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.