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Annual Conference 2019

Theology in the public square - Monday 15th to Wednesday 17th July 2019 at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Herts.

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Conference 2013 intro: The Earth is the Lord's (Psalm 24:1)

by Conference Chair Margaret Barker

The Church needs a characteristically Christian approach to the current environment crisis. There is a danger that by repeating fashionable secular positions, the Church may be adopting ideas and assumptions that are not compatible with our core beliefs.

This conference will be Bible-based, looking again at the fundamental biblical vision of the creation and for the creation. This is based on the oldest understanding of covenant, which saw the whole creation, both visible and invisible, bound together in one God- given system.  'Covenant' means 'binding together'. What modern environmentalists call an ecological system or the web of life, the Old Testament calls the eternal covenant.

The biblical view challenges many of the assumptions on which modern economic systems are based: that growth can continue without limit, whereas the Bible sets a Sabbath rest as the goal; development until everything is very good and then a recognition that the work is complete.

The biblical view sees the current situation as a spiritual crisis: human beings do not lack the knowledge to make things better, but they do lack the will. The irresponsible and selfish use of knowledge has caused  the degradation of 'the world and those who dwell therein' (Psalm 24.1). When Adam chose the wrong tree, he found himself in a world of dust and thorns, toil and death. Isaiah had a vision of the whole creation disintegrating because people  had broken the eternal covenant (Isaiah 24.4-6).

The biblical view prescribed atonement - which means healing - to restore the creation. Temple rituals for the penitent were based on self-sacrifice and the obligation to put right what had been damaged. Only recently have we heard secular voices saying  we need to reduce consumption and self interest.

The three sections of this conference address the three stages of the process:

  • setting up the eternal covenant - with an exploration of the neglected aspects  of biblical teaching about the creation;
  • breaking the eternal covenant - with examples of how our present political  and economic set-ups are making the situation worse;
  • restoring the covenant - with examples of how industrial practice is waking up to reality.

Back to conference 2013


High Leigh Conference Centre


High Leigh Conference Centre Lord Street Hoddesdon Hertfordshire EN11 8SG United Kingdom - map

Telephone: +44 (0)1992 463 016 Fax: +44 (0)1992 446 5594

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Please do not contact High Leigh directly.

Conference 2013

The Earth is the Lord's: Renewing the Covenant of Creation

Monday 15th to Thursday 18th July 2013 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Margaret Barker DD
Secretaries: Revd Clare Nicholson and Revd John Goldsmith
Chaplain: Fr Dominic White OP

This conference explored what the Bible says about the creation, based on the most fundamental  (and most neglected) idea of the eternal covenant which binds all creation and human society into one God-given system.

Speakers (with audio recordings)

 m barker
Margaret Barker
Conference chair Margaret Barker read theology at the University of Cambridge, England, and went on to pursue her research independently.  She has developed an approach to Biblical Studies now known as Temple Theology. Elected President of the Society for Old Testament Study in 1998, she edited the Society's second Monograph Series, published by Ashgate.
Opening talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (48 mins)
Closing talk:    audio Listen / download mp3 (9 mins)

 a evans
Alex Evans
Alex Evans is a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University, where he works on issues including climate change, resource scarcity, international development,and global public goods. His recent publications include Climate, Scarcity and Sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012) and Beyond the Millennium Development Goals (2012, with CIC's David Steven).
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (27 mins)

 h hutchison
Helen Hutchison
Helen Hutchison is a Church of England Environment Officer in the Diocese of St Albans. Her lifelong interest in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin and Fr Thomas Berry, priest, ecologist and philosopher, inform her work and understanding of the climate crisis as a spiritual crisis brought about by humankind's loss of connection with the earth and its sacred gifts.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (44 mins)

 j newman
Jeffrey Newman
Jeffrey Newman is Rabbi Emeritus  at Finchley Reformed Synagogue and Founder Director of Earth Charter UK, an initiative which brings together human rights, justice and equality.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (50 mins)

 h philipson
Hylton Murray Philipson
Hylton Philipson is Managing Director of Canopy Capital, a private equity firm focused on the development of new ecosystem services markets. He first explored the Amazon basin at the age of 17 and subsequently established Morgan Grenfell in Brazil at the age of 23. He has given interviews on the future of the Amazon to the Today programme on Radio 4, as well as BBC television.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (48 mins)

 d shreeve
David Shreeve
David Shreeve is Environmental Consultant to the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. David is part of the team which organises Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England's  national environment campaign. In 2003 he was awarded a Lambeth Degree in recognition of his influence in the Church's understanding of environmental issues.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (35 mins)

 t spencer
Tom Spencer
Tom Spencer is Executive Director, European Centre for Public Affairs, and Vice Chairman of the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague where he takes a particular interest in Forests and Climate and the Greening of Security Policy. He is a member of the Conservative Party's Quality of Life group on Climate Change.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (31 mins)

 d white
Dominic White
Conference chaplain Fr Dominic White OP has a background in music and research, bridging arts and sciences.  He founded and directs the Cosmos dance project, has a research project on spiritualities,   cosmology and the arts, and is keen to promote learning and teaching as seeking after truth.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (42 mins)

Conference 2012


By whose authority? An interfaith look at women and religious authority

Monday 16th to Thursday 19th July 2012 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Revd Dr Harriet Harris
Secretary: Revd Clare Nicholson
Chaplain: Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes

We all step in and out of leadership, whatever our roles in life.  We all need leadership to go well; we need to have the people who fit that role.  This conference explored through talks, workshops, art and worship:

  • the difference that 'difference' makes
  • humility and ambition
  • women as leaders in the early church
  • old and new taboos
  • 'leadership' and 'discipleship' amongst the Anglican divines
  • exemplars, and the art of conversation across faiths and cultures
  • change, loss and failure

Programme: Click here to download.

Speakers (with audio recordings where available)

l alexander
Loveday Alexander
Revd Canon Loveday Alexander is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield. In her teaching and research work she is exploring the links between the New Testament and the Graeco-Roman world.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (24 mins)

v cunningham
Valentine Cunningham
Valentine Cunningham is Fellow and Vice-President of Corpus Christi College and Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3

r gayle
Rhett Gayle
Dr Rhett Gayle teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, while residing in Scotland. He is working with Victoria Harrison on 'Exemplar Reasoning': the art of conversation across faiths and cultures, concerning those who influence and inspire us.

v harrison
Victoria Harrison
Dr Victoria Harrison is based in the Philosophy Department at the University of Glasgow, where she specialises in the philosophy of religion, ethics and Asian philosophies.
Talk (with Rhett Gayle): audio Listen / download mp3 (47 mins)

h harris
Harriet Harris
Conference chair Revd Dr Harriet Harris, University Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh, was formerly a university chaplain and tutor in Oxford and before that a theology lecturer at Exeter University. As well as being an Episcopalian priest, Harriet frequently participates in ecumenical and interfaith talks and initiatives and serves on theological committees, formerly for the Church of England and now for the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (40 mins)

p haydock
Pip Haydock
Pip Haydock is Director of The 2gether Partnership, a leadership development and executive coaching business operating across the UK and internationally, with a particular focus on personal development.

v herrick
Vanessa Herrick
Revd Canon Vanessa Herrick is Director of Ministry and Vocation and Director of Ordinands in Ely Diocese. Vanessa was formerly Chaplain and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, and Tutor in Pastoral Theology at Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge.

e koepping
Elizabeth Koepping
Dr Elizabeth Koepping is Senior Lecturer in World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh. Her research in Borneo for many years in one village covered traditional anthropology topics: latterly she has worked more on local religion and Anglican discourses within daily life in village and town, including clergy, regular and intermittent churchgoers and those who, while identifying as Christian, never attend.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (50 mins)

h krausen
Halima Krausen
Imam Halima Krausen is one of Germany's few female imams. Along with her duties in the community, she lectures in the Middle East and the United States and co-founded an inter-religious dialogue working group at Hamburg University.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (49 mins)

c methuen
Charlotte Methuen
Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen is Lecturer in Church History, Theology and  Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow. She moved to Glasgow in 2011 from the University of Oxford where she was Departmental Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History, University Research Lecturer, and Lecturer in Liturgy and Church History at Ripon College Cuddesdon.
Talk (following Loveday Alexander): audio Listen / download mp3 (36 mins)

c pemberton
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Revd Dr Carrie Pemberton Ford is Director of the Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking and leads the Ibix Insight equalities consultancy. She has just completed a Legatum funded report London 2012 and Sporting Mega Events: Trafficking Risks, Social Impact and Cultural Legacy which is now informing the UN Rapporteur on Human Trafficking's work.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (22 mins)

p price
Peter Price
Rt Revd Peter Price is Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was one of the founders of New Way of Being Being Church while general secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

d ravetz
Deborah Ravetz
Deborah Ravetz works with the Social Sculpture Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University. She is concerned with what is sometimes called heart politics: that which connects the personal with the political.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (15 mins)

n slee
Nicola Slee
Dr Nicola Slee is Research Fellow and MA Programme Leader at the Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham. She teaches courses on theological methodology and feminist theology and will be leading a poetry workshop.

s taheri
Sepideh Taheri
Dr Sepideh Taheri is a consultant paediatrician and Honorary Senior Clinical lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. She is a member of the Bahá'í faith.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (44 mins)

Conference 2011


Can These Bones Live? Reading the Bible Today

Tuesday 12th to Friday 15th July 2011 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Prof Adrian Thatcher
Secretary: Revd John Goldsmith
Chaplain: Revd Justin Dodd

In the year of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, this conference will focus on reading the Bible now in new and inspiring ways. It will explore how Christians are to be positive, faithful readers of the scriptures today. Further information

Papers from the conference were published in the January and April 2012 editions of Modern Believing.

Speakers (with audio recordings where available)

a thatcher3
Adrian Thatcher
After the Authorised Version: Reading the Bible 400 years on
Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor in Theology at the University of Exeter. He is author of The Savage Text: The Use and Abuse of the Bible (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).
Talk: pdf Full text

c rowland
Christopher Rowland
William Blake and the King James Version of the Bible
Christopher Rowland is Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford.   The latest of his many books is Blake and the Bible (Yale University Press, 2011).
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (53 mins)

s cornwall2
Susannah Cornwall
Contextual Bible study: A case study with homeless and vulnerably-housed people
Dr Susannah Cornwall is Honorary Research Fellow in Theology at the University of Exeter. Her new book Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ (Equinox) was published in December 2010.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (58 mins)

f stavrakopoulou
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
God's Ex-Wife: What Price Monotheism?
Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou  is Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible at the University of Exeter.  Her most recent book is Land of Our Fathers: The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims (T & T Clark, 2010). She is presenter of the BBC TV documentary series The Bible's Buried Secrets.

j barton
John Barton
The new atheism: Reflections of a Biblical scholar
Revd Professor John Barton is Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford. His latest book is The Bible, The Basics (Routledge, 2010).
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (44 mins)

g loughlin
Gerard Loughlin
The Bible and film
Gerard Loughlin is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. He is the author of Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema and Theology (Blackwell, 2004).
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (93 mins)

m dawn
Maggi Dawn
The Bible, culture and the arts
Revd Dr Maggi Dawn is Chaplain and Fellow in Theology at Robinson College, Cambridge. She is the author of    The Writing on the Wall: High Art, Popular Culture and the Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 2010).
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (78 mins)

a milbank
Alison Milbank
Apocalyptic readings: the Bible and the novel
Alison Milbank is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Nottingham, specializing in Literature and Theology. Her well known book Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians (T & T Clark) was re-printed in 2009.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (56 mins)