Grebel's Master of Theological Studies program is careful to include Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum. This is part of the College’s commitment to following Call to Action #60 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that addresses theological schools and “the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right.” In particular, courses like TS 732 - “Theologies of the Global South,” and TS 733 - “Indigenous Theologies and Methods” explore Indigenous theologies with attention to experience, history, the nature of the spiritual, key figures, and important themes. MTS students who have taken these courses reflected on some of their key learnings. 

“Readings from a post-colonial and post-modern point of view are so important. Hearing from a variety of North American Christian Indigenous leaders shows the importance of contextualizing the gospel,” shared Margaret Sherk, after taking TS 733 with Terry LeBlanc. The content of this class connected with her studies through a close examination of Indigenous theologies, which allowed her to deepen her understanding of a primary interest – Christian Celtic spirituality – in a research paper.

Terry LeBlanc and MTS students

“In order to learn beyond the scope of our own lenses, it is important for students/pastors (especially for those of us who were raised within the dominant Western culture) to hear from marginalized voices,” Joel Wallman explained. Indigenous perspectives “provide a unique, and often disruptive voice to traditional theological understandings, regarding themes such as domination, subjugation, living in right relations, as well as proper stewardship of Creation. By listening to Indigenous voices, we as Christians can all learn how we can support a Four-Self Indigenous Church (self-determined, self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-theologizing).” 

Devin Hogg shared a similar opinion: "Conrad Grebel University College is located on unceded land and that reality must be acknowledged and wrestled with. Indigenous peoples are present inhabitants of the land.” He clarified, “Indigenous peoples are in our classrooms, in our villages, towns and cities, and in our workplaces – If we are truly to love our neighbours as ourselves, we must listen to their voices and honour their beliefs.” Courses such as TS 732 – this year taught by Pablo Kim Sun – uncover redemptive and creative theologies involving “the ecological environment, care for creation, and explorations of gender and sexuality,” Devin added. 

"Adrian Jacobs emphasized the importance of gathering diverse groups around the fire to exchange ideas and practices, giving these gifts of knowledge for mutual flourishing. It was a powerful lesson in cultural respect," said Sarah Weber, when she reflected on guest speaker Adrian Jacobs’ lecture on Indigenous theologies.  "The course underscored how Christians from diverse backgrounds can connect and find common ground despite differences in practices and cultures,” Sarah summarized.

"I would say that Indigenous theologies have the power to speak back to the errors and presumptions of our theological inheritance, which after all, includes Jewish, Greek, Roman, German and other cultural concepts," reflected Peter Haresnape, who took TS 733 in 2022. "Because Indigenous theologies are often rooted in land connections and ways of knowing other than Western philosophy, it is a powerful conversation partner and teacher, and it prevents theological and ethical discussions from being being too academic. The conversation takes place in full view of storied lands with histories that call for reconciliation and justice." 

Reflections like the ones shared by these Grebel students are only a brief insight into how  courses like TS 732 and TS 733 shed light on Indigenous theologies. The MTS program began the past academic year with a field trip to the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, the site of the former Mohawk Institute, one of the oldest residential schools in Canada. These courses built on learnings gleaned from that experience.  

MTS Director Carol Penner remarked, “We are so thankful for these sessional lecturers who are Indigenous or who have grown up in the Global South. They enrich our program and shape our theology in significant ways.” She added, “Our courses often include writings by people who are marginalized, but being able to interact and ask questions of these theologians makes the issues come alive."

By Natasha Forth

Image 1: Guest speaker Adrian Jacobs in TS 732  – Theologies of the Global South – taught by Pablo Kim

Image 2: Terry LeBlanc teaching TS 733 – Indigenous Theologies and Methods – outdoors