Native Ministries

For the past 25 years, Vancouver School of Theology has worked in partnership with First Nations people to provide theological education in a culturally relevant and appropriate context.

When VST was established in 1971, part of its vision was that theological education in preparation for ministry should take its cultural context and location seriously. For the school, this meant its Canadian setting and its relation to the Aboriginal people of Canada. Of particular concern was the desperate need for indigenous ministries that would take seriously the social, cultural and religious contexts of Native communities. In 1978 VST appointed a Native ministries task force, which included several First Nations people.

In the early 1980’s, as Native communities became stronger and more self –aware they began to form regional church groups who would represent their concerns. In the summer of 1984 the Anglican Church held a conference in Hawaii to celebrate the work of Roland Allen and his emphasis on the indigenous church. Native delegates from Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand and Canada attended. Soon after, several of those who had attended met in Vancouver with representatives of VST to talk about a program for training Native clergy. Out of these meetings the Native Ministries Consortium was born, consisting of four partners: VST, the Anglican Diocese of Caledonia, the United Church of Canada Coastal Regional group and Charles Cook Theological School in Arizona. Their mandate was to develop “under Native leadership, community-based training programs for Native ministry, both lay and ordained.” They began this process in 1985 by offering a summer school for Native ministry at VST.

The NMC Summer School served as a strong catalyst for the development of further Native programs, ones which would accommodate different learning styles, honour oral cultures, be ecumenical, and in which excellence and quality prevailed. Leaders from the Nisga’a Nation (www.nisgaalisims.ca) urged VST and the consortium to look at developing an extension degree program. A proposal for the Master of Divinity Degree by Extension was approved by the VST Board of Governors, and in the fall of 1988, the Native Ministries Program was initiated.