Voicing Diverse Ethnicities in Practical Theology (2017)

July 11, 2017 - July 13, 2017

This year’s BIAPT annual conference was held from 11 to 13 July 2017 at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London.

The Keynote Speakers were Professors Anthony Reddie, Shui Man Kwan, Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen and Gitte Buch-Hansen (see below).

Introduction by BIAPT Chair

Ethnically diverse societies are a feature of our contemporary world. Whether through the tragedies of people having to flee their homelands, or through the more benign ‘world-shrinking’ forces of increased mobility and social communication, we are all becoming more and more deeply aware of the relative nature of our own cultures and ways of doing things, and the diversity of ways in which human beings live, think, believe and act.

For many of us this is experienced as a great blessing. For others – as perhaps illustrated by certain motivations behind the Brexit vote and the US election of Donald Trump – the diversification of cultures is experienced as threatening, anxiety making. For everyone, however, these realities present challenges – of understanding and community building – which lie at the beating heart of practical theology and its concern for faith-full living. In our own practical theological community, too, we are still needing to learn and explore more deeply the ways in which attention to a multiplicity of voices, from different cultures and traditions, both challenge and enrich our conversations.

To this end, the BIAPT Conference for 2017 sets out to deepen our thinking around what it might mean to voice more clearly “diverse ethnicities in practical theology”. The Conference has an impressive line-up of keynote speakers.

Looking forward to seeing you in July!
Clare Watkins

Keynote Speakers

Professor Anthony G. Reddie
Now you see me, now you don’t: Subjectivity, Blackness and Difference in Practical Theology in Britain Post Brexit
Professor Reddie is a Learning and Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Extraordinary Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of South Africa. He has published widely in areas of Black Theology, and is editor of Black Theology: An International Journal. Anthony’s paper for BIAPT 2017 will explore the intersection of Black Liberation theology and Practical theology, wrestling with the complexity of human subjectivity and epistemology. Practical theology has often been at the forefront of exploring the relationship between lived experience and knowledge production, often in terms of gender and sexuality. Yet, like other forms of theological articulation, the impact of Whiteness has rarely been explored, particularly in relation to the converse visibility of Blackness and its paradoxical absence in the British theological academy. This paper seeks to open up that discussion. What might it mean for Practical theology in Britain if Whiteness was acknowledged, especially in our post-Brexit epoch?

Professor Shui Man (Simon) Kwan
Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality in Holistic Health care from a Sino-theological perspective
Professor Kwan is Professor in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he is also Associate Director of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College. Simon’s research interests in practical theology especially focus on the Cultural/Socio-Political Dimension of Practical Theology (Postcolonial Rethinking of Asian Theological Movements and Ritual Approach to Charismatic Christianities) and Church Ministry and Practical Theology (Counseling Practice in Christian Settings, Theological Education in Modern Context and Congregational Studies). His recent books include Postcolonial Resistance and Asian Theology (New York: Routledge, 2014), and Negotiating a Presence-Centred Christian Counselling: Towards a Theologically Informed and Culturally Sensitive Approach (Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016). Simon is also editor of QUEST: Studies on Religion & Culture in Asia. In his BIAPT 2017 presentation, Simon will argue for a cross-cultural understanding of spirituality, suggesting that the meanings of spirituality currently available in the holistic health care literature are largely Western, which are heavily loaded with a spirit-body dualism. This constitutes one of the reasons why many Chinese speaking people would not, or would not be able to, fully appreciate the importance of spirituality in the context of holism.

Professors Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen and Gitte Buch-Hansen
Voicing the Voiceless: Practical Theology as Vicarious Witnessing
Since 2014, Professor in Practical Theology, Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen, and Professor in New Testament Studies, Gitte Buch-Hansen, from the University of Copenhagen have been following a multi-cultural church community in Copenhagen in which converting refugees – primarily from Afghanistan and Iran – make up a considerable part of the congregation. Taking complex case stories of converting young Afghan men as their starting point, their paper discusses the concept of faith which informs the authorities’ assessment of the authenticity of the conversion. The presentation will go on to explore the newcomers’ impact on the congregation’s ritual practices and ecclesiological understanding. Two major conclusions follow: that criteria for faith need to move beyond the linguistic to include lived faith and social action; and that in it practices of authentic welcome the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark will be enriched through the encounter with these ‘other-wise’ newcomers.