simply – the incredible thing about Jesus is that his teaching was his very life. And his very life came out on what he said. And when you pull them together you are clear on where you are with Jesus. Is there any way on the body of Christ that you find a way, to make the action become the way of life? 

Ecumenism – working together

Ecumenism is the only way. You can’t be a Christian working alone. What Jesus left behind is a community. It’s a body in theology language. In today’s world, it’s ‘together.’ So ecumenism is a stepping stone. Because if we as Christians can make sense by doing it, we don’t have much to share with others, they will see us. Our dilemma, we know we are not together. Others see that clearer than us. That is where God has given us that gift and we need to honour that gift. Hence this place is the embodiment of ecumenism and I am looking forward to that. 

What is the future for you?

Yes, I don’t look forward to the future. I already celebrated now. The young people has taken up leadership.

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WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES PILGRIMMAGE

Seventy-four-year-old Suruj Mati was pleasantly surprised when the team from the World Council of Churches (WCC) arrived on her doorstep in January.

‘Oh, come in!’ she joyfully welcomed them into her home, squinting into their faces, wondering who they were.

Suruj Mati

The multi-ethnically diverse entourage from Fiji, Africa, Samoa, Europe and Egypt captivated Ms. Mati.

‘Thank you, this is the first time I’ve received people like you,’ she beamed.

Her small, corrugated humble, one room home at Nanuku Settlement in the outskirts of Suva City in Fiji, frail and creaking in the strong winds of impending Cyclone Tino, has been a haven for Ms Mati for over 50 years.

‘When we first moved here in 1974, goats lived here,’ she related often straining to understand the questions from the visiting team.

‘There were no other houses around. We needed a place to live, life here in the city is not cheap and we wanted a roof over our heads.’

‘So, we built here, among the animals!’

Since then, hundreds of homes populate Nanuku, making it one of the most densely populated area in Fiji.

Many decades later, her children grown and gone, hard of hearing and struggling to see well, Ms. Mati has chosen to stay at Nanuku. 

‘It’s just more affordable here,’ she said.

Ms. Mati is a face, amongst many faces that depict the poverty and hardships of life for 28.1 percent of the Fijian population.

According to the Asian Development Bank findings based on data gathered in 2013, around 252,000 people live below the poverty line.

Ms. Mati depends on social welfare cash and food benefits for survival like most that call Nanuku home.

Nanuku is classified as an informal settlement that begins from within the boundaries of Suva’s city limits, extending well into the mangrove swamps. On rainy days, typical of the location, her compound quickly fills with water. Other times, flood waters, sometimes knee high, and even higher during high tides, do more than just upset flower beds.

Despite the floods, more city dwellers have moved to settlements like Nanuku because of the high costs of living and housing in the city.

Four pilgrimage teams from the World Council of Churches visited various locations around the country focusing on key thematic areas namely ‘Climate Change, ‘Climate Induced Displacement’, ‘Indigenous Land Rights and Extractive Industries’ and ‘Gender Justice/People with Disabilities/Interfaith Dialogue & Ecological Justice/Ocean Health and Care for Creation.’

Working together, caring for one another – members of the World Council of Churches Pilgrim Team Visit 3 (PTV 3) carry Reverend Dawn Gikandi from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa at Nanuku.

Pilgrimage Team Visit 3 (PTV-3) on Justice related issues visited Nanuku Settlement.

Team leader Ms. Berit Hagen Agoy from the Church of Norway said WCC is visiting many places across the word and learning about the lives, struggles, challenges and living conditions of people. 

‘It helps us gain a better understanding of how we can help people to live with justice and peace,’ she said.

The team visited other homes in Nanuku and the stories were the same. Struggles with economic security, access to quality health services, food insecurity and crime. 

They also discovered that some churches, like the Methodist Church had already setup within the communities and assisting where it could. 

Deputy Secretary General of the World Council of Church Professor Isabel Phiri said the team heard similar stories across the world.

Growing rates of poverty and the widening gap between the rich and poor countries and even within country spelled the rise of unjust and inequal treatment of people and suffering.

Acting to restore justice for people is now an imperative for all churches because it is a Christian duty.  

The WCC was hosted in Fiji by the Pacific Conference of Churches.

WCC also held its committee meeting at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre of PTC where most of the team members were billeted.

Ends…

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LE-FOLAUGA: THE JOURNEY

Le Folauga, translated as ‘The Journey’ in Samoan is the Pacific Theological College’s first published Year Book.

Presenting the Year Book to guests, dignitaries, church leaders, students and the community during the College graduation ceremony in November 2019, Principal Reverend Professor Dr. Upolu Vaai said …..

The Year Book captures the events of the school year, the lists of graduating students and the Principals Annual Report. 

About 100 copies were issued to students and guests.

It will now be a PTC student body annual publication.

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COVID19

COVID19 forced the closure of the Pacific Theological College late March coinciding with the end of the Semester 1A.

Secure control of entry into PTC.

However, the start of Semester 1B revolutionised the mode of study from face to face to Moodle, an eLearning platform and through Zoom, a video conferencing tool for efficient remote virtual connections. This allows students to continue with their lessons from their homes.

Particular spaces within the College, like the boardroom and some classrooms have been fitted with these new technology that help maintain rules of social distancing and the spread of COVID19.

Acting Academic Dean Dr. Darell Cosden said he is proud of the way the College and PTC Community have responded, changed and learnt from the COVID19 experience.

‘From senior leadership, to faculty, to students and workers, spouses and children, all have shown what we can do when we work together thinking and acting in creative ways, ‘ said Dr. Cosden.

‘This pride is especially pertinent with respect to the academic functioning of the college. ‘

‘With very little time to respond, faculty have done an amazing and stellar job of converting all their courses, teaching styles, seminar delivery and the like to an online format for the semester 1b.’

‘Students likewise have risen to the occasion to appropriate new ways of learning.

We were all nervous at the start. New and unproven technology that most of us have never used can be quite frightening, and if not implemented properly, can be a distraction and hinder learning. Yet, everyone stepped up. ‘

The leadership took immediate steps to upgrade and put into place the required technological learning infrastructure for learning – from upgraded internet, to cameras, speakers and microphones for internet video conferencing (Zoom). Training and experimentation followed by faculty and students,’ he added.

Dr. Cosden said despite having little to no knowledge of the new learning technologies, faculty and students bravely persisted and learnt what needed learning.

‘Most had never used the online educational learning and organisational platform Moodle prior to this crisis,’ he said.

‘This presented us with quite a time pressured learning curve. Yet teaching faculty who had used the platform in the past stepped forward and designed and delivered training for faculty colleagues and students – all on a moment’s notice.’

‘Courses, seminars, lectures and supervisions have continued mostly on schedule and adjustments made to improve the experience as we have progressed.

‘Likewise, using Zoom for online video conferencing, faculty have been able to meet personally with students, to offer live or recorded instruction posted on Moodle.’

‘We have even managed to carry on academic committee work with Zoom, in one case bringing faculty together both on campus and those stranded abroad in Europe due to travel restrictions. None of this has been easy.’

‘There have been setbacks along the way, but we have stepped up together and showed that we can change, learn and grow.’

‘As we position ourselves for the future, reimagining the nature, purpose and delivery of theological education in the Pacific within a changing global environment, this negative and horrible virus has been an occasion to show us that God does indeed work, even within tragedy, to bring new life and hope.

‘We will all be better people for how we have responded during this crisis.’

Safety measures have also been instituted in the libraries to ensure social distancing and hygiene.

The College also setup a COVID19 Committee to oversee all matters related to the security of the College community and to adhere to national policies and measures.

These include restrictions on gatherings, lockdown of the College preventing unnecessary visitors into the compound, restrictions as well on unnecessary travels out of PTC, restrictions on social gatherings and adherence to curfew hours.

On Friday’s, the Eucharist is offered over several hours, ensuring partakers are not crowded in the chapel but go in one at a time. 

Similarly, College events are strictly limited to less than 20 persons abiding with national requirements. 

The Institute for Mission and Research based at the College is also making arrangements for its Capacity Building Courses to be offered online. 

These courses are usually offered face to face through workshops in regional countries but international travel bans and lockdowns have necessitated online learning.

The COVID19 Committee meets regularly to review measures.

Ends… 

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PTC IS 55

On March 16, the Pacific Theological College launched its 55th Anniversary celebrations that is to be marked with various events throughout the year.

Happy Birthday PTC! (Left) Deputy Chair of the PTC Executive and Council and President of the Methodist Church of Fiji Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa cuts the 55th birthday cake with PTC Principal Rev. Professor Dr. Upolu Va’ai.

Attended by various dignitaries, renowned academics, chiefs, heads of churches and the PTC Community of students and families, the launch ceremony held at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre marked the beginning of the celebration. It’s been a 55-year journey of producing theology students who have gone on to become leaders of influence across the region.

One of these leaders, the Rt Reverend Dr Winston Halapua Archbishop Emeritus was chief guest at the launch event.

Dr Halapua is one of the first students to study at PTC when it opened its academic sessions in 1966. 

‘I would like to say my formation was here. Here I was taught justice and to know my history and identity,’ said Dr Halapua. 

‘Today I live and breathe and relate to people on two things, justice and identity because if we do not know who we are then what do we offer?’

He added PTC also fostered the spirit of togetherness through ecumenism, and educated theologians who have impacted the region and the world with their writings. Leaders like Rev. Dr. Sevati Tuwere and Rev. Dr. Jovili Meo. 

The foundations of the College were laid in 1965 owing to a decision of the 1961 first Pacific Ecumenical Council meeting that was held in Samoa to set up a theological college to produce church leaders to help guide Pacific Islanders through new challenges and times.

It was just 15 years after World War 2. Though many countries were still under colonial rule, the wheels for independence were already turning. Changes were many. 

Western education was a new thing, city life was already upsetting the traditional settings, food and even social roles and relationships were changing.

Church leaders were needed to guide and lead the churches and its people in the new Pacific that was coming into being.

This gave birth to PTC, that rose from the mangrove swamps at Nasese in Suva and has since become the leading theological institute in the region.

PTC Principal Reverend Professor Dr Upolu Va’ai said it was important to stage a launch event to draw public attention to the achievements of the College.

‘It aids the remembrance of College achievements and helps prepare for a future where even more challenges confront the people of the Pacific from non-communicable disease to climate change,’ 

‘PTC is now rethinking, refining and relocating theological education in a way that serves the will of God in the Pacific and the will of God is for people to be happy.’

Professor of Education for the Fiji National University Dr. Unaisi Nabobo-Baba over the years of its existence, PTC has built a reputation for ‘thought’ and ‘wisdom’ the likes of which are unrivalled because it comes from God. 

Professor Nabobo-Baba

‘I think PTC has provided thinking well before we in education did de-colonising,’ said Professor Nabobo-Baba.

‘I myself benefited from your coconut theology, from your SPATS journal. Like the thief we have been sponging off. I admit it today as representing higher education in this country. 

‘May you be the fulcrum to reclaim the decolonised, to de-homogenise institutions of higher learning,’ she added.

Professor Nabobo-Baba said PTC can become the ‘centre of much needed Pacific School of thought.

‘There is none. I am hoping for courage that you describe us as what it is,’ she said.

‘The Europeans have their schools of thoughts; the Africans have their post-colonial schools of thought.’

General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Reverend James Bhagwan who is also a PTC alumnus said the journey of PTC is not just that of an institution but of all the lives that passed through her doors. 

‘This is a place of not just education but the formation of togetherness, of ecumenism, working together, voyaging together, of justice, and identity,’ said Rev. Bhagwan. 

The College has various events and activities planned throughout the year to mark the 55th Anniversary celebrations. 

Ends…

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PRAYERFUL WOMEN

Brightly colored dresses and headscarves brightened up the atmosphere at the Pacific Theological College Chapel where Women’s Fellowship marked World Day of Prayer (WDP). 

The women also performed a drama to portray the message that we need to ‘act on God’s word to bring about peace and social transformation’.

World Day of Prayer is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian women.

The host country for this year’s WDP is Zimbabwe who are the inspiration behind the theme ‘Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk.’

The women of Zimbabwe are using prayer to ‘rise and act’ in bringing about peace during a time of political transition, problems in the economy, violence and fallout from natural disasters.

With prayer, they hope to help people heal.

Women’s Fellowship President Panorama Setu said the importance of prayerful women in Ministry cannot be understated. 

‘For many of us, it’s the most powerful way we support the work of sharing the gospel and attending to the needs of the communities we work in,’ she said.

‘Prayer is an act of faith. It’s the way we rise no matter the challenges or disabilities. Prayer after all moves mountains.’

‘It is our most powerful weapon; the word of God and prayer and as women we become powerful overcomers, mover and shakers through prayer.’

Ends… 

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WELCOME SERVICE

‘Emulate the life and way of Christ’ were words of wisdom for students of the Pacific Theological College to start off the new academic year.

Every year a Welcome Service held at the College Chapel enables all members of the PTC Community to worship together and meet and greet.

Sharing the evening’s sermon, Reverend Ili Vunisuwai, the General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Fiji encouraged students to ‘live the way of Christ.’

General Secretary of the Methodist Church of Fiji Reverend Ili Vunisuwai

He said the life and way of Christ needs to be demonstrated beyond the pulpits through actions and behaviors. 

‘I encourage you to preach the word and consistently preach it even when it is not well received,’ preached Rev. Vunisuwai.

Families present were asked to introduce themselves. PTC families’ of 2020 hails from various Pacific Island countries, Europe, the Americas and the Asian continent.

This was followed by a shared meal and another school year began.

Ends…

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MISSION CENTRE EXPANSION

Popular demand inspired the expansion of the Jovili Meo Mission Center (JMMC). 

It’s new double story wing, with 12 new rooms, modern, and plush facilities for the traveler was opened by the Chairperson of the Pacific Theological College Executive and Council Reverend Elder Dr. Leatulagi T. Faalevao.

He opened the College in the presence of the PTC Community, invited church leaders and members of the PTC Council and Executive in November 2019.

The building project started in May 2018 and cost about $300,000. 

It provides an income source for the College.

The JMMC also offers conference facilities, meeting and events spaces. 

Ends…

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THE WATER LENTERN CAMPAIGN

Dwindling water resources prompted the creation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Lentern Campaign ‘Seven Weeks for Water’, pre-launched in Fiji.

The launch ceremony was held at the Nawanawa Methodist Church in Nasinu outside the capital city, Suva.

Different our stories, various our cultures, diverse our practices, our common need as living creatures is water: (Left) Archbishop Mark McDonald the WCC President in North America and Dr Mele’ana Puloka the WCC President for the Pacific region signify this by pouring water into the tanoa, pre-launching the Seven Weeks for Water campaign.

The Campaign, that builds up to Easter is a time to reflect on the gift of water from God that is squandered and rapidly becoming a scarce resource the world over.

Water scarcity refers to the lack of fresh water resources to meet water demand. The problem is so grave it was listed by the 2019 World Economic Forum as one of the largest global risks. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water and about 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year and two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone. 

Human interference with water systems have resulted in stressed water systems. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or too polluted for use.[1] More than half of wetlands have disappeared.

Major contributing factors include inefficient agricultural systems, the commodification of water and now exacerbated by climate change. 

Preaching at the pre-launch that was attended by members of the WCC Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace to Fiji, staff of the Pacific Theological College and the ecumenical family of Christ President of the Fiji Council of Churches Reverend Tevita Bainivanua said that if water is a gift from God it must be given and freely received. 

Reverend Tevita Bainivanua

He challenged Christians to do something, to act, to rise and lead the protection of this gift because it is about standing up for justice.

‘Water is a resource under siege,’ said Rev. Bainivanua.

‘It is calling on Pacific Christian communities to step up and champion the fight to protect water sources instead of just waiting on Governments and other non-government organisations to act.’

‘It is sad to see rivers and creeks, even in the Pacific Islands dying because of the desecration of the environment and the commodification of water.’

‘Across the world, deserts are spreading, spurred on by human greed and climate change.’

‘Increasingly, more people are facing grave injustices of being unable to access water.’

‘It is the duty of Christians to help bring about justice and peace for all because the future of water is the future of humanity.’

The Lent Campaign was devised by WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network (WCC-EWN). 

Mr. Dinesh Suna, the Coordinator for WCC-EWN said during the seven weeks of Lent, theological reflections will focus on water.

Ends…


[1] https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity

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RETHINKING, REFINING, RELOCATING

The Pacific Theological College faculty have been urged to rethink, refine and relocate theological education in a way that serves the will of God in the Pacific and brings to life the vision of the College’s new Strategic Plan.

The new PTC Strategic Plan 2020-2025 ‘Towards Excellence in Theological Education for Leadership for Justice’ was approved by the PTC Council and Executive committee meeting held in November 2019.

PTC Principal Reverend Professor Dr. Upolu Va’ai reminded members of the PTC faculty at their Annual Retreat held in January 2020 to know that the role of theological education is to disturb, to subvert, to challenge systems and structures that suppress and oppress people because God want’s fullness of life for all.

‘This College does not just want to produce theologians,’ said Rev. Professor Dr. Va’ai.

Rev. Professor Va’ai has been consistent in promoting the new vision of theological education in various forums. 

While presenting the vision of the new Strategic Plan to the Pacific Church Leaders Meeting (PCLM) coordinated by the Pacific Conference of Churches that was held at the Jovili Meo Mission Centre of PTC earlier this year, he said:

‘The College wants to produce prophets that can help liberate people from issues of injustice and neo-liberal exploitation,’ said Reverend Professor Dr. Va’ai.

‘Theological education for leadership for justice is a focus of the new six years Strategic Plan of the College,’ added Rev. Professor Va’ai.

Rev. Professor Dr. Va’ai said the College will conduct a full review of all its courses to reflect the new strategic direction titled ‘Theological education for Leadership for Justice.’

He also addressed the issue with a World Council of Churches committee meeting that was held in Suva in January this year.

‘PTC aims to train leaders who can deal with justice issues in the Pacific, leaders that are not just priests and theologians but also prophets and advocators of justice,’ said Rev. Professor Dr. Va’ai.

‘The new strategic plan responds to calls, both from churches within the region and globally for theological education to address development and economic issues, justices and others that affects the lives of the grassroots communities, ‘he added.

He said he believed many issues afflicting people’s lives whether it’s gender, racism, economic, climate change dislocation or other are inextricably connected to ecological violence (harm to the ocean, land etc).

‘This is masked in the blessings promised by economic growth of the market systems,’ he said.

The PTC course review will be realigned to address these issues.

According to Rev. Professor Vaai, PTC can play a pivotal role in changing the story of development and of colonialism in the Pacific, changing the story of theology and the church, because of its strategic role in producing students that become leaders of many churches in the region.

Ends…

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