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New Māori Theology lecturer excited about next steps

Thursday 15 October 2020 1:39pm

The University of Otago has been a significant factor in Reverend Wayne Te Kaawa’s educational and spiritual journey, and he says there’s a “pleasing symmetry” about his recent appointment as Lecturer in Māori Theology.

“I am a very proud product of the University of Otago, having completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees here in Theology – but I wouldn’t say I’ve ‘come full circle’ because I hope to contribute in future through teaching, and via research in Māori and indigenous theology.”

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Rev Te Kaawa

Rev Te Kaawa (Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau, Ngāi Tuhoe and Ngāti Awa) is an ordained priest and former leader of the Presbyterian Māori Synod. He worked in Te Teko, Auckland, Rotorua and Opotiki before coming to Dunedin to study his PhD in 2017.

At Otago he has also worked as a Māori chaplain and Theology teaching fellow.

In July 2019 he returned to his Ohope marae to help teach a historic week-long Māori Religion and Theology block course with Theology Professor Murray Rae.

The course explored Māori theology, from pre-colonisation through to how tangata whenua later interacted with (and adapted) different forms of Christianity, and included discussion on the Pai Marire, Ringatu and Ratana movements. The course also assessed mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) in a theological context.

The marae also had great personal significance for Rev Te Kaawa – aged 11 he had helped his family make tukutuku panels and he has many Tūhoe iwi affiliations with Ohope.

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Rev Te Kaawa finished his undergraduate and post-ministry training at Otago in 2001, during which time he spent six months with the University’s chaplaincy team.

His Otago doctoral thesis was entitled “Re-visioning Christology through a Māori lens”, and his PhD was conferred in August 2020.

“My oral PhD defence was on a Tuesday in July. The next day I interviewed for the lectureship and began on the following Monday, with my first class a week later. I hit the ground running”, he says.

Acting Head of Programme Dr James Harding says Theology is delighted to welcome Rev Te Kaawa to its staff.

“Wayne is already making an immensely valuable contribution to the life of the programme, and in particular to the welfare of our students. It is wonderful that we are able to have Wayne among us.”

Photo of James Harding
Professor James Harding

In August Theology staff accompanied Dr Te Kaawa to his marae where they spent three days in wānanga exploring how the programme could better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi and Otago’s Māori Strategic Framework.

Rev Te Kaawa is also a Te Roopu Tautoko ki te Tonga Hauora Māori social service provider in Dunedin.

“When I walked through the hallowed gates of Otago my first thought was, ‘what sort of footprint do I want to leave here?’ – an earnt doctorate, taking part in pioneering a new chaplaincy and a new lectureship; I think I have only begun to leave a footprint here”, he says.

(Below: Rev Te Kaawa and Professor Murray Rae)

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