Welcome and introduction
Mike Pidd, chair of C-A-N, opened the conference by welcoming the delegates and by giving the day to the Lord in prayer. Sue Halliday followed by introducing the morning speaker, Robert Rowe.
Paper presented by Robert Rowe
Robert opened with the challenge of seeking a Christian mind in the secular world. He quoted Romans 12:1-2 from scripture and emphasised a plea for God's mercy; we need an intellectual renewing of our mind, as well as spiritual renewing. He went on to quote 2 Cor: 5: 17, that we have all received the gift of wisdom from God and we should be striving for God's pleasing will within academia.
His first focus was on non-academic Christian organisations and the need to be connecting with these. He stated that his paper isn't just a narrow view of higher education, but a broad one, capturing the idea of the mind and intellectual growth.
As Christians, we are called to a life with Christ and he gives us a specific calling / purpose in life - for those in this room, it's academia. These days however, we are more conscious of what is lacking in our discipline and the need not to impose burdens on each other, rather than fulfilling our own calling. God may want us to concentrate on a specific part of Higher Education, not just the development of our Christian mind. However, part of this calling, may be at times, to support our colleagues through both prayer and money.
Universities are amongst the most secular organisations in the world. They influence students to become more secular and gradually make less and less room for God. In the UK, we are still lucky that our Christian background is not yet missing in subject areas, even though we have strong secular influences. Prayer groups exist and there are Christians fulfilling many roles in academia, some of which are important decision making roles. Robert referred back to a conference he went to earlier in the year in Hungary, which Alan also attended.
Jesus' own authority within the realm of Higher Education will not be enforced until the 2nd coming, but we are called to be witnesses. We need to resist the liberal movement of our society and not be fearful of the consequences, when we stand up for the truth of the gospel. It's possible that academic theory C-A-N cause tyranny, but Christ's way leads to perfect freedom. Robert concluded by stating we need to be aware of God and his will for our lives. He also asked some challenging questions; is there a need to obey God's will in Higher Education? Does God want to renew the Christian academic world again? What action is God calling us to do?
These are some of the issues and challenging questions, which Robert opened with. He then moved onto give a brief summary of his paper. Robert's paper comprises of five main sections, categorised A to E.
A - Jesus is the way to the Father's House
B - Christianity needs to confront secularism (Contains different view points about working with each other and a broad definition of Higher Education).
C- Ways to seek a Christian Mind (What other areas could be studied, e.g. conversation.) Robert asked for an active response to this from the delegates and he would be interested to hear their views.
D- how his paper relates to such organisations as C-A-N and academics in a specific field or a multidisciplinary approach.
E - Helpful facts for setting up such an institution
Conclusion - The cross of Christ is important, as we all stand on a level ground.
All delegates had received a copy of Robert Rowe's paper ‘Christianity in Higher Education', which aided lively discussion and debate. C-A-N's leadership team gave their own responses to Robert's paper.
Sue asked how do we know God's will. If Christian values are important and we have influence, why do we often live as if God doesn't exist?
Maurice asked a practical question to Robert, that if given all the resources, how would his plan for Institution X work out?
David referred to practical steps that C-A-N could take, e.g. doing a survey of Christian perspectives and also asked the question whether C-A-N needs to broaden its audience.
Gwynne commented, that for C-A-N to move forward nationally and internationally, it needs strategically placed people to carry out its vision. He asked the question is God placing this on my heart and also a challenge, as to how academics relate to their own secretaries.
Andrew raised a number of points in his lengthy response, which addressed some specific issues, such as; how C-A-N we effectively bring this to fruition? C-A-N we use secularism positively? What is a Christian mind?
Alan reflected on the question of how we have arrived to today's world of higher education from our past. What role did the academy play in the 19th century with the development of Clapham Connections and other such institutions?
Mike concluded by stating that some Christian viewpoints are not necessarily of the Christian mind and that some disagreements amongst Christians C-A-N often be useful. The place of the university has changed overtime - how C-A-N our voices be heard today.
To aid discussion, Sue split the delegates into groups and gave them one of three questions to consider.
These were then reported back and the main points of discussion outlined on the Flipchart
Question 1 considered the theme of the metaphor and the forum for Christian disagreements.
Question 2 considered both process and content. The common ground in how my faith relates to the work I'm doing and how we're doing it - The difficulty of being pressurised by the system and not being happy with it.
Question 3 looked at C-A-N's role. Many issues were raised; the need for a survey on Christian resources and perspectives, Where academics C-A-N do this research and who would fund it, How does C-A-N fit in with the wider church, Is C-A-N accessible to all groups within academia, Dealing with FAQ's, How to get people discussing / more involved, A Christian Ask Jeeves would be a good idea
The afternoon session was on ‘Stress' and led by Richard Goodwin. The session was a mixture of theory, practical application, thought provoking questions and personal interaction with one another in small groups.
To summarise, some interesting principles were; -
· James 1: 2-4: Stress isn't always harmful. It's how we deal with it. We're asked to endure our trials and have joy through them.
· We should expect stress, as we live in a fallen world and are fallen people.
· There are many symptoms of stress and in today's world we are more concerned with dealing with the symptoms of stress, rather than the cause.
· There is a difference between handling stress and dealing with it.
· People's belief systems need challenging - their misbelief is their happiness.
· "People are not disturbed by things but our perception of them."
· The heart of every problem is a problem of the heart.
· Christians are called to have an impact in the world. We're rational beings, not one-dimensional.
· To say no to someone is a chance to close the door on someone and feel o.k.
· It's good to be reminded of the bigger story - this C-A-N affect our position. Ask yourself the question, what is my story?
· For every trial we undergo, there will be one in heaven - will we or won't we worship.
· Who do we owe our life too?
The afternoon session concluded with a short AGM, and a time of worship and prayer led by Mike Pidd.
All delegates enjoyed networking with each other and were stimulated by discussion about the Christian mind and what it meant to be a Christian academic.