Two at the liberal and radical end are addressing themes of science and religion in this year of Darwin.
Sea of Faith is looking at: Making Meaning: Science and Religion and this is held at its usual location at Leicester University from 21 to 23 July 2009. Its speakers are quite broad and impressive, with a Quaker, Tom Shakespeare, a social science Research Fellow Newcastle University, and specialist on genetics and disability issues; a Quaker, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS, Visiting Professor of Astro-Physics: University of Oxford and President of the Institute of Physics; and an Anglican priest, Michael Reiss, Professor, Institute of Education, University of London. Don Cupitt provides reflections. There are also many workshops tackling the breadth of religion and science.
The general position of Sea of Faith is that religion is a human creation, but it will be interesting to see how far that line is pursued regarding science - in other words, is science an equivalent narrative or is it more narrowly governed and even differently realist?
It is tackling a whole range of questions from science in education to questions within physics, and how consciousness comes out of evolution and applying religion and ethics in science.
Science features in the Modern Churchpeople's Union Conference thanks in large part to Keith Ward (see below) but this seems to have a fairly scattergun theme about the whole. It gives space to Bishop Geoffrey Rowell, outside the camp perhaps, whilst Bishop Brian Smith of Edinburgh wants to liberate the Church, Helen-Ann Hartley thinks she can liberate scripture (fundamentals not fundamentalism), Gary Dorrien specialises in liberal theology, Lucy Winkett delves into the economy (an area that would interest me the most) and Jonathan Clatworthy asks if liberal theology is to bring peace or a sword.
Shorter conferences include another with a science theme, but also a bend towards internal Church issues.
Affirming Liberalism is a recently established group (not as active as the Progressive Christianity Network) that describes itself as 'A Church of England Network Supporting Liberal Christians of All Denominations'. In such it heavily overlaps with the modernist MCU. Affirming Liberalism's Second National Day Conference is called A Credible Faith for Growing Churches and is held on Saturday 6th June 2009 in The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford from 10 am to 4 pm. Keith Ward is to Affirming Liberalism what Don Cupitt is to Sea of Faith (though Don has stepped back a bit from providing full lectures), so this is his main base. Keith Ward speaks on "Why the Scientific World-View Confirms Liberal Christian Faith". He is Regius Professor of Divinity, Emeritus; Oxford University. More church focused is "Why Liberal Churches Are Growing" by Canon Professor Martyn Percy, Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford.
From reading about the first conference I noticed a tension between a moderate, centrist, liberalism of the Church of England, and those who had a more distinctive liberal faith.
Affirming Liberalism's starting point is the Church of England's own inclusion of the liberal perspective, and then it makes a number of points, for which (I think) point 1 and point 4 can be in conflict.
1. Affirming faith in Jesus' life, teaching, death and resurrection as revealing God's limitless love to all humanity in this life and the next.
4. Affirming a free, questioning and philosophical approach to Christian faith through God-given reason.
In fact point 1 would exclude me as a matter of course, as I don't affirm these points and my view of liberalism is more like point 4, though reason is sufficient.
Point 9 has:
Affirming open, creative conversation between Liberals, Evangelicals and Catholics to enrich our understanding of the Christian Gospel.
In such spirit I'll mention the Fulcrum Conference on Saturday 16 May 2009, 10 am to 4 pm, at Christ Church on the B283 north of New Malden station. This is wholly inwardly concerned with Church matters titled Spirituality of Unity and features various evangelicals, namely: Hugh Palmer, Rector, All Souls Langham Place, London; Jane Morris, Vicar of Cricklewood, London; Adrian Chatfield, Director, Simeon Centre for Spirituality, Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Afternoon sessions are group based with Phil Stone, Vicar, St Mark's Kensal Rise and it ends with Bible Study with Ian Paul, Dean of Studies, St John's College, Nottingham.
It recognises strains between evangelicals but puts a stress on exploring unity between them.