Summary of September 2015 Conference
“Conceptualising a Christian University in the UK”
In recent years, both the Christian Academic Network (C-A-N-) and Waverley Abbey College (WAC) had productive and encouraging meetings together as the college has emerged and now is growing steadily with the plan to expand to other disciplines of learning. Both C-A-N- and WAC have had visions for a Christian University and were aware of a number of individuals and groups that have at different times discussed the idea of a Christian University in the UK while at the same time books and publications have been written on the subject. There was a strong sense that a number of groups in the UK had been discussing the subject in isolation and it would be highly appropriate to bring a number of these people together to evaluate where we are at and how we could conceptualise a University in the UK within the current rapidly changing higher education climate.
The conference brought nearly 40 people together for the whole weekend with an interest in Christian Higher Education. The keynote speakers included Prof Joel Carpenter from Calvin College, Michigan, USA, Rev Prof Leslie Francis and Rt Revd Michael Nazir Ali. One very strong message came through in a positive support of Christian Higher Education in that it is for mission, to provide an education that is not isolated into a “holy huddle” but embraces diversity of students to learn through discipleship which takes not only academic learning, but reflection on the task and personal engagement. This results in a combined formation and learning, which raises question of assessment and validation but it opened up the wide question of where theology has its place in education, while at other points later on in the conference the question of whether a Christian philosophy was to have a place. Another very strong theme that emerged was the need for all disciplines to work together, especially in terms of the liberal arts working with science and technology, which has been lost in many modern Universities especially. Could this be an important and distinct feature of a Christian University and an important aspect to the student’s learning?
It was said that the whole conference was a time where we were worshiping God and seeking his purpose in having a higher education institution in the UK that tackles the divide between Gospel and modern culture. One passage that came through the conference was that of 1 Chronicles 12v32 – The men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. This was a conference of bringing together such people like the men of Issachar to seek the Lord’s will and know what we should do in the state of higher education in the UK we all could see. It is our prayer that what we have discussed will stem forward to new developments in this present time.
Where are we now? Leslie Francis
New mandates for Christian scholarship by Joel Carpenter
Conceptualising A Christian University Bishop Michael
Summary of afternoon discussion
Call to action: Jonathan Chaplin
Additional papers circulate before the conference