More... Modern Church is 120!    

Modern Church is 120!

Modern Church is celebrating 120 years with a social media campaign recording key moments in its history

More... Modern Church, Greenbelt & Pussy Riot    

Modern Church, Greenbelt & Pussy Riot

Modern Church General Secretary Jonathan Draper reflects on our partnership with this year's festival and sponsorship of three acts

More... Our annual conference - A student's perspective    

Our annual conference - A student's perspective

Trainee Methodist Pioneer Minister Dave Shaw thanks delegates who donated to enable student volunteers to attend this year


Conference 2009

Perfect Freedom: Liberal Faith Today and Tomorrow

Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th July 2009 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Rt Revd Dr John Saxbee
Secretary: Pat Boyd
Chaplain: Ven Jane Sinclair assisted by Rosemary Field

The conference considered liberal faith from several perspectives:

  • How is it related to liberty, to liberality?
  • Is religious freedom an oxymoron?
  • What of the authority of Scripture?
  • How liberal can a theology be?
  • Does the church need liberating for tomorrow?
Conference photos: Joan Dorrell

Papers from the conference were published in the Jan 2010 edition of Modern Believing.

Speakers (with audio recordings)

g rowell2
Geoffrey Rowell
For what we have received...
Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell is Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. He is the author of several books including Hell and the Victorians and a biography of John Keble. From a traditionalist perspective, Bishop Rowell will challenge the conference on key issues.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (54 mins)

k ward2
Keith Ward
Liberalism in science and religion
Keith Ward is a philosopher and theologian, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University Emeritus, and an ordained priest in the Church of England.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (55 mins)

b smith
Brian Smith
Liberating the Church for today and tomorrow
Rt Revd Brian Smith is the Bishop of Edinburgh. He studied theology in Cambridge, focusing on the philosophy of religion, and held a number of posts in the Diocese of Oxford, including that of Senior Tutor at Ripon College Cuddesdon.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (56 mins)

ha hartley2
Helen-Ann Hartley
Liberating Scripture: holding on to fundamentals without being fundamentalist
Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley is New Testament Tutor at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. She also acts as a consultant  to BBC television in development of programme ideas in Religion and Ethics.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (51 mins)

g dorrien
Gary Dorrien
The crisis and necessity of liberal theology
Gary Dorrien is Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, Professor of Religion at Columbia University, and an Episcopal priest. His trilogy The Making of American Liberal Theology has been described as the definitive work in the field.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (61 mins)

l winkett
Lucy Winkett
Liberalism: theological and economic
Lucy Winkett is Precentor and Canon of St Paul's Cathedral with responsibility for music and liturgy at the Cathedral. She is a founder adviser to Theos, a think tank launched in 2006.
Talk:  audio Listen / download mp3 (44 mins)

j clatworthy
Jonathan Clatworthy
Liberal theology - to bring peace or a sword?
Jonathan Clatworthy is General Secretary of the Modern Churchpeople's Union. He has worked as a parish priest, university chaplain and lecturer in Ethics. His latest book is Liberal Faith in a Divided Church.
Talk: audio Listen / download mp3 (40 mins)

Conference 2008

Saving the soul of Anglicanism: the nature and future of the Anglican Communion

Tuesday 8th to Friday 11th July 2008 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan
Secretary: Revd Jean Mayland
Chaplain: Revd Sarah Lamming

We share the anxiety of many in the Anglican Communion about its future. MCU is committed to a Church which is open, inclusive and welcoming to all. This conference will consider:

  • the nature of Anglicanism, in the UK and overseas
  • what Anglicanism has been in the past and is now
  • Anglicanism from a critical and Free Church point of view
  • the role of the Communion in the world today
  • the proposed Covenant and its implications.
Conference photos: Joan Dorrell

Papers from the conference were published in several editions of Modern Believing from October 2008.

Speakers (with text where available)

b morgan2  
Barry Morgan
R. S. Thomas' Religious Poetry. Questions not answers:  A way forward for the Anglican Communion?
Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan is Archbishop of Wales and an MCU Vice President.
Talk: pdf Full text

 c methuen  
Charlotte Methuen
'In the which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly administered': The ecclesiology of the Church of England in the context of the European Reformation.
Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen is Lecturer in Church History at the University of Oxford  and Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Gloucester.

 m jackson  
Michael Jackson
Anglicanism, blessing or curse - the Irish experience.
Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson is Bishop of Clogher, Church of Ireland.
Talk: pdf Full text

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Trevor Mwamba
A holy mess and the grace of ambiguity.
Rt Revd Musonda Trevor Mwamba is Bishop of Botswana and Dean of the Province of Central Africa.
Talk: pdf Full text

 f griswold2  
Frank Griswold
The Episcopal Church and the future of the Anglican Communion.
Most Revd Frank T Griswold is former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

 mm adams4
Marilyn McCord Adams
The proposed Anglican Covenant and its implications for the Communion.
Revd Dr Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Canon of Christ Church.
Talk: pdf Full text

 j wootton  
Janet Wootton
A dissenter's view of Anglicanism and Establishment.
Rev Dr Janet Wootton is Director of Studies for the  Congregational Federation. Until the end of 2003, she was minister of Union Chapel, Islington,  an inner city church with an active homelessness project and a varied music programme.
Talk: pdf Full text

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Gene Robinson
My story and my hopes for the future.
Rt Revd V Gene Robinson is Bishop of New Hampshire.

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Andrew Brown
A journalist's view of Anglicanism.
Andrew Brown is an English writer and journalist. His interests cover biology,  religion, and technology - especially where they overlap.  Recent articles in The Guardian.
Talk: pdf Full text

Conference 2007

Violence: A Stubborn Pandemic

Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th July 2007 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Rt Revd John Austin, Assistant Bishop of Leicester (For personal reasons, Bishop John had to step down as Chair)
Secretary: Revd Dr Alan Race
Chaplain: Revd Canon Angela Weaver

Violence has always been with us. It features in many of the world's stories and religious myths of origins. Pervasive in human experience, men and women of intelligence  and goodwill both justify it and recoil from it. Many individuals derive their thrill of life from it.  Spiritual visionaries propose pathways for overcoming it, yet the religions themselves can often seem  part of the problem. In the twenty-first century religious antagonisms are once again being blamed  for the world's desperate pandemic of violence. Where do the roots of violence lie and can there be hope  in the face of it? The conference will explore violence in four clusters:

  • a study of the roots of violence in the human psyche and relationships
  • the international and ecological scene
  • the ambivalence of religious and theological responses to violence in text and tradition
  • conflict resolution, reconciliation and how to hope

The conference will both acknowledge the impression of violence as an abiding factor  in the human condition and also seek to offer hope in the face of its complexities.


 g mursell
Gordon Mursell
The Psalms and Violence - what kind of God?
Rt Revd Dr Gordon Mursell is Area Bishop of Stafford and specialist in the history and theology of Christian Spirituality.

 d rowe  
Dorothy Rowe
Enemies and Friends
Dr Dorothy Rowe is a psychologist and author.  Her latest book is Finding Your Way Out of the Prison of Depression.

 p rogers  
Paul Rogers
Current trends in international relations affecting war and peace
Dr Paul Rodgers is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He currently focuses on trends in international conflict, developing an analysis of the linkages between socio-economic divisions, environmental constraints and international insecurity.

 a billings  
Alan Billings
The Ethics of Pacifism and Just War in an Age of Terrorist Violence
Canon Dr Alan Billings is vicar of St George, Kendal. He's also director of the Centre of Ethics and Religion  at the University of Lancaster.
in conversation with
Tony Kempster
Dr Tony Kempster is General Secretary of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and Chair of the Movement for the Abolition of War.

 m juergensmeyer  
Mark Juergensmeyer
Violence and the Religions - an Overview
Professor Mark Juergensmeyer is Director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies  and Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He is an expert on religious violence, conflict resolution and South Asian religion and politics,  and has published more than two hundred articles and a dozen books.

d elalami
Dawoud El-Alami
The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Professor Dawoud El-Alami is Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Lampeter, University of Wales.
in conversation with
Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Professor of Jewish Theology and Director of the Centre for the Study of the World's Religions, Lampeter, University of Wales.

g fraser
Giles Fraser
Theological Perspectives on Violence
Revd Dr Giles Fraser has been Team Rector of Putney Parish Team since 2000. He has lectured in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford since 1998.

d wilson
Derick Wilson
Conflict Resolution in a violent world
Dr Derick Wilson is Assistant Director of the UNESCO Centre at the University of Ulster and Director of the  Future Ways Programme. He has been active in the areas of youth work, community relations, community development and reconciliation work in Northern Ireland since 1965.  He was awarded the MBE for services to community relations. He is a council member of the Corrymeela Community of Reconciliation and a Commissioner for the Equality Commission NI from 2003.

Conference 2006

Passion for Justice: Global and Faithful Perspectives on Human Sexuality

Tuesday 11th to Friday 14th July 2006 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Organized in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality and the Student Christian Movement.
Chair: Elaine Graham

"The Church and sexuality form a rich and heady mix for journalists and media commentators.  But despite the very real troubles and debates going on in the churches at the moment, and the  seriousness of much that is at stake, much of the press coverage looks predictable and one-dimensional."

Conference photos: Joan Dorrell

Speakers (with text)

e graham2
Elaine Graham
Global and faithful perspectives on human sexuality
Elaine Graham is Samuel Ferguson Professor of Social & Pastoral Theology, University of Manchester.
"Inspired by Josephine Butler, maybe the day would come when the headlines would not be  about the Church's timidity and discomfort about sexuality, but about its passion for justice instead!"
Talk: pdf Full text

 t dennis  
Trevor Dennis
The Bible - air balloon or millstone?
Trevor Dennis is Vice Dean of Chester Cathedral.
"Some years ago in Salisbury Cathedral I heard a lecture by David Jenkins.  I shall always remember how he began. He thumped the lectern and cried: 'We have made God into a thug!'.
And now we have turned the Bible into a monster.
Talk: pdf Full text

 mm adams3
Marilyn McCord Adams
A shameless defense of a liberal church
Revd Canon Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Theology at Oxford University.
"In Europe and North America, in social and legal change relating to gender and sexual mores, our Church has been a follower rather than a leader.
Now the comprehensive Broad Church is being replaced: by new definitions of the Church,  and new, narrower conceptions of its polity.
The Liberal vision of a less stringent polity is grounded in fundamental convictions  about God and humanity, not least: God is very, very big and we are very, very small."
Talk: pdf Full text

a thatcher2
Adrian Thatcher
Justice for children too!
Adrian Thatcher is Professorial Research fellow in Theology, University of Exeter.
"Children are sadly neglected in theology, and in the ecclesial polemics about sexuality,  yet in the teaching of Jesus they are centre-stage.
I wanted to show how children have been marginalised amidst ecclesial incivilities,  to inquire why, and to return them to any discussion of the 'meanings' of sexuality."
Talk: pdf Full text

m prendergast
Martin Prendergast
Beyond Individualism: the ecology of sex and sexuality
Martin Prendergast is Executive Secretary of Catholics for AIDS Prevention & Support (CAPS),  and a founder member of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement.
"June 2006 marked the 25th anniversary of the first diagnoses of HIV -  the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. The idea of an ecology of sexuality offers a framework to grasp  the issues: 'a change in any part of one of the tangled banks of life we call eco-systems can have  broad and often unexpected implications for any living thing seeking to survive within them.'"
Talk: pdf Full text

Conference 2005

Religion and Science: old enemies or new friends?

Conference held Tuesday 12th-Friday 15th July 2005 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Rt Revd Richard Harries
Secretary: Revd Nicholas Henderson
Chaplain: Revd Dr Helen Orchard

The 19th Century controversies between religion and science, precipitated by Darwin's theories and other scientific developments, have left a visible scar on the religious world to this day.

The rise of neo biblical fundamentalism in our own time and the sometimes startling developments  in the scientific world associated with a range of disciplines seem to have halted the healing process.

But is this really the case? Theological thinking and Biblical criticism has come a long way  since the time of the Victorians. Surely these old battles are to be consigned to history  and the Church is now liberated to pursue the Gospel hand in hand with every modern tool available?

This conference ranged widely in its investigation into present religious and scientific understandings.  Apart from the speakers there were also workshops on issues of the day.


  • Rt Revd Richard Harries
    Bishop of Oxford.

  • Professor Keith Ward
    Former Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford.

  • Revd Dr John Polkinhorne
    Author and priest.

  • Dr Fleur Fisher
    Former Chair of the BMA Ethics Committee.

  • Professor Aziz Sheikh
    UMIST, Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)  Research and Documentation Committee and a medical professor at Edinburgh University.

  • Professor John Brooke
    Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion,  Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

  • Revd Professor Paul Badham
    Studied theology at the Universities of Oxford,  Cambridge and Birmingham. For five years he was a Curate in Birmingham before moving to University of Wales Lampeter in 1973. He was Director of the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre and a Vice President of the Modern Churchpeople's Union.  He authored the centenary volume The Contemporary Challenge of Modernist Theology (1998).