As mentioned, the grounds of New College in Oxford provided the perfect setting in which to explore historic and current influences of Christian faith on academic disciplines. Along with the formal dinner, tea and coffee breaks convened mornings and afternoons provided valuable opportunities to meet colleagues attending different track sessions. The mood at Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) initiative at Oxford was casual and friendly, with much interaction and appreciation of the chance to discuss important topics from a shared faith perspective.
As the associate dean of a school with departments focused mostly on behavioral and applied sciences, I attended the social sciences and law track. Our 20-person group included colleagues from various areas of the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Turkey, and China. Session conveners included senior faculty from Economics, Law, Psychology, Theology, and International Development. Participants considered concepts of personhood, poverty, and human rights from philosophical, scientific, and faith perspectives. Several sessions on human rights explored the relevance of scripture to meeting human needs, with consideration of the roles of criminal justice systems, local governments, and international organizations. Our stream followed a fairly conventional academic seminar style, with ample opportunities for discussion.
The March conference expanded content shared at a separate conference two months earlier that explored the role of faith in the lives of Christian scholars. Benefits of scheduling the conferences closely together included opportunities for participants to build closer relationships and further discuss academic interests. The multi-generational aspect of junior and senior scholars sharing their experiences also communicated continuity and variety of faith perspectives. I was fortunate to also attend this set of conferences in 2012, and it similarly provided rich opportunities for dialogue and attention to faith dimensions of academic disciplines. The face-to-face opportunities are especially meaningful, though access to electronic versions of presentations offers a helpful means of reviewing content and background sources. It was clear that significant planning and organization contributed to the success of the event, and the joining of academics at all stages of their careers provided significant personal and professional growth opportunities.
Editor’s note: Thank-you to Katy for this report (and Dave for his earlier report) providing not only a lens on the resources provided by the Developing a Christian Mind initiative at Oxford, but Lord willing an inspiration as the Emerging Scholars Network takes steps forward in the coming months (e.g., ESN March Madness ’14, The Ends and Goals of Higher Education in Twenty-First-Century America: Change and the Calling of the Christian Educator, A Theology for Higher Education project for Fall 2014). If you have material to share from conferences which you have attended and/or desire to share about upcoming gatherings, please let me know. Thank-you. ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV