US conference will look at impact of evangelicalism in C21st

By staff writers
September 17, 2009

Ten leading Evangelical theologians of the 21st century will be plenary speakers at a major conference addressing the role of Evangelicals in the public square this Autumn.

The event will be hosted by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the United States from 13-15 October 2009.

"Renewing the Evangelical Mission," to be held at Gordon-Conwell's South Hamilton, Massachusetts campus, will grapple with the theological orientation of the church in an increasingly post-Christian, post-partisan and global context.

Among questions to be considered are: How do global realities impact upon the historic mission of Evangelical theology? What sense can be made of the unity of Evangelical theology in light of its many diverse voices? How can/should Evangelicals relate to the Great Tradition and also speak in the vernacular of global culture?

Dr Os Guinness, author, social critic, co-founder of The Trinity Forum, and a plenary speaker at the event, says: "I am grateful to be an Evangelical, and to know why, but never have I met more people who are confused, restless or angry at what Evangelicalism has become. Nothing could be more timely than this conference and its themes, which will clarify and challenge us to be true to our identity and live up to our calling."

Some Evangelicals are now finding it difficult to use the label, because it has become so publicly and popularly identified with fundamentalism and the religious right.

Tony Campolo and others launched the 'Red Letter Christians' initiative several years ago, with the aim of drawing together those who take the life and work of Jesus in the Gospels as central to their understanding of biblical Christianity and radical action for personal and social change in the world.

Another significant trend has been the 'emerging church' movement and the work of people like Brian McLaren, drawing on the Evangelical heritage but blending it in open dialogue with other traditions of Christian belief in a post-modern context where many believe the old liberal-conservative fault lines are breaking down.

The past ten years has also seen the emergence of major voices in global Evangelical organisations and networks emphasising ecology, justice and peace as crucial to a biblical life and belief stance today.

The influence of Anabaptists, including Mennonites and other 'historic peace churches' has also been considerable.

However, the majority of the speakers at the Gordon-Conwell event are from the more 'classical' and Reformed/Calvinist end of the Evangelical spectrum - though a couple, including Miroslav Wolf, have considerable following among 'new' Evangelicals and the broader Christian constituency.

Other plenary speakers, who are writers and theologians at the forefront of Evangelicalism, will include:

* Dr Michael S. Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary California and co-host of the nationally syndicated weekly radio talk show, White Horse Inn.

* Dr Bruce L. McCormack, Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

* Dr Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, the University of Notre Dame.

* Dr J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor in Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Senior Editor/Visiting Scholar of Christianity Today.

* Dr Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., President and Charles W. Colson Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary.

* Dr Tite Tiénou, Senior Vice President of Education, Academic Dean and Professor of Theology of Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

* Dr Kevin J. VanHoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

* Dr Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School, Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and a regular participant in international and ecumenical interfaith dialogues, most recently, in Christian-Muslim dialogue.

* Dr Lauren Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke Divinity School, and former book editor for Beliefnet.

The conference will be held in honour of Dr David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell, and a recognized commentator on evangelicalism's response to the culture.

The event "is designed for pastors, professors and theologically minded lay persons with a stake in the identity and mission of the church", say the organisers.

Registration details and more information is available at:

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