This is my/our story: narrative and mission in contemporary contexts (2014)

July 15, 2014 - July 17, 2014

This year’s BIAPT conference was held in Edinburgh from 15 – 17 July 2014 on the theme, This is my / our story: narrative and mission in contemporary contexts.

The keynote speakers (see below) were Dr. Mark Cartledge, Prof. Kirsteen Kim and Dr. Alison Milbank. Dr. Alison Gelder of Housing Justice also offered a report and theological reflection on their campaign “Tell my story”.

Keynote Speakers

Prof Kirsteen Kim
The Story of Korean Christianity: Change, Diaspora and Mission.
Kirsteen Kim is Professor of Theology and World Christianity at Leeds Trinity University and author of many publications on mission and pneumatology, including Joining in with the Spirit (SCM 2012). A former missionary of the Presbyterian Church of Korea to India, her research recasts relationships between churches in Britain and the rest of the world in light of theology of the Holy Spirit. Kirsteen is married to Sebastian Kim, Professor of Theology and Public Life at York St John University, and they live in York.

Alison Gelder
Telling stories: a reflection on the power and danger of sharing our stories.
Chief Executive of Housing Justice since August 2006, Alison has degrees in Law from University of Warwick and an MSc in Information Science from City University. After several years in senior management at British Telecom, Alison returned to university (Cambridge) to study theology and research business ethics in relation to Catholic Social Teaching, later working as a social researcher specialising in church-based social action. She has more than 15 years of experience in church-linked homelessness and housing work, including time as a volunteer in a winter night shelter, as well as her work at Housing Justice.

Dr Alison Milbank
Deeper Magic: Renewing the virtues through narrative in Church and School
Alison Milbank teaches literature and theology at the University of Nottingham and has written books on the Gothic, Dante, Chesterton and Tolkien and on Anglican ecclesiology. She is particularly interested in the role of the imagination in apologetics, ethics and evangelism and contributed to the volume, ‘Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition’. She is priest-vicar of Southwell Minster, where her work in education embraces all age groups.

Dr Mark Cartledge
Pentecostal Testimony: Constructing and reconstructing theological narratives
Mark Cartledge is an Anglican priest and a practical theologian who works in the field of Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. He is the Director of the Centre for Pentecostal & Charismatic Studies at the University of Birmingham, which supervises over 40 doctoral students from around the world. He has published widely in the areas of Pentecostal theology and empirical studies of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Currently, he is leading a major AHRC funded research project looking at megachurches in London and their social engagement.

Conference Rationale

The practices of narrative and story telling have been at the heart of practical theology from the start. The attention to story – our own and those of others – is one of the key ways in which the authority of particular experiences and embodied wisdom can be articulated and shared, celebrated and reflected upon. At the same time, there has developed an awareness of the ways in which any one story draws on, and is framed by, other narratives – stories of groups, societies, cultures, families, denominations. Furthermore, the ongoing explorations of the authority of scripture and ecclesial traditions in relation to our stories, raises fundamental questions of how far Christian practical theologies recognise any kind of meta-narrative for their particular story-tellings.

BIAPT’s 2014 Conference invites participants to explore the place of the Christian community and its mission in today’s world through this complex lense of narrative. Typically for our Association the scope for questions and reflections around this theme will be, quite properly, broad and varied; and we expect to be surprised more than once as to where the ideas take us! To help stimulate ideas, and encourage contributions on the theme we offer here some preliminary questions that occur to the organising committee, confident that there will be many others arising form our members’ work, experience and learning:

  • What are the relations between personal and particular stories of faith, conversion, and mission, and the bigger story of faith as articulated in tradition and scripture?
  • What are the relations between personal and particular stories of faith, conversion, and mission, and the various competing narratives of late / post modernity?
  • How is the Christian story, in its variety of expressions, ‘heard’ within the narrative frameworks of our societies and cultures?
  • How is ‘telling my story’ experienced as a personal authority, and a practice of witness or mission?
  • Can stories be ‘wrong’?
  • How are we narratively formed – through liturgy, scripture, and so forth? And how does this operate with political, societal, and cultural narratives?
  • What sort of authority do the stories of others have for me, and for the community as a whole?