Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Announcing a new conference series: Theology Connect

This week a new conference series will be launched. It's called Theology Connect and it aims to support theological reflection in the southern hemisphere. The first one will be held in Sydney in July 2016, on the theme of Divine Revelation and Human Reason. I had a chat to the managing director, Chris Green, to find out about this new venture.

BM: Was there a particular inspiration for this new series of conferences? How did you come up with the idea?

CG: While I was lecturing in systematic theology at Wesley Institute I started gathering advice from local theological colleges in Sydney. Eventually, this led to us envisioning a cross between an antipodal version of the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference and something more inclusive of biblical studies, like a southern hemispheric version of the Tyndale House study groups.

BM: How does it differ from other conferences?

CG: Theology Connect is about finding strategic locations in the southern hemisphere (or the “majority world”) and setting up conferences that move from the Bible to Christian theology. So while our first conference is set in Australia, we're also hoping to start some others in different parts of the world. Our plan for the Australian conference is to make it bi-annual, for it to be multi-denominational, and to bring in several international speakers each time. We want to keep a number of values in mind. First, our themes need to facilitate the participation of both biblical and theological scholars of different denominational backgrounds. So we like the more ecumenical themes, and want to stay away from divisive topics. Second, each conference needs to highlight keynote speakers that are of international quality alongside local voices at the same level. Third, our keynote speakers should be both academic as well as ministerial. Fourth, we want our keynotes to balance representation of traditional Reformed views alongside others with broader appeal.

BM: Who's it for?

CG: We're aiming primarily to serve scholars, students and interested ministers. In general, we want to see options increase for the professional development of theological scholars in Australia. We also want to see highly skilled students present alongside more seasoned scholars. For students, we are also going to offer a 700-level class after the conference, which will allow time spent at the conference to be translated into academic credit.

BM: The practice of Christian theology in Australia is very different from elsewhere in the world. The institutional settings are different. The ecumenical relationships are different. There are unique geographical challenges. Sometimes the theological questions need to be different too. What do you think are the main prospects for Christian theology in this part of the world?

CG: We don't have designs on changing the context in Australia, but we do want to challenge it in a couple of strategic ways. I agree that structural and geographical challenges shape some of the limitations theologians face here. For instance, conferences often focus on one particular international speaker who is brought in from the outside. That usually functions as a centerpiece for bringing in delegates. However, due to the significant expense incurred by international speakers, we tend to only choose the ones we already agree with. Many of our conferences in Australia tend to function more like ideological rallies. It’s a bit strange to me when we call these events “conferences,” since we don’t do much “conferring” with others at these kinds of events. I think the prospects for Australian theology are significant if we can develop a more internally interested environment. My own perspective on the theological scene in this part of the world is that Aussies are reluctant to read each other's work. Regardless of the motives for that tendency, I’d like these conferences to support a more mutually interested context.

BM: The topic of the first conference will be revelation and reason. Why was that theme chosen?

CG: We want to focus on something that will bring both biblical and theological scholars together, especially because we are holding the conference in Sydney and have a larger proportion of professionals there who are biblically trained. We also believe the “theological interpretation of Scripture” is a bit overdone right now. So we are focusing on reason and revelation in order to explore how to move from the Bible to theology, but with a bit more of a dogmatic aim. We want to explore how decisions concerning revelation and reason might have entailments for other aspects of theology too.

If you're interested in coming along next year, there's a call for papers up on the website. You can also keep in touch with them on Facebook.

2 Comments:

Kim Fabricius said...

An here I was thinking this post was going to be a click-bait parody. But it's not, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

Definitely real! Thanks! Chris Green (for Theology Connect)

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