The Bible and Surveillance

Banksy, What Are You Looking At?, 2004. Marble Arch, London, England.

Surveillance and Religion Network 4th Research Workshop, 9 April 2021

Call for Papers

Watching and being seen often features in biblical texts. God and angels are depicted as figures able to observe humans. People in the Bible engage in looking at others, sometimes spying on enemies, or keeping an eye out in particular for those who are in need.

Everyday life in the 21st century takes place under the gaze of states and corporations who invest in surveillance technologies. The digital footprints we leave behind when shopping, searching, or using services are a valuable resource.

The aim of this research workshop is to explore how the Bible and 21st century surveillance might be brought into critical conversation.

The Surveillance and Religion Network has held three previous workshops, funded then by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Core questions of this online workshop, the fourth in this series, are:

  1. What do biblical texts about divine or angelic seeing disclose?
  2. In what ways are these texts deployed (historically and currently) to legitimate or de-legitimate surveillance practices?
  3. What are the forms of watching-over or looking out for others that feature in the Bible?
  4. How does our experience of 21st century surveillance shape our reading of biblical texts?

Participation in the workshop

The workshop takes place online on Friday 9 April 2021. There is no workshop registration fee.

There are two ways to participate in the workshop:

  1. We invite biblical studies scholars to make a short (10 min) presentation based on a pre-submitted 3,000-word paper. Papers should focus on the core questions for the workshop but we welcome contributions that open up new areas.
  2. We invite faith community practitioners to submit a brief prompt for discussion (not more than 300 words). This should set the scene for other participants to explore one or more of the core questions.

Next step

If you are a biblical studies scholar interesting in presenting a formal paper to the workshop please send a short proposal (not more than 300 words) to the workshop organiser, Dr Eric Stoddart (email) not later than 10 December 2020. If accepted, full papers will be required by 20 March 2021.

If you are a faith community practitioner interested in submitting a brief prompt for discussion please send this to Eric Stoddart also not later than 10 December 2020. We aim to inform you by 20 January 2021 if we are able to include this in the programme.

Vision, Voice, and Vocation – registrations and a call for papers

Vision, Voice, and Vocation_ Arts and Theology in a Climate for Change

Art/s and Theology Australia is excited to provide an update about our upcoming conference – Vision, Voice, and Vocation.

Keynote speakers and a rich offering of short papers, creative presentations, and workshops, will lead us in stimulating conversation about what roles the imagination and the vocations of the artist play in navigating and shaping the complex and changing climates of contemporary life.

The keynote speakers are Emmanuel Garibay (a visual artist from the Philippines), Lyn McCredden (an academic and poet from Melbourne), Jione Havea (a Melbourne-based bible scholar), Trevor Hart (a theologian and priest from Scotland), and Naomi Wolfe (a Melbourne-based historian). Emmanuel Garibay will also be Artist-in-Residence, and his presentation on Thursday 16 July will be open to the public.

Registrations are now open for the conference, with early bird and day-only rates available.

And we are issuing a call for short papers and presentations. Academics and practitioners in the fields of theology, visual art, music, performance, literature, cultural studies, poetry, philosophy, and/or history are invited to send an Abstract (approx. 250 words) of their proposed presentation, plus a short bio, to Jason Goroncy (email) by 31 March 2020.


Vision, Voice, and Vocation

Vision, Voice, and Vocation_ Arts and Theology in a Climate for Change

I am very excited to announce that Art/s and Theology Australia will hold its first conference on 16–19 July next year.

This four-day event will provide a unique conversation space for artists, performers, creatives, academics, and activists, to consider the vital role of the imagination in today’s complex climates – social, cultural, environmental, political, racial, religious, spiritual, intellectual, etc.

It will also invite conversation around further questions: What kinds of change? What are the grounds and manner of hope, transformation, and resilience? What might the arts and theology have to contribute to such discourse and action, if anything? How do we attend to the margins of this discussion, and speak and act more holistically as communities of change?

More details here.


  1. save the date
  2. help spread the word
  3. get in touch if you would like to offer an academic paper or creative presentation

Whitley College School of Ministry: Peaceful People, Peaceful Church, Peaceful World

SOM 2015What does it mean to be agents of peace in a world of conflict?

Each year, my school, Whitley College, runs a School of Ministry. This year’s School – which is happening on 13–14 July – provides an opportunity to hear from two guest teachers who have worked in the area of peace making and peace building, and to reflect together on what it means ‘to become peaceful people, in peaceful churches, for a peaceful world’.

The two guests are Dr David R. Brubaker (Associate Professor of Organizational Studies, Eastern Mennonite University) and Dr Maung Maung Yin (The Vice Principal of Myanmar Institute of Theology and the inaugural Director of the Peace Studies Centre).





  • Full registration – $200 (Includes all meals and up to 2 nights accommodation* in the Residential College)
  • Non-residential registration – $135 (Includes all lunches and dinners)
  • Ordination Candidates – $85 (Includes all meals and up to 2 nights accommodation* in the Residential College)

* Monday and Tuesday night bed and breakfast accommodation


For further information, download the flyer here.

Please direct enquiries to Dorothy Morgan via email or phone 03 9340 8100


Please register before Monday, 6 July 2015.

Book online (requires credit card) or download the registration form.

Surrender: a reflection by Paul Toms

SurrenderA guest post by Paul Toms

I recently attended a gathering called Surrender. It gathers around a common Christian faith that calls us to seek justice in our world. The host partners put it on each year, and each of them have their own understanding of what this means and how it is done. A range of denominations, theological positions, cultures, and speakers make up this diverse community. I have a number of friends that have been instrumental in pulling together this unlikely coalition of people and know it is at times a challenge holding these differences together. I’m sure it would be tempting, in our economically-rational society, to reign this in and restrict it to a group that was more ‘on message’, particularly if this voice was willing to bankroll the event, but Surrender has worked hard to keep these differing voices in conversation. In doing so this gathering is a rich, diverse, and passionate meeting of people that, for me, is a unique practical expression of the Body of Christ that I have not experienced in many other expressions of Christian community.

One significant aspect of this expression is the way they take the words of St Paul seriously, that ‘the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’ (1 Cor 12.22). This is embodied in their commitment, ensuring that many of the voices that are ignored or silenced in our society are heard.

Each year the majority of the people leading sessions over the weekend are on the ground practitioners who are part of small local communities. Room is made for people who are struggling with a range of challenges with their physical and mental health to not only be included in what is happening but are also given opportunities to lead. Stories are shared from communities in the developing world that encourage and challenge my western understandings of faith. And, critically, there is also a significant effort to engage indigenous Australians in respectful ways. This is much more than a tokenistic acknowledgement of country but a commitment to sit at the feet of the elders of this country to learn what it means to be a person of faith in our land. This is done through bible studies led by indigenous elders, a welcome to country which includes responses that last for over an hour (and routinely reduce me to tears), and the Saturday night programme dedicated to hearing from Australia’s first people as they lead us in worship and teaching.

What Surrender is able to achieve with a lot of hard work and persistence is something that I deeply value as both a community development worker as well as a Baptist. It is the creation of an inclusive community that is able to hold together a variety of expressions and ideas. This is not in a narrow, politically-correct ideal but a hard fought practical glimpse of the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of. I am convinced that it is only when we struggle with the complexities, and at times the pain, of the holding together of differences within groups like this that we are indeed able to ‘have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2.16).

My invitation to participate in the Body of Christ calls me to discover and express my own gifts within the community but it also requires me to ensure there is space for the unique offerings of my brothers and sisters. This at times requires the relinquishing of my comfort or control to allow those whose voices are often overlooked to be present and heard.

It is when I commit to working with others in this way that I resonate with the sentiments of Douglas Adams’ character, Dirk Gently, when he says, ‘I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be’.

Ontology and History Conference

Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Christos Yannaras, Alan Torrance, and John Panteleimon Manoussakis will be the main speakers at what sounds like an extraordinary conference on ontology and history to be held between 29–31 May in Delphi, Greece. A call for papers has been issued, and number of thematic workshops/panels planned. These are:

  • Human and divine personhood: how does the ontological fit with the historical?
  • Ontology and History between German Idealism and Maximus the Confessor
  • Politics and Theology at ‘the End of History’
  • History, Ontology, and the Apocalyptic: Proposals and Critiques
  • History and Ontology ‘Performed’:  A Liturgical Perspective

Ontology and History

After Crucifixion: A Symposium on the Theology of Craig Keen

After CrucifixionUnited Theological College and the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology (PaCT) are hosting a symposium on the patient and provocative work of Craig Keen. Keen’s work is described by Bruce McCormack as “animated by a deep personal desire for an authentically kenotic existence, and a longing for the coming of a community of women and men who understand that they cannot live until they die.” Keen’s sensitivity to issues of embodiment, existence, and faith marry with the constellation of thinkers that he has lived with since his youth to produce his subtle, surprising, and prayerful writings. This symposium will focus on his latest book, After Crucifixion: The Promise of Theology, and the questions about faith and life that it impels the reader to consider.

Date: 2728 June, 2014.

Venue: United Theological College, Sydney.

Speakers: Craig Keen, Anita Monro, Benjamin Myers, Janice Rees, Peter Kline, and others.

You can download the Registration Form here, and queries can be directed to here.

Two conferences Down Under

In addition to the conference on sovereignty mentioned in my previous post, Antipodeans are organising two further gigs:

anzats 20141. The annual ANZATS Conference, on the theme The Eclipse of God: Theology after Christendom.

Dates: 29 June to 2 July 2014
Where: University of Notre Dame, Fremantle WA
Keynote speaker: Graham Ward
Short papers: submissions have now closed. This is probably just as well for there is already a massive line up of papers on a diverse range of topics.


Nietzsche religion2. The Religious History Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ), the Religious History Association of Australia (THERHA), and the Christian Research Association of Aotearoa New Zealand are conspiring to organise a conference on Religion in Conflict and Collaboration with the Modern World.

Dates: 2628 November 2014
Where: Albany Campus, Massey University, Auckland
Keynote speaker: Brad Gregory
Short papers: Abstracts for short paper proposals (due on 31 July 2014) should be emailed to the Registrar, Professor Peter Lineham.
Proposed panels for whole sessions (three papers or the equivalent) are also welcome.

Claiming Sovereignty: Theological Perspectives

Claiming Sovereignty

The University of Divinity, Whitley College, the Centre for Theology and Ministry, and the Commission for Mission of the UCA are organising what sounds like a wonderful conference ‘to reflect on discourses of sovereignty in the Australian context’:

In a context where Indigenous claims remain unresolved, the rights of asylum seekers are contested, and global economic forces are making new demands on nation states, the theme of sovereignty demands closer examination. Beginning with discussion of settler colonialism, this conference brings together people from a range of disciplines to reflect on discourses of sovereignty in the Australian context.

Speakers include R. S. SugirtharajahDjiniyini GondarraRobyn Sampson, and Joanna Cruickshank, and a call for papers (proposals due by 15 June) has also been issued.

Further details are available here, or contact Mark Brett or Monica Melanchthon.

Austin Diary III: Raison d’être


Frierson Seminar

Aside from a little day trip down to magnificent San Antonio, this past week has seen me in Austin. My principle reason for being here has been to participate in the Inaugural Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Scholars’ Conference at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The theme of the conference—“Always Being Reformed: Challenges, Issues and Prospects for Reformed Theologies Today”—provided a welcome invitation for a diverse and international company of scholars to address themes, questions, and issues in the Reformed tradition resonant with their own contexts and areas of expertise. The participants were Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi, Deborah and Henk van den Bosch, Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Lameck Banda, Margit Ernst Habib, Martha Moore-Keish, Mary Fulkerson, Meehyun Chung, Bill Greenway, Cindy Rigby, David Jensen, and myself. Our three days together were marked by joy, gratitude, friendship, good scholarship, trust, ego-free candour, great food, wonderful hospitality, and with hope that we might be able to do it again—a gathering of qualities still a little all-too-rare at academic gigs.

The youth bulge in a graying world – a demographic challenge?


Some readers here at PCaL may be interested to know that the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and UNDP Nordic Office are running a two-hour seminar (which is to be live streamed on 7 March) on demographics, ageing and youth, subjects of vital importance for church, NGO, government and other community leaders. The blurb reads:

Today, half of the world’s population is under 25 years of age, while 11% of the world’s population is aged 60 and over. The share of young and elderly will rise significantly by 2030, when the world’s population is estimated to reach 8 billion. There are concerns about the capacities of societies to address the challenges of this demographic shift. The crucial question is therefore – how can we prepare for this demographic challenge? How can access to education, employment, health care and basic social protection be secured for the young and the elderly?

The UN Secretary General’s report emphasizes that the demographic shift requires a transformative change towards inclusive and sustainable development to facilitate for the needs of the young and the elderly. Despite this, some advocate that there is still a large risk that these groups are excluded from the new development agenda if they are not identified in specific goals or indicators. How do we make sure that the young and the elderly are subjects and actors, not objects, of the new development agenda that will be formulated?

The seminar is concerned to address questions like:

  • What societal changes will need to come into effect when youth no longer can support the growing elderly generation, and whose responsibility are these changes?
  • How can discrimination of both the youth and of the elderly be reversed, e.g. in access to power to influence their own situation?
  • How can we benefit from the ‘demographic dividend’ in Africa?
  • How do ‘lost generations’ – due to migration, disease and conflict – affect development? How do we build a universal and sustainable development agenda taking the diverse population dynamics into account?

Further details about the seminar, including speakers and registration, can be found here.

[Image: source]

Two conferences to note

Craig KeenI. In Sydney, Australia. On 27–28 June, the United Theological College and Centre for Public and Contextual Theology are hosting After Crucifixion: A symposium on the theology of Craig Keen. The call for papers reads:

Central to Keen’s work is the belief that human reflection on the mystery of God is always embodied. In his latest book, After Crucifixion, Keen shows that theology is structured by a pattern of embodied reflection and embodied giving. The theologian hears and believes the good news, but does not receive this gift as a possession to be retained: “a gift that will not become property is there to be given. To follow Christ is with him perpetually to be emptied.”

The symposium will explore Craig Keen’s contribution to contemporary theology, and will offer scholarly engagement with his work; Craig Keen will also present a lecture and will respond to papers We invite papers engaging with Professor Keen’s work – particularly his latest publication, After Crucifixion (Cascade, 2013) – from a range of disciplines and perspectives. Paper proposals should be no more than 300 words and should be sent to by 28 February 2014.

paul-tillichII. In Oxford, England. On 14–15 July, Ertegun House, St Benet’s Hall and the Oxford Centre for Theology and Modern European Thought are hosting Paul Tillich: Theology and Legacy. The blurb reads:

Paul Tillich features on anyone’s list of most significant and influential 20th Century theologians. In an age where it is tempting to retreat into intra-theological discussion or dismiss the secular world, Tillich’s vision for a theology which engages with culture and connects religious language with philosophical reflection continues to influence and provoke contemporary theological reflection.

This conference aims to stimulate and provide a platform for current work on Paul Tillich in anticipation of the commencement of the publication of the Collected Works in English from 2015, as well as providing space and time for scholars with an interest in Tillich’s work to meet, get to know each other, and discuss their work.

Keynote speakers include Reinhold Bernhardt, Marc Boss, Douglas Hedley, Anne-Marie Reijnen, and Christoph Schwöbel. There is also a call for papers engaging with Tillich’s thought. Abstracts of between 300–500 words should be emailed to bFriday 14 February 2014, with a short biographical note.