Way back in 2013, the Vineyard Movement in the UK and Ireland (VCUKI) held its first Theology Symposium, at Loughborough University. Aimed at those involved in theological study and reflection, leadership, and those just interested from around the movement, it was a brilliant part-weekend delving into some big theological questions. With keynotes from Bishop Graham Cray and a host of Vineyard voices, as well as short papers from other folk within the movement, it was a really productive and exciting few hours together.
Excitingly, VCUKI is holding another Theology Symposium this year! In early June (about two weeks from now!) a bunch of us are gathering to think about ‘Working Theology’, which is described by my friend Dr Neal Swettenham, the Theology Education Co-ordinator for VCUKI, thus:
“The aim of the event is to strengthen the link between fresh theological thinking and healthy churches, and to generate fruitful discussion between those leading churches and those engaged in sustained theological study”
The Symposium has shaped up nicely – I’m looking forward to presenting a paper and moderating a panel – and the program offers a feast of opportunities and stimulation…
With Keynotes from Rev. Simon Ponsonby and the Rev. Dr. David Hilborn (Principal of St. John’s College, Nottingham, and author/editor of numerous books), I’m fully expecting to be challenged and stretched in my own thinking. As well as the keynotes and worship, I’m also looking forward to the debate at the close of the conference, with Hilborn, Rick Williams, and Jason Clark, considering ‘What kind of disciples are we making?‘. This vital question, of course, underpins everything we will be doing together in Loughborough.
The programme includes plenty of space for fellowship, prayer, eating and worship, and I’m excited to see what God has in store for us in the ‘gaps’ between theological input… (Obviously, these ‘gaps’ are not real gaps but equally important, but the difference is the interesting bit). The seminars, too, offer some tempting topics…
Before Christmas, a Call for Papers was circulated to interested parties – with a range of abstracts being submitted on a whole host of topics. The exciting thing about this means that – in contrast to a disciplinary conference, for example – the theology that we will be doing and sharing together at the symposium will be a direct reflection of the reality of ministry and mission in the Vineyard (and associated/related/friendly churches!) in the UK at this point in time. I’m loathe to reveal paper titles at this time (though my own is called, I hope tantalisingly ‘Stuck in the middle with you‘), but of the four sets of papers, the following key themes can be identified:
1) Sexual desire, epistemology, and pastoral responses
2) Justice and the engagement of the worshipping church with Civil Society
3) The question of Unity and grappling with the language we use as Christians
4) The ‘pragmatism’ of some pastors, and public sacramentalism (or, how the Holy Spirit shoves us outwards, as I understand the title of one paper in part at least!)
I’m looking forward to taking part in my panel, moderating the other, and then hearing from others how the parallel session went, and then reading the papers when (hopefully!) they are released after the conference.
In closing, then, I hope that this has whet your appetite for the Symposium if you are going, piqued your interest if you aren’t, and given you a glimpse of what might be going on theologically in the UK Vineyard movement. If you are sitting on the fence about going, please come. Theology is at its best when, as someone associated with the Vineyard Movement once said, ‘Everyone gets to play‘. The contributions and questions of those staring at speakers and panelists are vital – I hope to see you there.
If you are interested, you can book on via the VCUKI website here, where there are also details for contact if you have any questions. I hope to see you in Loughborough!