Logia Post for December: Wishing Life on You All

By: Christa L. McKirland

Kia ora koutou! 

This is the greeting I have learned since moving to Aotearoa New Zealand in January of 2020. Literally, this greeting means “Wishing life on you all” in te Reo Māori (the language of Indigenous New Zealanders). Little did I know that seven weeks after arriving in this new land we would all be in lock-down and my first class to teach as a gainfully employed theologian would be online. This was not the life-giving start to teaching I had hoped for! However, in spite of all of the challenges that the global pandemic has created, I have also been deeply enriched by living in this place and learning how to do theology in a radically different context from anywhere I’ve ever been. I am learning what it means to do theology in a nation (in which many are) keenly grappling with its colonised and colonising history.[1] I am learning how patriarchy is so often an outworking of colonialism and that to tackle the former without tackling the latter will simply reinforce my own colonising tendencies. This has been a tough pill to swallow. At the same time, it’s been liberating.

Willie Jenning’s groundbreaking work, After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, explains how theological educational systems are intrinsically formational. However, who they are intended to produce is the “white self-sufficient man.”[2] We see this especially outworked in western theological educational systems which reinforce the idea that mastery over one’s subject area is the primary goal of theological education. The process of such formation instills a deep fear of the scholar ever answering a question with “I don’t know.” As such, it works against vulnerability—of un-mastery. I have found this even more pronounced as a woman who perpetually feels the weight of perfectly representing half the population in historically male-dominated spaces. However, I am learning the freedom of un-mastery and the joy of not knowing.

I am genuinely learning with my students. My view of God has expanded. My understanding of the significance of land for identity (both individual and corporate) has deepened. My valuation of and accountability to those who have come before me and who will come after me is now frequently on my mind. All of this is shaping me as the person that I am and the scholar that I am continually becoming.

It is within this context that Logia is also continuing to thrive. We have focused on hearing from women in the Southern Hemisphere over these past two years through our blog series. And even with lockdowns and travel restrictions, relationships are developing globally through scholarly networks and our new mentoring programme. Logia is also thriving in its original context and we are excited to see a new season of leadership at the University of St Andrews (our birthplace) with Joanna Leidenhag and Hannah Craven passing the baton to Dani Ross and Melissa Barciela Mandala. Within our Advisory Board, Eric Stoddart, Joanna Leidenhag, and Sofanit Ababe are joining our team to continue to give guidance and support to our global efforts. We are so grateful for the service of Madhavi Nevader, Andrea White, Natalia Marandiuc, and Seblewengel Daniel for their wisdom over these past two years.

There is still much to do to encourage women to pursue postgraduate study in the divinity disciplines around the world. There is much to unlearn and we continue to need brave partners who will dare query established modes of theological discourse and institutional goals of formation. We look forward to 2022 and encouraging women to be what they want to see, Logia’s small way of wishing life on you all.

[1] I’m very grateful to be at a theological institution that is not only a Logia Global Partner but is also working toward dismantling the effects of colonisation. See this summary from Dr. Sandy Kerr, our recent Kaiārahi-Rangahau Māori https://www.carey.ac.nz/about-carey/carey-news/carey-a-forerunner-for-change/

[2] William James Jennings, After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020), 6. Also, “whiteness” is not so much about the amount of melanin in one’s skin as much as it is a posture of control and domination over-against all that is deemed other to it.

Dr. Christa L. McKirland is the Executive Director of Logia International and a lecturer in systematic theology at Carey Baptist College in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is currently the Project Leader for a John Templeton grant on “Theological Anthropology, Fundamental Need, and Human Flourishing.” She is learning what flourishing does (and doesn’t) look like with a three and five-year-old while seeking to co-parent with her partner, Matt.

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash