More... Annual Conference 2019    

Annual Conference 2019

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

More... New editor for Modern Believing journal    

New editor for Modern Believing journal

Modern Church appoints Dr Karen O' Donnell as the new managing editor of our academic journal Modern Believing

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Modern Church is 120!

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


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).

Conference 2004

The God Experience... who has it and why?

Joint conference held Tuesday 13th-Friday 16th July 2004 at High Leigh Conference Centre with the Alister Hardy Society for the Study of Spiritual Experience.
Chair: Professor Paul Badham
Secretary: Revd John Goldsmith

Wishful thinking? Hallucinations? Real contact with a divine Other?

Despite the claim of unbelievers  that religion is on the way out, convincing religious experiences are reported by large numbers of people  who think they have a relationship with the divine.

Are these stories credible? Do they fit the doctrines of the churches, or do they challenge them?

This conference explored what we can learn from the stories of religious experience today.


  • Dr Sarah Jane Boss PhD (Bristol)
    Lecturer in Christian Theology  at the University of Wales Lampeter, and Director of the Centre for Marian Studies.  The CMS is an interdisciplinary education and resource centre for all matters relating to the Virgin Mary.  Its teaching can include any relevant academic discipline, such as theology, the history of art,  church history, literary studies, psychology and anthropology.  Sarah Boss has degrees in Sociology and Theology. She is vice-president  of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain, and has previously held pastoral  as well as educational posts. She has had three books published on Marian topics:  Empress and Handmaid (2000); Mary in the Continuum series "New Century Theology", (2004);  and a children's book, Mary's Story (1999).

  • Dr Marion Bowman
    Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies  at the Open University, having moved there in 2000 from Bath Spa University College  where she had been Programme Director for the MA in Contemporary Religion. She is currently  President of The Folklore Society. Her research interests include vernacular religion,  contemporary spirituality, Celtic spirituality, healing and pilgrimage, and she has conducted  a long term ethnological study of Glastonbury. In 2000 she co-edited  Beyond New Age: Exploring Alternative Spirituality (Edinburgh University Press)  with Steve Sutcliffe.

  • Professor June Boyce-Tillman BA, PhD, LRAM
    Read music at St.Hugh's College, Oxford and was Professor of Applied Music  at King Alfred's, Winchester and Visiting Professor at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, USA.  She is a composer and active in community music making, specialising in music and spirituality.  She is Chair of the Hildegard Network and has spoken widely on Hildegard. Her most recent books are:  Constructing Musical Healing - The Wounds that Sing (2000) and  The Creative Spirit - Hildegard of Bingen (2000).  She is Chair of the Alister Hardy Research Committee.

  • Dr Wendy Dossett BA, PhD, PGCE (Wales)
    Lecturer in Religious Studies  at the University of Wales Lampeter, where she directed the MA Pathways in the World's Religions for Teachers,  and Religious Experience. She is Principal Examiner for the AS/A2 specifications  in Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism for the Welsh joint Education Committee. She has a particular interest  in Japanese Pure land Buddhism and was currently researching this subject at the Graduate Theological Union,  Berkeley under Professor Richard K Payne. Her publications include Buddhism for AS Students (2003),  and Speaking for the Buddha: phenomenological and confessional approaches in teaching Buddhism Journal of Beliefs and Values (1996). She is a member of the Shap Working Party  for World Religions in Education, and is an Associate Director  of the Religious Experience Research Centre (University of Wales Lampeter).

  • Dr Mark Fox
    Lecturer in Philosophy and Religious Studies  at the Joseph Chamberlain College in Birmingham. His major research interest is in the area of  Religious Experience, the subject of his Doctoral Thesis. He is a member of the Research Committee  of the Religious Experience Research Centre and his publications include  Religion, Spirituality and the Near-Death Experience (2003) and his most recent work  Lightforms, which draws extensively on the RERC archives and examines  unusual experiences of light was due for publication shortly.

  • Leslie Francis
    Professor of Practical Theology  at University of Wales, Bangor and Director of the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education.  He is an Anglican priest and Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He holds doctorates  from the University of Cambridge (PhD, ScD) and the University of Oxford (DD). His recent books included  The Values Debate (2001), Psychological Perspectives on Prayer (2001),  Exploring Luke's Gospel (2001), Exploring Mark's Gospel (2002),  Children, Churches and Christian Learning (2002), Rural Mission (2002),  His Spirit is With Us (2003), and The Naked Parish Priest (2003).

  • Xinzhong Yao
    Professor of Chinese Religions at the University of Wales Lampeter. He has a PhD in Philosophy from the People's University Beijing and a PhD in Theology from Wales. He was formerly Deputy Director of the Institute of Ethics  in Beijing and is currently a Visiting professor at two Chinese Universities. Most recently  together with Professor Badham he gained a grant of £335,000 from the John Templeton Foundation  for a comparative study of religious experiencing in China and Britain. His publications include  Christianity and Confucianism, a comparative study of Jen and Agape (1996) and a two volume  Encyclopedia of Confucianism (2003).

  • Dr Cafer S Yaran
    Senior lecturer in the Faculty of Theology,  Istanbul University. He was awarded his BA and MA by the University of Ataturk, Erzurum, Turkey  and his PhD by the University of Wales, Lampeter. His particular interest is in the philosophy of religion  and has published in English Islamic Thought on the Existence of God: Contributions and Contrasts  with Contemporary Western Philosophy of Religion (2003) and has written, contributed to and edited  a number of other books in Turkish on the Philosophy of Religion.

Conference 2003

Globalising God - the new internationalism

Conference held Tuesday 15th-Friday 18th July 2003 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Canon John Atherton
Secretary: Dr Simon Taylor
Chaplain: Revd Robin Dodge

What is the Good News for a world in the throes of globalisation? Where is God in a world of poverty, terrorism and consumerism?

In the twenty-first century have we finally become one world, or are  the divisions and inequalities greater than ever?

There are many challenges facing our world, and this conference aimed to bring them into contact with resources from Christianity and other faiths as we seek to live in a world where greater unity seems to come only at the cost of greater division.


  • Tom Wright
    Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey.  A New Testament scholar and prolific author of books  including The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God,  and the ... for Everyone series.

  • Duncan Forrester
    Professor Emeritus of Theology and Public Issues  at Edinburgh University and author of On Human Worth and Christian Justice and Human Policy.

  • Grace Davie
    Reader in Sociology at Exeter University  and author of Believing without Belonging and Europe: the Exceptional Case.

  • Andrew Davey
    Board of Social Responsibility, author of  Urban Christianity and Global Order.

  • Andrew Bradstock
    Member of the United Reformed Church.  Author of Radical Religion and the English Civil War, editor of Radical Christian Writings.

  • Andrew Shanks
    Author of Civil Society, Civil Religion and God and Modernity.

  • Philip Goodchild
    Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham.

  • Wendy Tyndale
    Former co-ordinator  of the World Faiths Development Dialogue.

  • Malcolm Brown
    Principal of the East Anglican Ministerial Training Course.

Conference 2002

By Whose Authority?

Conference held Tuesday 16th - Friday 19th July 2002 at High Leigh Conference Centre.
Chair: Rt Revd David Conner
Secretary: Revd Canon Richard Truss
Chaplain: Revd Ruth Tuschling

The conference explored the concept of authority in Church and society at the beginning of a new century.

Traditional areas of biblical authority were examined together with more recent issues such as gender  and the relationship between the secular world and the Church.

This is an age of intense focus on presentation and obsessed with communication. It is also a time when we may realistically expect an imminent change of leaders within the churches as well as in  the political world.

This conference was for anyone concerned with the future direction of the Church and its relationship with society.


  • Revd Professor Paul Badham
    tudied 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 is currently 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).

  •  Revd Hugh Dawes
    Vicar of St Faith's North Dulwich,  member of the Committee of the Centre for Progressive Christianity, former director  of the Forum Christian Institute, Cambridge and author of Freeing the Faith.

  • Very Revd Dr David Edwards
    Former Dean of Norwich and Provost of Southwark.

  •  Very Revd Vivienne Faull,
    Dean of Leicester Cathedral.

  • Revd Canon Anthony Harvey
    Former lecturer in Theology  at the University of Oxford and laterly Canon and Sub-Dean of Westminster.  He is a Fellow of the George Bell Institute and author of many books.

  • Simon Hughes
    MP for Southwark & Bermondsey,  was unable to attend the 2002 conference. His place was taken by Lord Richard Newby.

  • Genista McIntosh
    Former Executive Director  of the Royal National Theatre & Principal-designate of Guildhall School of Music & Drama. She is a member of the House of Lords.

  • Jane Shaw
    Revd Dr Jane Shaw, Dean of Divinity, Chaplain and Fellow of New College, Oxford.

  • Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson
    Senior Research Fellow and former Director  at Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and a Methodist Minister.