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Anglican Leaders meet in Aotearoa for conference on Anglican Indigenous leadership

Posted on: November 13, 2023 3:15 PM
Photo Credit: Kurahautū Staff

More than 50 Anglican leaders from across the globe gathered in Te Matau a Maui (Hastings) Aotearoa New Zealand, at the end of September to take part in a three-day intensive wānanga on Anglican Indigenous leadership. A wānanga approach to gathering and learning in Maori culture is less structured and formal than traditional conferences. 

Conversations (Kōrerorero) are interspersed with prayers (karakia), songs (waiata) and food (kai). Guests discover differences, commonalities and whakawhanaungatanga – one family, bound in love.   

Hosted by the Archbishop of Aotearoa New Zealand, Don Tamihere, the Anglican Indigenous Leadership Initiative (AILI) brought Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglican leaders and theological educators from Brazil, Canada, Melanesia, Polynesia, and the USA as well as closer to home. They reflected on the future possibilities for Anglican Indigenous leadership.

Participants began their time together with a pōwhiri, a traditional Maori welcome ceremony, at Te Aute College. During the first day sessions leaders were asked to share their whakapapa (genealogy), their background, their views on leadership and a food that reminded them of home. Answers included banana loaf, chicken curry, kamokamo, rewena, acai berries, collard greens, hot buttered popcorn and moose steak. 

Archbishop Tamihere said that spending time getting to know one another during this special introductory afternoon set the tone for the AILI and its ultimate success. “Methodology is as effective as outcomes. There is no journal, no book on what it means to be an Anglican leader in light of indigeneity. We are writing it, now, through wānanga – and building relationships is the first step we take,” he said. 

The final morning began with a Eucharist led by the Revd Zhane Tahau-Whelan and preacher Archbishop Leonard Dawea, of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, who offered a reflection on the martyrs of Melanesia. Archbishop Leonard urged the congregation to commit themselves to the work ahead, lifting up the example of both historic and more recent martyrs of Melanesia whose commitment to peace, and sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel, had sowed the seeds of the Church. 

In groups, participants considered three important aspects of leadership as they pertain to indigeneity and Anglicanism. Dr Jenny Te Paa-Daniel (Ōtepoti) led a group discussing theological education, and how it could be reshaped into a “redemptive solution” to the current situation, which is, in some cases, a traumatising experience for indigenous scholars. It was suggested that a kaitiaki group be established to ensure priorities are identified, met and regularly reviewed – these could include an audit of the current education landscape (everything from informal Bible study to theological qualifications), identification of training opportunities required, leading cross-sector collaboration, and removing whakamā (shame or stigma) and elitism from educational opportunities. 

“We want to guarantee success, so that our scholars take their rightful place within the academies of the world,” concluded Dr Te Paa-Daniel. 

Archdeacon Susan Wallace (Te Waipounamu) reported back on her group’s interrogation of governance and structure, mooting a local coalition, seeded by those attending AILI, that would meet annually.

“Through collective self-determination, we would work towards a transformation of institutions. We might offer indigenous governance training and intentional mentorship, opening our arms to other indigenous people within our Communion and across the world,” she said. 

Simon Heath and Vianney Douglas spoke of transforming kura, the possibility of creating an indigenous curriculum “and bringing in both educationalists and students to understand, what are the underlying values? What is the graduate profile, what are our children’s hopes on graduation? Investing in them now means they can be the focused leaders we hope for.” 

Closing remarks from Archbishop Tamihere suggested leaving the wānanga having reframed what it means to be indigenous, to be colonised, to be controlled. He said: “these are words that relate to negativity. What if we decide to develop a pedagogy of the free? Then, our theology would not speak of being oppressed, imprisoned, subjugated. What would that look like?” 

He told the gathering they had become the founding establishment of a global wānanga of loving people and thanked them for being here, spending time and sharing. “The one connecting thread that draws us together is friendship. Whanaungatanga, mātaraunga, indigeneity, and the idea of kaitiakitanga. It’s all been slowly forming, here, as in Mark Chapter 4. Jesus tells us to scatter good ideas. Some will land on paths and not take root, some will land on brambles and suffocate, some will be stolen away by the birds of the air, but some will fall on good soil. We trust in that process, and it’s been deeply inspiring to observe that,” he said. 

The three-day wānanga concluded with a Eucharist presided in Portugese and English by the Primate of Brazil, Archbishop Marinez Bassotto, alongside preacher, the National Indigenous Archbishop for the Anglican Church of Canada, Chris Harper.  He shared the riches of a Cree translation of the Beatitudes and urged delegates to take their messages, developed at the wānanga, to the world. 

“We have been very blessed to be able to gather under one roof, in one house for a short while. To share our commonalities, our prayers, our voice and our song. At the very beginning, I offered this message: that we all have one song, a song that all of us sing with one voice. And that is our life experience. You are the ambassador. The Almighty blesses you and has given you these gifts, these words, these steps and this moment,” he said. 

  • Watch interviews with delegates as they share stories on what it means to be Anglican and their experience and expression of transformational indigenous leadership