Seminarians learn how to minister across cultures
Seminary students attending an on-campus symposium at Avondale University have learnt about crossing cultures for mission and committed to addressing injustices of race and racism.
Crossing Cultures for Mission featured eight presentations over two days (October 20-21), including one from the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, Pr Glenn Townend. He used the stories in Mark about the feeding of five thousand and four thousand to speak about cultural blindspots.
Nathan Brown’s “A revolt against Creation: our calling to undo racism” gave participants an understanding of the theological and historical underpinnings of racism. Co-editor of a book about how an Adventist faith responds to race and racism, Brown said racism is a factor in injustice and is more pervasive and insidious than we often assume. He used chapters in A House on Fire to recommend ways those in ministry could address the realities.
Inspired by Brown’s presentation, participants drafted a statement they released later in the day. While recognising their diversity, the statement affirms “our most basic belief . . . that we are created by God and in the image of God.” It also affirms “the incarnation, mission, and ministry of Jesus models and calls us to serve all peoples,” including “listening to their voices and diverse experiences, as well as standing and speaking for justice, equity and opportunity.” The statement commits participants to “continuing the work of learning, addressing and responding to the history, theology and ongoing injustices of race and racism in our lives, our church and our nations” and to “celebrating and enacting the reality” of the hope expressed in Revelation 7:9, where the multitude of nations sing praise to God. See full statement below.
Seminarian Pr Hensley Gungadoo opened the symposium with a presentation about cross-cultural ministry in Acts. While this ministry exposed prejudice and dogmatism, the early church confronted these challenges and implemented changes that saw Christianity fill the Roman Empire by the end of the first century.
Colleague Dr Erika Puni described culture as God’s gift to humans. The incarnation of Christ in the Gospels is, he said, an example of a God who is above human culture and yet willing to work through culture for the salvation of all people.
Pr Mark Pearce of the Ellen G White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre reminded participants of the church pioneer’s advice to those ministering in cross-cultural contexts: value the people you are trying to reach and treat them of equal importance.
Professor Tracie Mafile’o closed the symposium with a presentation about location. Locating yourself—for critical self-reflection and learning about our socio-cultural positioning, including our privileges. Locating others—for meaningful connections and relationships, acknowledging the lived realities for diverse cultural groups. And locating the level—for analysis and action at the institutional, organisational and societal levels, calling for action in policy and governance spaces.
The other two presenters represented other perspectives: Julie Nagle (“An indigenous perspective”), a coordinator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries for the church in South New South Wales, and; Pr Edison Akrawi (“Our Muslim brothers and sisters”), a minister in Sydney with pastoral ministry experience in Iraq.
Crossing Cultures for Ministry is an initiative of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific, Australia and the New Zealand Pacific, Avondale and the church on its Lake Macquarie campus. It is the latest in a series of symposiums to help our students and others know how to: be and make disciples (May 2024); plant churches (October 2024), and; reach our cities (May 2025).
In a message to participants, the church in the South Pacific’s director of Adventist Mission and Mission to the Cities strategy leader Dr Wayne Krause writes he is praying “you will be equipped to be the disciples, disciple makers and church planters God intends you to be [and] that you will have a passion for those far from God, particularly in our cities.”
Statement from participants at the Crossing Cultures for Mission symposium
As a diverse group of disciples and followers of Jesus—students, teachers, leaders and friends—we affirm our most basic belief about each other and what makes every person human is that we are created by God and in the image of God. Further, we recognise that the value God assigns to individual beings is ascertained at the foot of the cross. We believe the gospel is personal (see John 3:16), but it is also communal (see Luke 4:18, 19). We also affirm that the incarnation, mission, and ministry of Jesus models and calls us to serve all peoples. This includes listening to their voices and diverse experiences, as well as standing and speaking for justice, equity and opportunity for those we serve and minster alongside.
We commit to continuing the work of learning, addressing and responding to the history, theology and ongoing injustices of race and racism in our lives, our church and our nations. We look forward to being part of “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language” that will sing praise to God together in front of God’s throne (Revelation 7:9). And we commit to celebrating and enacting the reality of this hope in our lives, communities, churches and ministries today.
Photograph: Lu and Aifilifili Faaifo at the Crossing Cultures for Mission Symposium. Credit: Broden House.