2019/20 Seminar Programme
1 October 2019
Jenny Leigh (University of Roehampton)
“Christian Formation and the Problem of Malformation: Making Sense of Sin as Part of Discipleship”
In this paper, I am concerned with the question of how we make sense of the ongoing presence of sin in the life of discipleship. I engage with the work of Graham Ward and Sam Wells (as two expressions of a popular account of formation), who tend to concentrate on the way that formation takes place inside the church and largely overlook the possibility of formation outside the church. I argue that this has to do with sin, as both Ward and Wells fail to take it seriously enough as a formative force and think that that the church already has all the resources it needs to overcome it. Engagement with Rowan Williams allows me to draw out a fuller account of Christian formation. This kind of discipleship involves an ongoing awareness of the presence of sin in the Christian’s life, and an awareness of the scope for ecclesial practices to distort as well as positively form identity. I also highlight a positive flipside to this, showing that the ongoing unsettling that happens as we become aware of our sin is reflective of the abundant dynamism of the life of the God. This abundant life continually brings us to new understandings of what it means to live as a Christian.
Jenny Leigh is a post-doctoral researcher at Roehampton University, exploring questions about how our desire for God is formed. She has recently completed a PhD at Durham University, exploring the question of how Christian ethical and political formation takes place, with a particular focus on how this happens in the context of the Church of England. This research project grew out of working as a parliamentary researcher (for an MP, and then for the Lords Spiritual) and in social policy. This work gave rise to a cluster of questions around how we think theologically about our identities as both Christians and citizens and how these can be held together. Alongside her doctoral work, she taught ethics to Anglican ordinands at the Lindisfarne College of Theology.
15 October 2019
Professor David Clough (University of Chester)
“Forming Christian Concern for Animals: Lessons from Early Methodism”
In his sermon ‘The General Deliverance’ John Wesley hoped that recalling God’s mercies to all creatures as evident in Romans ch. 8 may ‘enlarge our hearts towards these creatures’ so that we may ‘habituate ourselves to look forward, beyond this present scene of bondage, to the happy time, when they will be delivered therefrom, into the liberty of the children of God’. His contemporaries within Methodism and in the wider church, and those who followed after, recognized this as an issue of obvious concern for Christians, on the basis of their beliefs about the place of fellow animal creatures in God’s purposes of creation and redemption. In this lecture David Clough argues that it is time that Methodists together with other Christians reclaimed this inheritance, and as a result led the campaign to challenge human practice that disregards and diminishes their fellow animal creatures, most immediately as it relates to our everyday eating practices.
David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester. After his first book Ethics in Crisis: Interpreting Barth’s Ethics (2005) he co-wrote Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War (2007), debating just war and pacifism in a 21st century context, and has recently completed the landmark two-volume monograph On Animals (2012, 2019), on the place of animals in Christian theology and ethics. He is the founder of CreatureKind (http://becreaturekind.org), a project aiming to engage Christians with farmed animal welfare, and Principal Investigator for a three-year UK Research Council funded project on the Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare in partnership with major UK churches and Compassion in World Farming. He is a Methodist Local Preacher and has represented the Methodist Church on national ecumenical working groups on the ethics of warfare and climate change.
5 November 2019
Dr Clare Watkins (University of Roehampton)
“Learning in Today’s Churches: ‘Deep Conversation’ and Formation in Ordinary”
This paper begins with a brief account of some findings from an on-going theological action research project looking at learning and community in contemporary British Methodism. In particular, this research has highlighted both the ecclesial commitment to learning and formation as the facilitation of discipleship, and, at the same time, the limitations of approaches which involve courses, formal learning and church-based activities. Rather, lay formation - ‘formation in ordinary’ - is typified by what one research participant referred to as ‘deep conversations’. The challenge then becomes, how are such deep conversations to be facilitated, and what theological account is to be given them? Form this starting place in practice the argument moves first to a deepened theological sense of these deep conversations as sites Christian formation, drawing on both normative and academic sources, before exploring what practical responses might be theologically and empirically appropriate to this insight. The paper ends by raising questions concerning the implications of such a pedagogy in ordinary for the wider life and patterning of church life today in our context.
Clare Watkins is Reader in Ecclesiology and Practical Theology at Roehampton, a co-originator of theological action research and Director of the Theology and Action Research Network (TARN – www.theologyandactionresearch.net). Her forthcoming book, Disclosing Church: An Ecclesiology Learnt from Conversations in Practice (Routledge), offers a deepened account of theological action research methods and methodology, and demonstrates how a theology of church can be re-construed from the voices and learning of faith in practices in the world. As a Catholic lay woman theologian her work has consistently focused on embodied practices of faith – whether ecclesial and sacramental, or, more recently, practices of faith in the ‘secular’ places of home, family, work, and social action.
19 November 2019
Dr Joe Aldred (Churches Together in England)
"Jeremiah’s Letter to Jewish Exiles and its Implications for Exilic/Diaspora Peoples Today"
This paper explores the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s letter to Jewish exiles and its implications for contemporary exilic people such as the Windrush Generation i.e. African and Caribbean diaspora in Britain. Before looking specifically at Jeremiah’s letter, I will examine exile/diaspora in the context of Israel/Judah in Jeremiah’s time and in the African and Caribbean experience. The paper closes with a focus on post-exilic existences.
Joe Aldred is responsible for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations at Churches Together in England and is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy. He is Honorary Research Fellow at Roehampton University, Trustee of Movement for Justice and Reconciliation, and of NCLF – A Black Christian Voice; Co-President of Housing Justice and Patron of the Nurses Association of Jamaica. Joe is a broadcaster including on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 4’s Prayer for the Day and the Daily Service. He has experience as bishop and pastor, chair and member of strategic councils, boards and committees mainly in the areas of religion, education, health and community relations. Joe has a Master’s Degree with Distinction and a PhD in Theology from Sheffield University; is author and editor of several books including Respect: Understanding Caribbean British Christianity, The Black Church in the 21st Century, Thinking outside the box – on race, faith and life (Hansib 2013), From Top Mountain – An Autobiography (Hansib 2015), and most recently Editor of Pentecostals and Charismatics in Britain. He is a regular contributor to periodicals including the College of Preachers’ The Preacher. Joe is married to Novelette, a psychotherapist and chaplain, they have three grownup daughters and four grandchildren.
3 December 2019 - CANCELLED
Due to UCU strike action, Professor Kristin Aune's paper has been cancelled. We're hoping to reschedule the paper to later in the year.
21 January 2020
Professor Fiona Ellis (University of Roehampton)
4 February 2020
Cristina Gangemi (University of Roehampton)
“Meet the Person: Exploring Disability Theology through the Phenomenological Thinking of Edith Stein”
Over time disability theology has successfully argued that ‘people with disabilities have at best been minority voices (witness) in the development of Christian theology and at worst have been completely silenced within its conversation.’ Decisions have been made about people rather than with them. Disability theologian John Swinton believes that at the heart of this problem we might notice a judgemental ‘hypercognitive’ Church which, in opposition to the gift of life, found in Christian anthropology, downgrades the faith expressions of people who experience disability. Modern philosopher Edith Stein’s insatiable interest in the human person and empathic practice provides interesting reading into this problematic issue. This paper will introduce the in-depth phenomenal, anthropological-theological thinking of this ingenious young academic whose life was touched by God in a way that affirmed her search for truth and enriched her understanding of empathy and the human person. As a practitioner, religious sister and saint, her interdisciplinary thinking offers much to reflect on for practical and disability theologians.
Cristina Gangemi holds a Masters degree in Pastoral Theology and Lay ministry, with a special focus on Disability. She is Director of The Kairos Forum, which focuses on enabling communities to be places of belonging for people with a disability. She has had extensive experience in Special Education, the training of specialised Lay ministers and parent support and is currently working with Livability and other charities. Cristina has recently worked with the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation and Catechesis on issues regarding disability. During the 2012 Games she was a spokesperson for the Christian community and is a national advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. She is currently undertaking doctoral study in Practical theology and Roehampton University.
David Childs (University of Roehampton)
David Childs is an Anglican priest and the Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Team Leader for the Southend Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He has led a multi-parish benefice in Essex and a team ministry in Oxfordshire. He has research interests in the fields of practical theology and human geography.
18 February 2020
Professor Anthony G. Reddie (Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford)
“Black Christianity in Britain and the Quest for Catholicity by means of an Anti-Racist Model Christian Formation”
This paper addresses one of the fundamental challenges inherent within Christianity, namely, the relationship between the universal claims of catholicity of the faith and the contextuality and particularity of specific churches and their attendant believers in particular space and time. It argues that the former is often achieved via the patrician, top-down, epistemological frameworks of colonialism, often effected from metropolitan centres like London, Paris, Edinburgh, Berlin, Madrid, Lisbon et.al. The place and work of Jesus Christ is often the central theological framework for effecting catholocity. This work proposes an alternate way of construing catholicity by emphasising the potency of contextuality and particularity as alternative frames of reference in a postcolonial critique of the hegemonic tendencies of the former. The final part of the paper explores the modalities for a radical anti-racist ethic for Christian formation in our Postcolonial religio-cultural milieu of Brexit Britain.
Anthony G. Reddie is an Extraordinary Professor of Theological Ethics and a Research Fellow at the University of South Africa, and a is Fellow of Wesley House, in Cambridge. He is the forthcoming Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture and a Fellow of Regent’s Park College, in the University of Oxford. He has a BA in History and a Ph.D. in Education (with theology) both degrees conferred by the University of Birmingham. He has written over 70 essays and articles on Christian Education and Black Theology. He is the author and editor of 18 books. His latest book is entitled Theologizing Brexit: A Liberationist and Postcolonial Critique (Routledge, 2019). This book is the first intercultural and postcolonial theological exploration of the Brexit phenomenon. His previous book was Journeying to Justice (Paternoster Press, 2017) (co-edited with Wale Hudson Roberts and Gale Richards). He is also a trustee of the ‘British and Irish Association for Practical Theology’.
10 March 2020
Professor Tom Greggs (University of Aberdeen)
“Illuminating Grace: The Spirit’s Work in Forming the Intellect”
This paper seeks to offer a retrieval of the doctrine of illumination in relation to the appropriation of the revelation of God in Scripture to the mind. Identifying the limitations of hermeneutical theory in relation to a belief in the ongoing activity of the Spirit’s sanctifying grace in forming the people of God (including their intellects), the paper traces the rise and fall of the doctrine of illumination, and seeks to reappropriate it as a means of describing the hermeneutical task. Recognising that individuals and communities are formed by their hearing and interpreting the gospel, the paper seeks to offer a constructive account of the ongoing work of sanctification in which the Spirit is engaged with the intellect, as this takes place through the shared readings of scripture and forms the life of faith and practice.
Tom Greggs, FRSE, holds the Marischal (1616) Chair in Divinity and currently serves as Head of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. He is a Methodist preacher and serves on the Faith and Order Commission of the Methodist Church and the World Council of Churches (for which he convenes the subgroup on religious pluralism). He is currently working on a three volume ecclesiology, the first volume of which was published in 2019 as Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church. His earlier publications include Theology against Religion; New Perspectives for Evangelical Theology; and Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation.
24 March 2020
Prof. Clive Marsh (University of Leicester)
"We are formed by popular culture (fact), so what are we to do about it?: Some practical theological reflections…with a Methodist flavour"
This paper will draw on decades of engagement with the issue of whether/how media, the arts and popular culture shape the meaning-making habits Western citizens now have. It will explore what meaning-making means with respect to what is entailed in ‘having (a) faith’ or ‘inhabiting a religious tradition’, and probe how cultural consumption interweaves with believing. The news is far from all bad, but the ‘wisdom of serpents’ might be needed. I’ll even take on John Wesley in the process…
Clive Marsh is currently Vice-President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, whilst also still doing his three part-time jobs as Academic Head of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester, and Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, and Wesley House, Cambridge. He’s published or co-written/co-edited thirteen books, most recently A Cultural Theology of Salvation (OUP 2018) and, with current Methodist President Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, So What’s the Story…?: A Resource Book for Christian Reflection and Practice (DLT 2019), in addition to lots of articles and book chapters. He’s a Methodist Local Preacher, lives in Leicester, and supports Liverpool (football team and city).
28 April 2020
Dr Chris Shannahan (Coventry University)
‘The Violence of Poverty and Christian Activism in the Age of Austerity’
Over the last ten years Churches and Christian NGOs have become key players in the struggle to defeat rapidly increasing austerity age poverty. Drawing on original data from the current ‘Life on the Breadline…’ project, this paper will establish a dialogue between Peace Studies and Liberation Theology in order to critically examine ‘caring’, ‘campaigning’ and ‘enterprise’ Christian responses to the direct, structural and cultural violence of intersectional poverty. In an era characterised by ideologically driven austerity the paper will show how Christian engagement with poverty can move beyond ‘bandaging the broken’ to ‘drive a spoke into the wheel of injustice’ (Bonhoeffer).
Chris Shannahan is a political theologian whose work focuses on the intersection between theology and struggles for social justice. His research focuses on theology and poverty, theology and racial justice and theology and faith-based political activism. He has previously worked as a youth worker in Kingston, Jamaica; a community organiser and an inner-city Methodist Minister. Having taught at the University of Birmingham and the University of Manchester he is currently an Associate Professor in Political Theology and Director of Postgraduate Teaching at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University where he is leading a three year ESRC funded project entitled ‘Life on the Breadline’, which is exploring Christian responses to urban poverty in the UK since the 2008 financial crash.
12 May 2020
Dr David Muir (University of Roehampton)