The EI’s second major international event of 2010 was the conference ‘Being Surprised by God: Embodied Ecclesiology in Local Settings’, staged at the National Service Centre of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN), Haydnlaan 2A, Utrecht, The Netherlands, from June 21-24. Here the broad range of questions explored included the theological meaning of empirical research on the local church, research on new and or alternative ways of being church and research on lived faith in local settings.This was another even bringing together different methodologies and featured contributions that combined empirical and theological approaches/perspectives, as well as systematic and historical papers. There were numerous papers that explicitly explored bridging the disciplinary divide across the three areas, viz., systematic theology/ecclesiology, congregational studies/ethnography and perspectives pertaining from practical theology/congregational development. The three days were not driven by disciplinary groups (systematics, etc.) but rather by a few invited keynotes on themes and then in parallel sessions various papers were offered on the research projects people have to discuss. One third of the conference participants were PhD Students as research students were especially invited and encouraged to come, in line with EI’s mission of helping to encourage and develop new and emerging scholars in the related fields.


Gerard Mannion, Paul Collins, Harald Hegstad, Pete Ward,
Rein Brouwer and Henk de Roest

The conference was open to all interested participants


Themes of parallel sessions:

  • The theological meaning of empirical research on the local church
  • Research on New and or Alternative Ways of Being Church
  • Research on Lived Faith in Local Settings

The questions of specific interest were ontological and epistemological questions.
Can we discern God-in-action?
What does it mean to do ethnography from a theological perspective?
How do we evaluate new ways of being church?
What methods facilitate a combined empirical and theological approach?
How are systematic ecclesiological reflections embodied in the local church?
How are theology and the social sciences related when they focus upon the church in local contexts?

You can see the program of this conference here or at the official webpage here.


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