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Research Methodology

My Research Methodology class.

I’m struggling at the moment to build / rebuild my curriculum for Research Methodology. I have been teaching Research Methodology for the past three years to MTh/MPhil level students (and sometimes DMin and PhD) at SAIACS, the theological institution where I work. The course, like in many other institutions, is mandatory and all students have to take it at the beginning of their programme.

I was initially happy for the opportunity to work with this subject, mainly because it gave me to the opportunity to impact students who had just joined the college… give them a good start, so to speak. I was also given a lot of freedom to devise the course as I wished. During my course planning, I was also exposed to expectational teacher-training material, particularly action and objective based learning, where the goal for the students was more the focus than the goal for the teacher.

I planned a really good course, I made it exciting and practical (I thought), and it turned out to be one of the best courses I had ever taught. However, a few weeks later, after my course, about 6 of my students were caught plagiarising, and they confessed to their teachers that they still did not understand the rules (I had taught them the rules). Then, a few months later, when I began to work with a few students from my class (within my specialisation), for building their thesis research proposals, I found that none of them remembered my rules/methods of research. All those exciting classes were as if they did not even exist. I had to start from scratch, helping students understand many basic elements of research and even had to go through the rules of plagiarism and formatting again. At that point I really felt like a failure. I couldn’t believe that after so much hard work, there was so little positive to show for it. I couldn’t help but think that something was wrong… in my teaching methodology, in the students, but also perhaps in the course itself.

After much reflection, and as I redesign the Research Methodology course yet again (I will be teaching it in June), I have at least identified a few problems.

A few of my struggles with the Research Methodology course are as follows:

i) The pace is too fast. In my own experience, I learned research by doing research through my long academic journey as a student. My Research Methodolgy course was not where I learned Research Methods, but over a period of several courses and years of trial and error. Research Methodology thus comes too soon, and attempts too much, in a short period of time. Many ideas of research are actually (in the developing world setting) fundamentally new for students (let alone some weakness in English), and I envisage that it could take more than a few courses/months to correct primary academic/thinking flaws.

ii) Spiritual vs academic. Research methodology is also a terrible “first” course for students entering seminary/theological colleges, because many of us come to such places with a “spiritual” goal, but the first course is as “non” spiritual as it gets. It’s hard to bring in theology consistently while teaching formatting rules, style guides, categorisations, argument construction etc.

iii) The institutional expectations tend to be unrealistic. Students, after doing this one-month course, are held accountable for understanding not just the Institutional rules (like footnote styles / formatting etc), but also, critical thinking skills, general research methodology skills, and sometimes most importantly, the ability to break a life-long habit of plagiarism. In my experience, most students, me too, learned most of these skills over time… but having a month, at the beginning of the academic year, with the students mostly just getting adjusted to the institution, its expectations and its ethos, there is just not enough time to achieve all this.

iv) The students are just not able to learn theory before practice. While I have tried making my class “practical” with lot of discussion, practical assignments… etc… there is no way I can prepare a student for what she/he will actually face in their first assignment and beyond. Learning the skills in abstract, separated from the real-life scenarios that the student will face (not just assignments, but departmental teacher-expectations), is actually no learning at all. Students are able to grasp the concepts in the month I teach, but they find themselves having to learn entirely new methodologies, ways of writing, researching, when the teachers gave courses. Ultimately, students adopt a practical methodology, a way of writing papers that is often completely different (even opposite) to the “theory” of research that I have been teaching. And naturally so. How much better would it be to work WITH students whlie they do their courses… while they do their assignments. In fact, focus on different aspects of research methodology for different courses/assignments. (perhaps within this is the natural problem of higher education where we teaching theories/theologies outside the real-life context of the world/church… as a result, here too students are faced with a dichotomy between theory and practice).

v) Large classes. Again, I think I did a good job putting people in smaller groups, getting discussions and activities within a smaller unit of the large classes. Yet, it was still evident that different students were learning at different paces, and especially the weaker students were getting left behind. (The stronger students, ironically, did not even need the research methodology course because they intuitively seemed to get everything).

vi) It’s not as much fun as actual research. As much as I try to make the students “do” research in the class, I find that the focus of learning skills is less exciting than actually going out and asking/answering questions. In a sense, what else is research methods but the learning to ask the right questions and finding the right way to answer those questions. And yet, the course focuses on meta issues, and addresses the needs/lacks that the institution finds in the students, rather than emerging as a need that the students themselves have, and thus want to find ways to solve/find help in.

So that’s just a brief list. In my more negative days, this list is longer. And I must admit that I have considered quiting teaching this subject. But I do feel that while some problems cannot be changed (like the course timing), perhaps the last point (vi), where I make this subject really something that students feel they need help in… to help students identify their own problems so that they seek out the solutions… could actually bring more lasting impact/change/help in them.

 

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Today was a focus on change; especially how institutions deal with large-scale changes, especially keeping in mind the political nature of curriculum formation. The session then concluded with a period of questions and assessment.

The concept of change was taught through the perspective of Salerno and Brock’s The Change Cycle. Keeping in mind, feelings, thoughts, and behaviour that are affected during the change process, we went through several tasks that was geared to help institutions identify significant potential change events occurring in the near future (for SAIACS it was the Mysore accreditation of MTh programme).  Using the primary change, we identified factors of fear/discontent during the change process, and we identified several strategies we could use to help address the change-factors.

This session was quite good, especially in view of the tasks. Of course more time could have helped… but it was much better to focus on tasks rather than simply lectures to deal with aspects/problems of change.

When we moved to the assessment section, it was good to have plenty of time for review. That was commendable. Personally I would have preferred a learning task as a proof that we have indeed learned something. For instance, we could each institution identify questions/comments about curriculum… and other seminaries look to provide a comment/assistance to those questions… that would help us to prove that we indeed learned something.

This public assessment was then moved to a private (without GATE facilitators) assessment… that helped raise specific critique of the workshop.

An important point was the lack of contextual analysis… an intentional attempt to see the relation to Indian context. It’s not enough to say that “you” do the context and we do content. That’s a fundamental error of education if it is not defined by context… and importantly we need to improve in modelling contextual learning.

Summary: it was a week that was well-worth the effort, though with room for improvement. Definitely, such initiatives help institutions, such as SAIACS, improve, to be better effective to do their mission.

The following is a quote from William Badke’s article “The Great Research Disaster”

But we have not accomplished information literacy until our students have at least some sense that research is fun. Research is about discovery and problem- solving, not merely about meeting obligations. Ultimately, it’s about giving students the conviction that their research projects are indeed their own, not a gift to their professors. I’ve seen quite a few of my own students “get it” and actually discover the fascination of research. But this happened only when I went beyond teaching them how to use the tools and started helping them make sense of why they were doing all this. Grappling deeply with issues and open questions instead of fudging a professor’s assignment is indeed fun.

citation: William Badke, “The Great Research Disaster,” Online, November/December 2009, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5044784188.

Quick though: There are many positive lessons in the quotparticularly for revising teaching methodologies for adult learners.  This makes sense to me within the context of how I am revising my own teaching strategies and methods.

That Jesus did not choose only scholars to lead the Church is quite obvious; but of late, it seems that in the western church, scholars are the most influential in the church. Even in India, for anyone looking to make an impact in Indian church must aspire for a theological degree (the higher, the better). However, here’s an interesting article that challenges that mentality in the western context; urging non-scholars to take greater responsibility in the way the Church is going.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/current-events/op-ed-blog/25384-who-should-lead-the-church

A response article in the emerging scholars blog: http://blog.emergingscholars.org/2011/04/jesus-didnt-choose-scholars/#more-4579

My own quick response is that the need for scholars is different from the need to understanding God and His word more deeply. In the Indian context, most lay Christians are satisfied by just listening to their pastors preach; it is their main source of teaching. Even if they have their own bibles, rarely do people study it. Similarly, many pastors are themselves non-scholars, in that they too pass down knowledge that they got from other sources, whether their bible school or their own teachers, without serious study that is necessary to understand God’s word. The answer for India however is not that therefore we need scholars/theologians to run churches, rather more and more people must think theologically/more biblically/be studious about God and His word. Whether these students of God come from the lowest parts of society or the highest, the demand is the same; take God and His word, and His Church, seriously.

The following is a chart I made to help explain “Sources and Criteria” for my MTh class in Theological Method.

classroomAfter being back at SAIACS for over-a-month, I can confess that I’ve had an intense time. Within a few weeks of getting back, I had the privilege of teaching Theological Method: Sources and Criteria to the MTh in Theology class.

I haven’t had time to put down all my reflections… though I will… probably in this post. However, I can say that I really enjoyed the experience of teaching (after studying non-stop for 8 months). But more importantly, I achieved my central goal of being more encouraging than discouraging, a lesson I directly attribute to my McGill experience.

Apart from that, I also liked the focus I was able to bring to the course… especially bringing historical issues to the fore (rather than keeping the subject only theoretical).

I did not achieve in all my goals, though. I wanted to incorporate more classroom discussion, but instead I ended up speaking more than I wanted to. Plus, some of the readings were a little more than was manageable, and while I was able to correct that mistake, still it can be a little discouraging.

My biggest failure, however, was that I wasn’t able to spend as much time with the students. I wish I was able to work with them, side-by-side, with articles and assignments. But instead, I became the teacher who leaves it up to the students to contact me. I attribute this to stress of coming back new to SAIACS (I was just getting to know the students), and even the exhaustion of having a baby. Still… that’s one aspect I really want to improve.

In all, the experience was good for the students as well, I think… though I haven’t seen the class evaluations. But from one-to-one chats. I know they left the class more aware and feeling more capable than when they entered. And that certainly was a goal.

mcgillcrestJan 29, 2009, was the Teacher Assistant (TA) training workshop, organised by the Association for Graduate Students, for the Religious Studies graduate students of McGill University.

At McGill, and probably in most major universities, Teacher Assistants are used extensively to help the Professors with the huge workload, especially in Undergraduate classes. The roles of the Teacher Assistant (TA) are varied but usually include grading papers, handling conferences (classroom discussions) and sometimes even teaching. However, in recent times it has been felt by many TAs (at McGill) that they have been over-worked, under-trained and under-paid. So this past year, the TAs at McGill have devised a workload form that will make them and the Professors accountable about the exact hours spent on each course co-taught. However, most TAs still feel that they are not equipped to handle the rigours of teaching and needed some training for the basic tasks of grading and classroom management.

To address the latter concern, the first workshop for TA teacher training was organised. The Workshop began at 8:30am (which on a snow-bound Montreal morning seems unearthly). And went on till 11:30am. There was a session addressing how to grade, how to manage (and teach) classes, maintaining a healthy relationship with the the professor and students, and finally a session on TA rights.

In terms of ideas, the basic thrust was:

1. We need rubrics to grade
2. We need to be more careful to realise that as teachers, we may be causing the very negative behaviour in students that we despise
3. Keep a track of all the time you spend as a TA, including preparation and training time.
4. Keep a relationship with students as cordial, but not as “friends”… and avoid even a hint of sexual harassment!

I found most of the workshop really helpful, (though the last part was made strange by its contextual relevance to McGill and thankfully not so much back in India… yet) especially given a few ideas on teaching I never thought before. Some of those lessons included…

1. In forming rubrics, first decide what is an A paper and what is an F paper, and then start working out the in-between.

2. When grading, (and this is something I never used to believe in, but have probably started to change), there is no difference between a grade of a good PhD paper and a good MA paper. The difference lies in the type of assignment, not in the type of grade. Thus, the type of assignment given to an MA student will be different than a PhD student, but if a PhD and an MA student were given the same paper, then it is best not to devise two separate rubrics to grade these students, but rather treat them equally.

3. When handling class discussions, avoid being critical of students. In fact, it is probably ONLY encouragement that motivates students and not criticism or even healthy constructive criticism! (This is something I think I have to drill into my head because while I sense it is true, I am not very encouraging in practice).

4. When handling classroom discussions, and when there is a stalemate between a particular student and teacher, it is best to turn the question to the class and ask them, “What do you think?”

5. When trying to get students to talk in class, sometimes a question is a closed question (where the answer is fixed, hence not a real question). To get good ‘real’ questions, it is best to ask the students, “what kinds of questions can you ask?” The popcorn could result in questions (and thus pursuits of answers) that might surprise even the lecturer.

6. When a teacher asks a student a question, the question should model to the students how good questions can be asked.

7. Civility is an important term in the classroom. The law of civility states that it is uncivil to browse the internet during class, to be visibly bored in class, etc etc. However, the teacher must realise that this uncivil behaviour from students is usually a result of uncivil behaviour from the teacher… where the teacher is disrespectful of student opinion, or the teacher is going too fast.

8…. ok, that’s it. I know there’s more… but you get the idea.

On the whole, good stuff!

The past few days (since my last post) have been busy, though not much significant to report.

Mainly I presented my first paper to my “Problems in Philosophy of Religion” class taught by Professor McLelland.  While the paper was harder to write than I initially thought; I was ultimately happy with the work and I think it was well-accepted.

Tyndale SeminarySoon after, I had the chance to visit Toronto for a day, and I spent the day at Tyndale Seminary. I met Dr. Leggett as well as Dr. Beverly (both of whom have in some ways been associated with SAIACS). I also attended their chapel, which is held at about 11:30am; and for the first time in a long time, I participated in ‘contemporary’ praise and worship. The ‘sermon’ was ‘preached’ by Douglas Faulkner, a physically challenged poet, who appealed (literally appealed) the student body to care for the physically disabled in their congregations, to encourage them, to make them feel useful; for when they do, they will indeed see that the physically challenged can and will be used significantly by God.

I even attended a part of the Christian Ethics class (taught by Dr. Beverly) and quite enjoyed it. They were discussing ‘weird churches’ and ‘euthanasia’ both current issues faces the members of the class. It was especially touching to hear stories of students who had seen their family members suffer and pass away in hospitals and having to deal with issues of ‘euthanasia’ face-up. I also roamed around Tyndale a bit, and the book store was quite impressive, though expensive. They had a very good selection of books; not just text books. I didn’t have much time to see the library though (had to catch my bus back), but will probably get the opportunity at a later date.

Then, both my McGill classes have ended. The “Theories of Religions” class (taught by Dr. Kanaris) was quite interesting especially since it was an undergraduate class. I found the quality of discussions and class presentations of quite a high standard; and was amazed at the high level of exposure the students have to important theories. Samples of the final exam questions are:

Deconstruction is a peculiar form of diagnostic analysis. According to Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is simultaneously critical and constructive. Discuss in what ways this is the case with respect to notions explicitly relevant to religious studies (e.g. faith, messianicity, chora, and justice).

and if that wasn’t enough, then the next question….

Postcolonial theories of society are replete with references to religion. Neither is concerned with advocating religious beliefs as is done in phenomenology or systematic theology. To identify their general manner of inquiry and relevance for religious studies, compare and contrast the positions of Michel Foucault and Edward Said.

And another question that ‘must’ be answered which is interestingly also pertinent to my dissertation work:

A key figure who has sparked debate about religious studies in the university is Russell T. McCutcheon. In Manufacturing Religion (1997) McCutcheon takes on the institution of religious studies (qua classical phenomenology) as a self-validating discipline that constitutes its object of study (‘religion’) in a form that is ahistorical, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. As a result scholars of religion guard their field with a veneer of objectivity that is implicitly, complicity (in his view), theological. Interestingly, theologians and religionists have taken McCutcheon’s critique as an opportunity to rethink not only religious studies as a viable academic pursuit but theology as well. The arguments of Sheila Greeva Davaney, Linell E. Cady and Paula M. Cooey complement one another and build a mounting case. Weave their points together into a uniform argument for academic theology and religious studies as academic. In outlining your essay be clear about the positions being argued, pro and con; identify what allows these scholars to offer what at first seems counter-intuitive given McCutcheon’s views. You migh also state your opinion after organizing the material as described.

So, to remind you, this is UNDERGRADUATE, ie. Bachelor’s level. And I must admit that some Masters students in India would struggle to answer these questions, let alone understand the question. The reason I put the questions up however, is to point positively to the current research being exposed to the students at such an early stage. Meaning, they are doing Derrida, Foucault, Said, even McCutcheon. Most of these people are exposed in Indian seminaries/universities, only at a much later stage in their learning (too late, in my opinion).

Anyway, apart from all this, I also attended another Doktorklub, this time on “Barth’s view of Time and Eternity.” I found again that most specialist papers are received with ‘blank stares’ from the audience except by the faculty present or one/two daring students. Either Doktorklubs should present papers that are pertinent to the entire audience, or the students/audience should dare to dig deeper into the presenter’s thoughts to find the exercise useful. Most importantly, I think SAIACS has got it right by giving the papers in advance, because it at least provides the opportunity to grapple with the issues presented.

So that’s that. As you can see I’ve been busy. Now with the term end approaching, most of my work will shift to the libraries and my research. My next term engagements include attending a class in Concordia University, and hopefully more time in Toronto, hopefully in Toronto University.

The dichotomy between the academia and the “real” world is fake, because there’s no such thing as a ‘real’ world if it does not also include the spaces of learning that really exist.Yet somehow a dichotomy exists in people’s minds, so that when a student is finishing her/his studies, it is usually (wrongly) said that she/he is looking forward to getting back to the ‘real’ world. I mean, is the academic world not real? Does it have different rules for gravity; social relations than anything else on the planet? Surely schools/colleges/institutions/small clusters, are as much part of the real world as slums/dhabas/government buildings/taj mahal etc.

Nevertheless, what is usually MEANT when this dichotomy is called upon is that the academic world deals with theoretical issues, while the real world is more practical. This too is a false dichotomy, because theory needs to be applied to the discipline of studies/reflection (is thinking not practical?) and in the non-academic world surely people their work has some theoretical basis and discussion. Do we non-academicians not have a lot to say about how the government should run, cricket should be managed, city to become more organised. The fact here too remains that even theory and practice are merged in ‘reality’; but separated in people’s mindset.

Still, there is something to be said about a division. In that, the academic (real) world operates with a set of rules and dispositions that are very different from say a church, or even a workplace. What can be said, and is intuitively meant, is that when academicians meet other spaces (like Church, workplace, fun-place etc), there is an interaction possible that can strengthen both the academician as well as the other space (whatever it be).

It is really irritating when academicians believe that lay people need a simplification of the message, when in fact they need a straightforward clear message. Usually scholars patronise the audience, but actually the audience is just as smart as scholars, just they don’t have the exposure or the language to discourse with scholars. Thankfully the students did not display a patronising attitude towards the audience. The fact that they were scared must have helped!!!

And this was the intention when Dr. David Housholder, who taught Christian Education to the theology class at SAIACS, helped organise a Christian Education seminar where the Theology students would be resource persons for “lay” (church going) practitioners on February 23, 2008, at Indra Nagar Methodist Church, Bangalore (India).

The whole day seminar was organised mainly to raise important theological issues that need to be considered for further strengthening our already-existent christian education programmes. And each of the theology students presented a paper for about 15 minutes, brought together by Dr. David Housholder and Mrs. Leela Mannaseh (From Bible Society, India).

As I sat in the seminar, I couldn’t help but look to see how the theology students, all of whom I have been involved with for about two years, interacted in this new setting. My concern was more to see how/whether students from the academic space could adapt to different, especially urban church contexts.

I was encouraged as well as reminded of the difficulty of the task.

The student presentations were generally good. They all made an excellent summary of theological points that related to Christian Education. A total of seven paper presentations was a little too much, but all credit to the students for trying to keep things straightforward without harking for too much simplicity. It is really irritating when academicians believe that lay people need a simplification of the message, when in fact they need a straightforward clear message. Usually scholars patronise the audience, but actually the audience is just as smart as scholars, just they don’t have the exposure or the language to discourse with scholars. Thankfully the students did not display a patronising attitude towards the audience. The fact that they were scared must have helped!!!

The weaknesses that was straight-away evident though, was the format of the Christian Education seminar. With too much emphasis given for paper presentations, there was no avenue to actually dialogue with the Church audience/practitioners. In effect, while the students gained some valuable experience in presenting papers in a strange (different) audience, there was no actual (genuine) feedback possible because there was little/no time for interaction.

Sadly, such a format would only lead to the continuation of belief that scholars/specialists have a top-down (teaching) approach while the Church audience are only sheep/flock to be talked to… who will learn anything that we give them. This is not true. And yet, there are so few spaces where specialists (like theologians) can actually sit with (secular) professionals and lay practitioners as equals in common dialogue.

SAIACS students at the Christian Education Seminar at Indra Nagar Methodist Church, Bangalore

SAIACS students at the Christian Education Seminar at Indra Nagar Methodist Church

Nevertheless, if the format of the seminar was a weakness, still there was a lot of positive to be gained. Firstly, exposure is not a bad thing. And I think the students gave the audience something new to think about. Secondly, even the reverse exposure was helpful… in that the scholars in making, the theology students, were challenged to rethink their own communication styles to see how to more clearly present their own work. It was good to see them struggle to be clear; but I think they would all know that they will be clearer the next time they get an opportunity to present to such an audience.

So, in effect, the interaction between these two spaces was a good start towards something… and perhaps a part of a journey that people are already on. We want to learn, we need to teach simply. And it seems likely that as practising thinkers and thinkers who practice we will always have the opportunity to communicate more clearly, and listen more attentively.

Since my proposal has been submitted, I am able to begin to report on some backlogged events. The first of which is the seminar on the “Use and Abuse of the Bible” which I attended, along with my colleague Havilah Dharmaraj, on December 5-8, 2007 at the Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC), Whitefield (near Bangalore), India.

While I had a lot to say about the seminar, both good and bad, I think it is best to first just put out the final statement of the seminar, and then, in a later post, present my own response to the statement. I must admit that I was involved in drafting the response, even though I had certain concerns about some of the ideas represented in it. Those concerns I will express in my response.

Before all this, though, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the “use and abuse of the bible” seminar; it was challenging/stimulating and even constructive for a lot of people; and since it was an ecumenical venture, it provided a vast exposure to varying points of view. On to the statement.

ECC Seminar Participants

Statement of the National Seminar on the “Use and Abuse of the Bible” for Theological Teachers, a joint programme of the Indian School of Ecumenical Theology (ISET), ECC and the Association for Theological Teachers in India (ATTI)

Preamble:

The Seminar on “The Use and Abuse of the Bible” for Theological Teachers in Commemoration of the Birth Centennial of Dr. William Barclay was held from December 5-8, 2007 at the Ecumenical Christian Centre. There were 37 participants from 17 Theological Institutions under various theological fraternities in India such as the Senate of Serampore University, the Roman Catholic Seminaries and the Asia Theological Association. The 5th December 2007 being the birth Centenary of Dr. William Barclay, the participants acknowledged the appropriateness of the theme and the dates of the Seminar.

Dr. William Barclay (1907-1978) was an author, radio and television presenter, a minister of the Church of Scotland and Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. Though a man of humble background, he became a theological celebrity. He was widely known in Great Britain for his radio and television broadcasts, but his most significant legacy was his writing.

Dr.Barclay dedicated his life to “making the best biblical scholarship available to the average reader”. The eventual result was the Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by Saint Andrew Press, the Church of Scotland’s publishing house. Despite the series name, these commentaries do not set a program of regular study. Rather, they go verse by verse through Barclay’s own translation of the New Testament, listing and examining every possible interpretation known to Barclay and providing all the background information he considered possibly relevant, all in layman’s terms. The commentaries were fully updated with the help of William Barclay’s son, Ronnie Barclay, in recent years and they are now known as the New Daily Study Bible series. They are the only commentaries on the entire New Testament that have been written by one person.

He described himself as a liberal evangelical and as a universalist believing all people will eventually be saved.

Dr.Barclay was a scholar in his own right. His other works The Mind of Jesus and New Testament Words are powerful examples of his brilliant mind and erudite scholarship. We owe a lot to Dr.Barclay who has made the study of the Bible a delightful and meaningful endeavor.

The Seminar was held in the context of the use and abuse of the Bible in theological circles, in the Church and in the preaching and exposition of individual Christians. Therefore the Seminar featured a united search of people from diverse persuasions and perspectives to evolve a common consensus regarding an appropriate and relevant approach in biblical hermeneutics.

Statement:

We, 37 participants of the National Seminar on “The Use and Abuse of the Bible” coming from 17 Theological Institutions across the country acknowledge the complexity of the Seminar topic and are thoroughly aware of the tensions that exist in the whole process of biblical interpretation. The participants came to a consensus with the following statement outlines.

1. The Bible: We affirm that while the text of the Bible can be manipulated, the Word of God cannot be misused or abused. This is because we distinguish between the Word of God and the biblical text. We acknowledge that the biblical text emerged as God-inspired faith communities responded and witnessed to the Word of God from various socio-political and religio-cultural contexts. We seek to recover the Word of God from the biblical text though, in view of the evident difficulties of this enterprise, we do this humbly and reverentially.

2. Hermeneutical Mission: We admit that the biblical text is not only a God-inspired response and witness to the Word of God, but is inadvertently also a political, historical, ideological, social and even gender-biased collection of texts. As a result, we recognize that the Bible has been used to oppress subalterns such as women, Dalits, tribals and other socially ostracized communities. We look to liberate the Bible from these oppressive tendencies. We do not reject the text but employ liberative re-readings of the text to encourage the emancipation and empowerment of the oppressed.

3. Hermeneutical Key: We uphold the need for a life-affirming motif to better understand the meaning of the Bible. We reject biblical abuse through literalism and biblicism, while encouraging the recovery of more metaphoric and contextual meanings. Most importantly, however, we recognize the need for ‘Christic sensitivity’ in our readings of the text especially as guides to our liberative and contextual readings.

4. Hermeneutical Methodology: We acknowledge and even laud the multiplicity of readings of the biblical text and encourage an interdisciplinary hermeneutical process. We recognize the value of various hermeneutical methodologies, but also look to incorporate a more integrated ap­proach that includes the careful study of the text in its historical-cultural contexts.

5. We feel the need to integrate the findings of the Conference with Christian institutions and lay people in a language that is clear and meaningful. In this regard, we look forward to the development of a ‘People’s Bible Commentary’ in the near future.

Rev. Dr. Jones Muthunayagom, President, ATTI, United Theological College
Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi,
Dean, ISET, ECC Programme Co-ordinator
Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko, Director, ECC

January 8, 2007

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