In the coolness of the majestic maneaba, the quietly spoken man uttered his truth.
‘The theological education that ignores cultural values, traditional skills, and the traditional ways of life, produces pastors for the pulpit but not for the people,” said Rev. Dr. Tioti Timon.
‘Theology training needs to focus on both the academic and the practical.’
‘Our pastors of the past knew how to fish, build their own homes and assist the community they serve with these skills sets.’
Ignorance of traditional skills knowledge especially in a country like Kiribati where a significant percentage of the population depend on these skills for survival, has seen a reversal of roles where the pastor is now the served and not the servant.
‘How can a pastor be a role model, motivational or inspirational if he/she don’t have these skills?’ Reverend Timon further questioned his group of 50 pastors and missionaries in training.
The maneaba is located centrally within the Tagintebu Theological College compound on Tarawa atoll in Kiribati.
Service to others is a key pillar of the two weeks long Leadership and Management training course provided by the Institute of Mission and Research (IMR) of the Pacific Theological College (PTC).
Rev. Dr. Timon requested the course be undertaken by the students seeing its importance in preparing pastors for the mission field, where they will be regarded as leaders.
‘We needed the leadership and management training because Tagintebu Theological College curriculum trains students to be pastors but not leaders,’ said Rev. Dr. Timon.
‘The college curriculum is still Eurocentric which ignores the critical context that is destroying the lives of people on the ground,’ he added.
Young Pendence and her group, after a quick brainstorm on the question ‘What do you expect from your church leader?’ put forward the following; knows how to build his own house and not just expect church members to do it for him, know traditional skills, and grow his food to share with the community.
The critical issues that Rev. Dr. Timon was referring to include the rise of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, sea level rise caused by climate change, high rates of youth unemployment and the resulting crimes related to that and a general apathetic state of existence.
‘If our ancestors were alive today, they would probably deal with climate change so much better, be active and find solutions,’ he said.
‘That is why it’s important that church leaders inspire the people, guide and lead them with strength and especially help them rebuild knowledge of their indigenous and traditional skills, even growing and cooking local foods to help them cope with these changing times.’
Rev. Dr. Timon said the Tagintebu curriculum would be reviewed to adopt more indigenous approaches to leaderships and the learning of traditional skills.
The training, delivered in an interactive style by trainer Netani Rika of the Pacific Conference of Churches, invoked thinking around many issues, from how a church leader should respond to government corruption, what are good principles a church leader must have to his/her communication styles.
Course project officer Lyn Lala said with each training new information is picked up to continually improve on the delivery of the courses.
Leadership and Management is one of several capacity building courses offered by IMR to church partners across the Pacific region. The others include, Gender Voices for Dignity, Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution, Social Analysis and Pastoral Counselling.
For more information on these courses please enquire with firstname.lastname@example.org