In recent years, Pacific churches began to question their Euro-centric construct. Church leaders of the 2013 Pacific Conference of Churches convened at the Honiara PCC General Assembly and at their 2017 meeting reaffirmed that the contextual understanding of the concept of ‘ecumenism’ is: ‘Household of God in the Pacific’. They affirm that this household is not just for humans. It also encompasses the living ecology of diverse multiple relationships and connections. This household also does not solely belong to Christianity but rather, other religions and faiths have a share of the home. In October 2017, Pacific churches adopted the concept ‘relational ecumenism’ as the definition of what Pacific churches understand ‘ecumenism’ to mean in the world today. These affirmations and the concept ‘relational ecumenism’ pays close attention to the Greek root word ‘oikos’ from which ‘ecumenism is derived. Significantly, the ‘household’ resonates well with the contextual thinking and worldviews of Pacific peoples. Stewardship then is really about a deep “reconnecting” with the earth and all of God’s creation within it.
This positionality offers new and exciting educational and experiential opportunities offering a new ecumenical perspective to address the development regression and in particular, regional insecurity and instability. Education is key to developing ‘relational ecumenism’ competence, including religious literacy, and competence in interfaith dialogue and multi-faith action. It opens contextual theological and ecumenical education to dialogue on issues of development, security and stability of the Pacific household, and engages much more actively with governments and civil society organisations in the common task of ‘stewarding’ the Pacific household. It also opens theological education to researching and writing, from a household perspective, issues that are of the household.
PTC will intentionally take this household understanding and will review and develop academic courses on ecumenism. The college will also engage with a wide range of stakeholders including governments, churches, CSOs and other higher learning institutions to pursue collaborative efforts in furthering the development discourse. It aims to actively participate in the collaborative task of building relationships and networks with the understanding that churches cannot do it alone. Because the foundation of the ‘household’ is its inclusiveness and mutual respect for all, PTC will facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogues that include multi and interfaith participation. These and other initiatives will stand as testimony to the seriousness with which the college takes responsibility of care and contribution to the stability and security of the wider Pacific household.