ADM’s first School of Theology, Culture & Public Engagement (STCPE) was a resounding success, with over 100 people experiencing the sell-out event from 22–25 January. Participants enjoyed four days of intense theological courses from world-class lecturers and practical workshops from ADM’s partner organisations CPX and Seed, along with a number of other presenters.
The STCPE was unique in offering small class sizes with longer formats, giving attendees the opportunity to interact directly with lecturers and one another. Discussions frequently extended well into breaks, with many attendees saying that this time for interaction with others was a key highlight of the week.
As a brand-new initiative for ADM, it was exciting to hear that almost 80% of respondents in a post-event survey said they would be extremely likely or very likely to attend a similar event again. The enthusiastic feedback received about the STCPE has reinforced ADM’s commitment to creating spaces for deep thinking around theology, culture and public engagement.
One of our STCPE speakers and participants, Dr Rachelle Gilmour, wrote, “I had such great week. I think it was so amazing how this vision was brought to life. It was incredibly unique for both its atmosphere and target.”
She continued, “It brought so many fabulous people together. I met so many interesting women and men, and I was really stimulated by an atmosphere of people who want to think about their faith and also think outside the square.”
When it comes to content, the STCPE, as John Dickson put it, had “a series of topics not to be missed and a line-up of academics that wear their scholarship like your favourite pair of jeans”. The exceptional list of speakers included Prof. Lynn Cohick (Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College), who delivered the keynote lecture course on ‘Philippians Today’, Rev. Andrew Errington on ‘Wisdom, Creation and Ethics’, Dr Megan Best on ‘End of Life: Bioethics and Care’, Dr Rachelle Gilmour on ‘Stranger Things: Weird and Wonderful Stories of the Old Testament’, Dr Ben Myers on ‘Church and Empire in Early Christian Thought’, Rev. Dr Keith Condie on ‘Theology and Psychology’, Rev. Dr John Dickson on ‘Historical Jesus – Then and Now’ and Scott Stephens on ‘The Media and the Moral Life’.
Alongside the theological intensives, the STCPE also offered a number of workshops, which provided training in practical skills to help Christians better engage with the spheres of work and culture in which they move. Seed delivered workshops on discovering your purpose and designing for change, and the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) addressed how to engage in the public square and how to speak about Christianity’s contribution to our world. Other workshop topics included exegesis and hermeneutics, apologetics, mental health pastoral care, social media skills and how to write a great book proposal.
Two very popular mentoring dinners with Prof. Lynn Cohick and Scott Stephens were also held on Monday and Wednesday nights. The dinner with Lynn was for women and focused on the topic of ‘Flourishing in the Academy and the Church’. At the dinner with Scott, he addressed the topic ‘Writing for ABC Religion & Ethics’ – the ABC online website for which he is Editor. Both these dinners sold out, and were fantastic nights of conversation and new connections.
In her opening welcome at the commencement of the School of Theology, Culture and Public Engagement, ADM CEO Dr Kate Harrison Brennan explained the three passions guiding ADM in creating it. Below, you can read this part of her speech:
Excerpt from Dr Kate Harrison Brennan's Welcome Address at the School of Theology, Culture and Public Engagement, 22 January 2018:
“… I want to tell you briefly about three passions that have guided us here at ADM in dreaming up this summer school.
First, as you might know, we have a particular mission and focus at ADM to raise up women with theological formation and to see them flourish in Kingdom work. And so, it brings us particular joy to see so many women here today and amongst our illustrious list of speakers.
We believe that we need the gifts and contributions of the whole Church, and that the whole body benefits when each of its members flourish. It is our great hope that this week will contribute to your flourishing: that it will sharpen, encourage and equip each of you here; that it will give you the knowledge and skills to create, influence and engage with the people amongst whom God has placed you.
Second, we are passionate about theological formation: about orienting people to Christ to have their entire lives formed and re-formed by him; to see Christians grow and mature in Christ, and flourish in their image-bearing of him.
Both ADM and our college here, Mary Andrews College, has a strong tradition and commitment to pioneering a mode of theological education that is biblically rigorous and, at the same time (and indeed this is part of its biblical rigour!), deeply pastoral and practical. A theology that engages with the best wisdom of our culture – the disciplines of the human, social and hard sciences. It is why, for instance, we have started the ADM Mental Health & Pastoral Care Institute, and some of you will have the opportunity to take a course with Keith Condie this week, who, along with Sarah Condie, leads that Institute.
Third, at ADM we are passionate about raising up Christians for public engagement and in supporting them to make culture. Not just to consume, abstain or critique culture, but to create it! To write books and even policies, to paint, sing and create laws. To build bridges, gardens, devices and institutions.
This is why we invest in our Fellowships and Hub programs, for instance (and you can meet many of our ADM Fellows here this week!), and it’s also why we are excited about the opportunities this summer school opens up for all Christians, in a variety of different fields and life stages, to receive high-quality professional development in Christian public engagement.
These then are the three reasons why we at ADM have provided the space, program and opportunities this week. We have had so much fun curating the STCPE program, and we hope and pray that it will give you the chance to go deeper into God’s word; to stretch your thinking and challenge yourself; to wrestle with tough questions; to discuss and debate with others; to equip yourself to be ready to give an answer for the hope you have; and to gain practical skills that will amplify the contribution you might make.
This week at the STCPE we have the chance to stop and be inspired by who God is and to imagine things from a Kingdom perspective in 2018.”