- Written by Maurice Manktelow
The meeting was opened by Andy Atkins who read Psalm 11:3. He drew attention to the fact that the foundations of our life in the UK is crumbling and said that the bigger picture of being together was to be those people who turn the tide and bring God back to the heart of our intellectual life.
We then heard 5 presentations on the following themes
- Supporting Witenss to Students ans Staff - Andrew Basden, University of Salford
- Personal Experiences as a Christian Academic - Mike Pidd, University of Lancaster
- Christian Reflection Network (C.R.N.) in Cheltenham - Sue Halliday, University of Gloucestershire.
- Virtual Christians in Reality - Maurice Manktelow, Bradford College
- Evangelical Thinking in Academic Publications - David Booth, University of Birmingham
Alan Hewerdine then introduced us to the rest of the days programme and we gathered in 3's to pray and respond to what we heard already through the presentations.
Alan then opened up the discussion to the whole group as to whether there were any other issues that needed directly addressing.
Oliver mentioned the need for 'referee's when publishing in any form (to ensure quality and credibility)
Michael Pidd noted that the most basic assumption of 'what is the University?' may need looking at.
Andrew Basden said there was a need for believers to come up with 'radical views' in their research. How do we engage with the worldviews and the people that hold them?
David stated that there is a 'gap' within CAN which is the younger generation of academics.
We broke for lunch and afterwards held the A.G.M.
Shaping a network for Christians in Academia.
David said that he hoped that what we come out of the day with would be some sort of an agenda for future Leadership Team meetings. He opened it up to the group and asked for people to highlight main agenda item for 'next steps.'
- June Jones said that there is very little cross-pollination in the University amongst undergraduate students and academic staff.
- Sue followed this up by suggesting that we could invite regional UCCF staff workers to future conferences.
- Alan mentioned that one way lecturers can encourage undergraduates is simply to be a vibrant fellowship on campus.
- David Booth said that it is vital that staff gain a vision of their role in the academic world.
- Michael Pidd suggested that the 'N' in CAN stands for network and not a hierarchical system. This means that staff groups may be relevant and pursued in some places but not necessarily in all.
- Sue said that when Alistair McGrath spoke 2 years ago it was one of the first times she had been positively affirmed, as had her friends. This is what the network should be - attractive, helpful and relevant, so that others may want to come.
She suggested we may need something like a 3 year plan - measured now, measured then to calculate how much we have accomplished.
- David said that we can begin to take small steps now to act and create community and gave some practical examples how people can (through the website for example) interact and stimulate one another.
- Alan said that one simple benefit in this process is the exchange of ideas that stimulates more creativity and what is possible.
A rather excited discussion then took place about the way CAN could contribute to the life of the University for example make a contribution to the white paper on education.
- Andrew said that it is possible that CAN could be one of a small number of groups that could offer a Christian perspective on the big and public issues in academic life and offer to the University a vital alternative view.
- David then asked us to think about a more 'personal response' to what we could achieve.
- Alan then redirected us and asked Oliver to expand on his thought about 'refereeing' and publications.
- Oliver explained about the need for a refereeing or 'self checking' amongst academics (he talked about his experiences within Christians in Science). The idea is of a kind of cross checking and accountability to keep scholarship standards high when submitting journal and research pieces.
- Michael thought that this kind of practice may be useful but cannot happen overnight.
A discussion then ensued on the benefits of networking with right people across the disciplines and making the contacts.
- Alan then brought up Andrew's earlier point about developing a theology of engagement in the workplace as an academic.
- Andrew replied that he is nervous about Christians developing a 'theology' of everything.
A Creative Vision for the Academy
David then talked us through the highlights of Elaine Storkey's paper, 'a Creative Vision for the Academy.'
We had an extended discussion on the paper which spun off onto taking about a wide range of issues voiced.
Sue - we need a wider representation of disciplines to be present. (agreed by Mike)
Talk about the future agenda and work of CAN and the LT - including
1. Networking - Develop networking - 'annotated links.' - Local Christian staff
2. Consultation alerts
3. Overviews across a discipline: Developmental in nature to stimulate debate and 4. start the conversation
5. Book editing
6. Student guides to traverse the disciplines
7. Media contacts
We then had a coffee break
Mike Pidd then led a session on asking us to think about why attendance was low to the conference.
Some reasons were proposed;
- Information or lack of it.
- We need to attract people, exciting event
- Repeat purchases
- We only had information about the title
- Lack of planning.
- Long term decline
- No longer - new and exciting
- Lack of promise and fulfilment.
Michael finished up by asking whether we should have another conference?
The majority vote was 'yes'!
It was felt that we should aim to attract, excite and give benefits - to give a renewed sense of vision and hope.
It was agreed that face-to-face interaction has to be seen as the biggest benefit.
I view was expressed that we need to have future conferences with the presentation of papers and poster presentations at minimum.
Lastly it was agreed that we have bottomed out and that the only way is up!
Alan asked whether we could position the conference as part of our 'professional development' and have it midweek instead. There was strong agreement on this.
We closed in prayer!