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Posted By Subaltern Queer

A few days ago, I received the following provocative email:

Dear List members

Apologies for cross posting, please find below details on a major international conference happening at St Patrick’s College Maynooth on the Future of Christian thinking.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, Christian thought faces unprecedented challenges; ranging from a denial of metaphysics, to previously unforeseen ethico-moral questions arising from contemporary science and ever-advancing technologies, to a full-blown economizing of the political, to name just some of the most obvious. Couple this with the fact that amongst Christian thinkers there is no real consensus on the meaning, definition and end of Christian thinking and the future of Christian thinking looks hazy, unclear and tenuous.

The theme of this conference seeks to think from out of these unprecedented challenges while, simultaneously, straining to look into a nebulous and unforeseen future. In order to do this, a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond have been invited to speak on these issues. These thinkers are representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides. The vast array of thinkers invited is itself a testimony of the polyphonic vitality of Christian thought today and, together, the ever-pressing question of the future of Christian thinking will be pondered from within an intellectually polyphonic and ecumenical conversation and perspective.

Speakers include: Rowan Williams, David Bently Hart, Eleonore Stump, Robert George, Cyril O’Regan and more.

For more details including how to register please follow the link: https://maynoothcollege.ie/the-future-of-christian-thinking-international-conference-28th-apr-1st-may-2021

No one can deny that Christianity "faces unprecedented challenges." I was thrilled by the idea of a conference that includes "a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond" who are "representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides."

So I decided to click on that link, which led me to the following poster:

The Future of Christian Thinking
 

Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the people who were to speak at the conference actually didn't constitute a 'vast array' and that they clearly did not 'represent many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides'. Instead​, this sounded like a very insular gathering.

So I decided to contact Gaven Kerr, who had sent the email, and provide my 'candid' appraisal of the upcoming event:

Dear Professor Kerr,

As I look at the list of speakers invited for your conference listed on your website, it becomes crystal clear why the future of Christianity is so dim and unpromising. A number of these people are friends of mine! Yet you speak of a ‘vast array of thinkers’ who have been invited. To me this simply looks like the usual suspects, most of whom hold pretty similar views about many things. Who will be simply talking to themselves. And no one else will care.

They do not represent ‘many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought’. But I do get the point that the conversation will be polyphonic. However, in this case, polyphonic simply means “as long as you ‘blend’ in with what everyone else is saying then we’ll accept you into our little club.”

The future of Christianity is that many millions of people in the west no longer have any interest in that club and have long felt that no one in the club was interested in hearing their voices since they don’t blend into the ‘approved’ polyphony. Your conference only confirms that they’re right. One might say that your conference performs the future of Christianity.

But have a lovely club meeting. Perhaps you can come up with a secret handshake that signifies both solidarity and exclusivity. You can also rearrange the deck chairs as the club sinks.

Sincerely,
Bruce Ellis Benson

 

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