2003 Confernce "Creative Vision For The Academy"

2003 Conference report

Opening

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.

Presentations

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

Prayer

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.

Issues

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.

These included;

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

Conference Attendance

Mike Pidd then led a session on asking us to think about why attendance was low to the conference.

Some reasons were proposed;

 - Lateness
 - 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
 - Timing?
 - Price
 - 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.

Prayer

We closed in prayer!

2003 Conference report (Original)

Opening

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.

Presentations

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

Prayer

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.

Issues

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.

These included;

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

Conference Attendance

Mike Pidd then led a session on asking us to think about why attendance was low to the conference.

Some reasons were proposed;

 - Lateness
 - 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
 - Timing?
 - Price
 - 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.

Prayer

We closed in prayer!

A Creative Vision for the Academy - Discussion Paper from Elaine Storkey

Introduction

When universities first began they were founded as places of Christian learning. Many of the ancient colleges of Oxford and Cambridge took their names from key people in Christian history (St John, Mary Magdalene) and even from Christ himself (Jesus, Emmanuel, Christ's, Trinity). The fear of the lord was indeed the beginning of wisdom, and there was no incompatibility between commitment to the Christian faith, and understanding the world aright. As the centuries have gone on, the Western academy has increasingly reflected a worldview that is secular, and for values which are often in opposition to those of the Christian gospel.

Various forms of absolutism have claimed a privileged place for theories of knowledge, which have eliminated God from the agenda. Yet these have rarely recognised the faith basis on which they were built. Now, it is difficult for a Christian perspective on reality to get a hearing in mainstream academic life, even less be taught as a viable and coherent viewpoint.

Yet with the breakdown of secular humanism in the West, and its gradual replacement with a relativistic postmodern outlook, the Academy faces a crisis. If there are no longer any grand narratives, what is there to teach? If the whole presuppositional foundation is not based on some acceptance of truth, how is knowledge possible? There is a limit to deconstruction, not least because a deep philosophical problem lies at the basis of the deconstruction programme. At the same time as scientists are confidently mapping the human genome, in other areas of knowledge there is deep skepticism about what we can know.

Responding to the Crisis

When we revisit a Christian worldview we see its intellectual potential for understanding the world, and for relocating the academic enterprise. It offers us an Archimedean point for seeing reality, and for beginning the work of study. Based on assumptions, which are overt, it challenges those perspectives, which oppose Christian truth to re-examine their own presuppositions. And it offers a way forward which the Christian student can take in confidence and humility.

There are specific aspects to a Christian creative vision for the academy, which are vitally important today.

1. Integration not fragmentation

There is a lack of confidence in the unity of knowledge, and consequently little connection between the difference disciplines. Many scholars see their area of study as autonomous, having no need to relate what they do to any other area. This means that students experience the academy as a place of fragmentation. Christianity offers an underlying Christian worldview, which provides a sound basis for integration. St Paul tells us that it is in Christ that 'all things hold together' and we can work to present this in the academy.

2. Normative structure of knowledge

The sciences are not merely the repository for the accumulation of facts. All knowledge is built on some meaning framework, which involves studying, choosing, analysing, interpreting and presenting data according to accepted values. It is the place of the Christian scholar to make these values explicit, not only in his or her own teaching, but in dialogue with colleagues. It is important too to find the right, biblical, framework of values, which offers the possibility of coherence.

3. One reality, many modes of investigation

Different subject areas all bring an important dynamic of investigation to the subject to be studied. The same phenomena can be analysed from many different specialist areas, each with their own kernel of meaning, and their own investigative methods. It is important not to privilege one area of study over another (for example, biology over psychology, economics over sociology, maths and physics over humanities) God's creation is rich, and can be understood in its richness when we approach each subject area with humility and see the way reality unfolds.

4. An understanding of the Person is central to the academy

One of the most fundamental questions is 'Who am I?' and many of the different sciences and humanities attempt to answer this question in different ways. Today, there is ambiguity, hesitancy and skepticism about the meaning of human personhood, and this is not helped by the absolutising of various scientific disciplines. An integrated view of the person in the context of God's creation, human sin and Christ's redemptive power lies at the heart of a Christian understanding, and can find its expression in many different disciplines.

5. Knowledge is never separate from life

The Academy exists within the rest of life- one institution amongst many others. So what it does must have a bearing on the way we live. A Christian worldview will enable the difference subject areas to link in with life outside the academy and have a two-way process of enrichment, action and understanding. Work there should inform economic life, social planning, political decision-making, family development, international relations and the mass media.

For the Christian, the development of knowledge is central to our calling. It is an inevitable part of the human response to the world around us. But when it begins from the standpoint of human autonomy, rather than in obedience to God it will ultimately fail. For knowledge cannot exist on its own, and must always begin and end with the Creating and Redeeming God.