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McDonald Conference 2012 - 'The Flourishing of the Universities'

Thursday, 24 May 2012 - 9:30am to Friday, 25 May 2012 - 5:00pm

For its annual spring conference in 2012, the McDonald Centre was honoured to host one of its most exciting events. Eleven leading scholars from top universities in the US and UK gathered to study the recent plight of universities.

It was the first time that these scholars, all of whom have been supported in various projects by the McDonald Agape Foundation, were together at a single event. They represent the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Duke, Notre Dame, Yale, Chicago, and Emory.

The conference, entitled Christianity and the Flourishing of Universities, explored a variety of questions, including:

  • Can theology justify its place in the secular research university?
  • Should theology be studied in universities rather than churches and seminaries?
  • What is lost when governments decide what research is worth funding solely by economic-utilitarian measures of ‘impact’ or monetary pay-out?

This was the fifth major McDonald Centre conference, with previous events on justice, forgiveness, human enhancement technologies, and and an engagement with the work of Peter Singer. This year's conference was attended by well over 100 scholars, students, clergy, and laity from across the UK and numerous other countries.

The conference programme is set out below with links to the videos of each session:


Session 1: Setting the Stage: The Public Plight of Universities
Graham Ward on the UK
Werner Jeanrond on Europe
Robin Lovin on the USA

Session 2: The Reason for the University
Nigel Biggar, ‘What’s the Good of a University?’
Miroslav Volf, ‘Christian Faith and the Crisis of Humanities’

Session 3: Christian Faith in the University
Sarah Coakley, ‘The Vocation of the Priest-Scholar in the Secular University’
Nicholas Wolterstorff, ‘Is There a Place for fides quaerens intellectum?’

Session 4: Christian Confession in the University
Jean Bethke Elshtain, ‘Christianity as Identity Politics in the University’
David Ford & Mike Higton, ‘The Study of Religion in the Research University’
Richard Hays, ‘Ministerial Education in the Contemporary University’

Session 5: Why Christianity Needs the University
David Hempton, ‘Matrices of Movements of Christian Transformation’
Mark Noll, ‘The Flourishing of Christian Learning at Princeton’

Session 6: The University and the Church as Mutual Beneficiaries
Paul Griffiths, ‘The University as Pagan Gift to the Church’
John Witte, ‘What Christianity Can Offer to Modern Law Schools’


Left-to-right: Peter McDonald, Nigel Biggar, Nicholas Wolterstorff, John Witte, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Al McDonald, Paul Griffiths, Suzie McDonald, Miroslav Volf, David Ford, Sarah Coakley, Richard Hays, David Hempton, Mark Noll.