ANZATS 2017

From the 9th to the 12th of July, droves of theologians, biblical scholars and students from all over Australia and New Zealand gathered in Adelaide for the annual Australian and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools (ANZATS) conference, on the theme of Kinship and Family. Organised by local theological colleges around Adelaide (including contributions from our very own Bishop Tim Harris and Dr Matthew Anstey), it was an engaging week of scholarship, networking and fellowship.

The conference officially commenced on Sunday evening with a service held at Christ Church North Adelaide, with an opening sermon and address by the Executive Officer of ANZATS, the Rev’d Dr Mark Harding. He preached thoughtfully on the Song of Songs, setting the tenor for the rest of the conference.

Just a taste of the catering spread for the Sunday night supper

The service ended soon thereafter, but the festivities continued down the road at our very own St Barnabas College, where an amazingly catered spread of food and drink was made available to the 80 or so people in attendance. It was a highly enjoyable night indeed!

From Monday morning to Wednesday afternoon, the proceedings of the conference took place at the Australian Lutheran College. Each day began with a worship session, followed by two keynote addresses presented by the visiting international scholars. Lunch then followed, with the afternoon full of presentations by various academics on a wide range of fascinating topics.

There were many great things about the conference:

  • Many academic papers that were presented on various different academic streams and themes such as Barth Studies, Lukan Studies, Identity, Kinship and Family
  • The official conference dinner held on Monday the 10th with a presentation by Dr Dylan Coleman of the University of Adelaide
  • The official book launch of Bible through the Lens of Trauma, a collection of essays exploring trends in trauma studies and biblical interpretation.

However, two highlights stood out, for this author at least.

First, the two fantastic, international keynote speakers that ANZATS had organised for the event: Dr Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, USA, and Dr Stephen Barton, Honorary Fellow and formerly Reader at the University of Durham, UK.

Dr Lynn Cohick

Dr Cohick in her lectures looked at both the institution of marriage and the understanding and treatment of children in Ancient Rome, and in particular compared it to the Early Christian understanding (particularly as espoused by St Paul) of marriage and children, revealing the stark contrast between what the abusive power hungry ethics of Rome and the ideal self-sacrificial love of Christianity.

Dr Barton presented two talks on the theology and understanding of marriage in Christianity, in the context of Jesus’ eschatological proclamation of the Kingdom, and what this meant for the resultant New Testament communities, and on the second day via a historical survey of marriage in the Western Church, tracing from the earliest household codes of the New Testament, to the formation of the Anglican Church amidst the Reformation.

The depth of the scholarship and the personal investment of the speakers was clearly evident, making for an engaging and eye-opening series of sessions.

Dr Stephen Barton

Second, it was good to see many students (at both a post-graduate and undergraduate level) and staff from St Barnabas College in attendance, contributing to the overall academic culture of both ANZATS and St Barnabas. Whether by simply attending and engaging with the conference material, or by presenting papers of their own, it truly fostered a sense of learning and community amongst our students.

Of particular interest were the papers presented by representatives of the College: the Principal, the Rev’d Canon Dr Matthew Anstey, and PhD candidate and adjunct lecturer, The Rev’d Ruth Mathieson.

Matthew presented a paper entitled ‘Am I my Brother’s Keeper?’: The Place of Identity in a Fractured World, discussing a narrative reading of Genesis 4, showing how the story of Cain and Abel holds many key insights into personal identity, through anthropological, psychological and theological lenses. Likewise, Ruth presented a paper entitled: ‘Children of the same Heavenly Father’: implications of the Matthean ‘Father in Heaven’ metaphor for God for identity and community life in the contemporary Church. Ruth utilised a socio-rhetorical method, discussing how using the language of ‘Heavenly Father’ does not promote patriarchy and pastoral insensitivity, but surprisingly, does the exact opposite.

Having attended both of these presentations, it was an excellent opportunity to see a glimpse of the innovative research being undertaken by the very capable staff and doctoral students that we have here at the college.

The conference was clearly a great success, providing an excellent opportunity for scholars and students to be a part of a scholarly event with academics from theological colleges all across the nation. Particularly for those who attend St Barnabas College, it was an excellent opportunity to foster a culture of academic excellence – a community which knows and loves God in and through their learning together.