Weaving Theology in Oceania: Culture, Context, and Practice.
A Practical Theology Conference in Fiji
Dr Aoife McGrath from the Pastoral Theology Department recently participated in a conference that was organised by the Association of Practical Theology in Oceania (APTO) in partnership with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of the Archdiocese of Suva. The latter represented the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC), and arranged for the conference to be hosted at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji, from 17-21 November 2018.
APTO is a professional and ecumenical association for practical/pastoral theologians and reflective pastoral practitioners in the Oceania region. The sixty or so APTO conference participants thus included religious leaders, teachers, and pastoral practitioners from a range of Christian traditions within Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and across the islands of Oceania. The association has made a concerted effort to create links with practical/pastoral theologians worldwide. Therefore, there were a small number of speakers representing other contexts – namely North America and Ireland. In all, there were 6 keynote presenters, 3 plenary workshop presenters, and 26 concurrent workshop presenters. Due to the partnership with CEPAC, conference delegates also included over 80 Catholic clergy from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, and Cook Islands.
The intention in bringing these individuals and groups together was to provide an opportunity for pastoral practitioners, ministers, and theologians to share, listen, and learn from one another. There was a particular effort to reflect on cultural, economic, environmental, and religious changes within their respective contexts, in order to understand how these shape our theological understanding and pastoral practice. Ultimately, the aim was to strive to ‘weave’ together a practical theological response to these changes in light of our common Christian faith.