by David Storey
from Signs of the Times No. 47 - Oct 2012

Firstly having given such a title, I think that it was a good conference. It is easy to say that you would have liked something else. But for both reporting and hoping we need clarity. 

I have not felt clarity and so have delayed writing. What has spurred me to write has come from my reading.  I hope to write more about Blue Sky God by Don MacGregor anon, but the extra spur was Cynthia Bourgeault.

What I want at conferences is a sense of the religious prophets of today being recognised.  Much of what we got related to secular prophets. That was good. It was for everyone, you did not need to be religious.  Religious people and secular people have much in common. A good starting place is awareness.  How much are we using our eyes and our ears?

Cynthia Bourgeault has been writing about Mary Magdalene for a number of years; after Conference I picked up her The Meaning of Mary Magdalene (2010 Shambala). I have just got to the passage where she is confronted by a culturally undeveloped Peter.  Do you get a sense of nothing changes? Do read all about it. Until the Church gets to grips  with the Gnostic Gospels it will go on finding that it has lost a large part of the population.

But there was a rich mixture at the conference, starting with a display  of personal photographic portraits with accompanying text, surrounding us as we sat in the Oak Tree Room.  Deborah Ravetz introduced us to them. But one needed to engage with them to really get something out of them.  I would love to see them as a display in Portsmouth Cathedral's west nave, being related to  by visiting school groups and adult groups and individuals.

Professor Harriet Harris of Edinburgh had got an eclectic collection of mainly women to look at authority down the ages and in the present. The statutory male academic was Valentine Cunningham from Oxford, who at last persuaded me to almost forget the Carolingian divines  as great on oratory and culture but not of real importance for today, except perhaps to remind us how easily we are seduced by academic erudition and rhetoric. I should include Bishop Peter Price  of Bath who showed the gracefulness that one might hope from a bishop, but may have been missing  in recent demonstrations of intransigence. Rhett Gayle supporting his partner Victoria Harrison showed that men can sometimes be useful in furthering the understanding of women's topics, in this case of Exemplar Reasoning.

I particularly enjoyed the workshops run by Pip Haydock of the Together Partnership on Personal Presence and authentic conversations, which might be subtitled: Leadership - What gets in the way.  It seemed particularly appropriate for both conference and the Church at this time.

David Storey is a member of Christians Awakening to a New Awareness (CANA).