Church in the Public Square

The Church in the Public Square series of conferences began in January 2014, with the aim of bringing together a number of leading thinkers in the UK and Ireland to consider the role which Christians and the Church can play in wider community life.

Organised by PCI's Council for Church in Society and the Church's Union Theological College, delegates at the conferences have examined subjects that are both sensitive and current in today's society – and to discuss how the Church can work together with others in the wider community for the common good. This is at a time when not only has the Christian voice become incomprehensible in many ears, but is often hated and opposed.

Dr. Stafford Carson, Principal of Union Theological College and one of the conference organisers, said, "Those who have lived through the second half of the twentieth century will be aware of the seismic shift that has taken place in terms of morality and ethical standards.

Whereas it was once the case that a majority of people in our society accepted and ordered their lives according to foundational Christian standards of morality, that is no longer the case. The changing scene has meant that those who hold to a traditional Christian position feel decidedly uncomfortable and marginalised as our society, and increasingly its major institutions, reflect a secular point of view which conflicts with their Christian principles." 

Therefore, each of the Church in the Public Square conferences have tried to answer such questions as 'What should Christians do, and how should they respond to these changes?' and 'What role does the Christian church have to play in the debates that are taking place on a range of issues, from education to euthanasia?'

Seminar series 'On Being Human'

The purpose of this series of seminars was to reflect on what it means to be a human person and to address a number of important contemporary issues. Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of people who work in a variety of disciplines, this series enabled those attending to unpack some of the theological foundations that underpin our view of humanity. To listen to the seminars, click on the blog post link below.

Date Topic Speaker  
26th September What Genesis 1-3 says about human identity Dr Desi Alexander, Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Union Theological College To listen to the audio from this seminar see Desi Alexander's blog post.

3rd October The Beginning and the End: Issues of Life and Death Professor John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology, University College London To listen to the audio from this seminar see Prof Wyatt's blog post

10th October Third Millennial Humanity: Can human nature be improved through applied science? Dr Donal O'Mahuna, Senior Lecturer in Ethics, Decision-making and Evidence, Dublin City University To listen to the audio from this seminar see Dr Donal O'Mahuna's blog post.

24th October Christianity and the science of human origins Professor David Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History, Queen's University, Belfast To listen to the audio from this seminar see Prof Livingstone's blog post

7th November Gender and Sexuality Dr Cindy Brown, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Belfast Bible College; and Dr Andrew Collins, Consultant Psychiatrist

To listen to the audio from this seminar see Dr Collins' blog post

We regret that due to a technical fault during the recording of this seminar, the audio of Dr Brown’s talk is not available. Dr Brown did, however, rerecord her talk at a later date. You can listen to the audio of her talk here blog post

14th November What is the "human" in human rights? Professor Christopher McCrudden, Professor of Human Rights and Equality Law, Queen's University, Belfast To listen to the audio from this seminar see Prof McCrudden's blog post


Previous Conferences and Events

The Church in the Public Square: Remembering 1916: Martyrdom & Sacrifice – Thursday, 25th February 2016

Martyrdom and Sacrifice was our second exploration of the events of 1916 with a talk given by John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History at The Open University. The talk took place Church’s Union Theological College in Belfast.

Read more about the event here or view the video of Professor Wolffe's talk here.

The Church in the Public Square: The Future of Our Past – Thursday, 21st January 2016

This conference, which took place in January 2016, was the fifth in the series and focused on two seminal events in Ireland’s history: the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

The Future of Our Past: Remembering and Reassessing 1916 explored the events of 100 years ago and discussed how they came to exert such a central place in how Ireland views its past and present. The Republic of Ireland’s Minister of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., joined former Presbyterian Moderator Dr Trevor Morrow to discuss the issues along with Dr Fearghal McGarry, reader in Modern Irish History at Queen’s University, playwright and historian Philip Orr and the writer and commentators Dr Ruth Dudley Edwards and Eamonn Mallie.

Read more about this event or view the conference videos here.

The Church in the Public Square: Economic Hope – Friday, 9th October 2015

In the autumn of 2015 the fourth Church in the Public Square conference, entitled 'Economic Hope: a biblical roadmap for a just society', took place in Assembly Buildings. The main speakers were Dr Michael Schluter, Founder of the Jubilee Centre, and Dr Paul Mills, Senior Economist. Alongside them, a number of panellists also contributed to the event. The topics discussed were: the Jubilee Vision, the Divine Economy, the Debt Delusion and the Yeast Strategy.

Read more about this conference or view the conference videos here.

The Church in the Public Square: Living and dying well' – Thursday, 22nd January 2015

At the start of 2015 a third Church in the Public Square conference took place, examining the subject of assisted suicide. The speakers addressed the ethical, pastoral and legal issues surrounding attempts to legislate in favour of assisted suicide. Baroness Finlay, Chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well and President of the BMA; Robert Preston, Director of the think-tank, Living and Dying Well; and John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College, London, were the speakers. 

To read more about this conference and to listen to the speakers click here.

'The Church in the Public Square: Equality, Freedom and Religion' – Thursday, 9th October 2014

The theme for the second conference, as a follow up from January's conference, was 'Equality, freedom and religion'. Again three speakers raised issues around this theme: Professor Roger Trigg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University; Professor Colin Harvey, Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen's University in Belfast; and Dr Michael Wardlow, the Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission NI.

A review of this conference and an audio feed of the day can be found here.

'The Church in the Public Square?'  – Thursday, 30th January 2014

This first conference considered the role of the church in the public square. The three keynote speakers were Professor Donald McLeod, Professor of Systematic Theology at Free Church College in Edinburgh; Dr Jonathan Chaplain, Director of the Kirby-Laing Centre for Christian Ethics in Cambridge; and John Larkin QC, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

To read a review of the first conference and to listen to an audio feed of the keynote speakers click here.