2013-14 Conferences: Christianity and Religious Plurality

Theme for 2013–14: Christianity and Religious Plurality

University of Chichester, 17–20 July 2013

London, 11 January 2014

Contemporary Christians in the West may believe themselves to be living amidst unprecedented religious diversity, but historians of all periods will be well aware that across the 2,000 year history of the worldwide church, situations of religious plurality have been much more widespread than those of Christian monopoly.  Indeed where Christian monopolies have been perceived to exist, they frequently on closer inspection reveal significant hidden histories of religious encounter with marginalized minorities at home, or engagement with other cultures abroad. It is now over two decades since the Ecclesiastical History Society considered the theme of Christianity and Judaism, while wider questions of Christian encounter with other world faiths have yet to receive focused attention from the Society.  It  would therefore seem particularly timely to address a topic that is both of pivotal intellectual interest for scholars of all periods, and one on which there is substantial potential for historians of religion to serve the wider community through facilitating the development of a ‘long view’ of present-day concerns.

These conferences will be concerned not with plurality within Christianity (which has received substantial attention from the Society in past years) but with forms of Christian encounter with and response to other structured forms of religious faith and practice.  Papers could thus explore Christian relations with practitioners of one or more major world religions – including but not limited to Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – or with varieties of ‘pagan’ and indigenous religion.  It is hoped that contributions will include studies of early Christianity in its Greek, Jewish and Roman religious context; analysis of encounters with Islam in late antiquity and in the ‘Crusading’ era; consideration of Christian responses to the presence of Jews and Muslims in medieval and early modern Europe; assessments of Christian missions that focus on religious encounter rather than internal organization; consideration of the situation of longstanding Christian minorities in the Middle East, India and elsewhere; and evaluation of the recent (and not so recent) history of Christian response to religious minorities in the West.  The encounters in question of course took numerous forms from serious theological dialogue to armed conflict.  Papers that merely document prejudice, ignorance and incomprehension are unlikely to be satisfying ones, but critical and hostile encounters form an important part of the historical record alongside more positive relationships.

Plenary papers at the summer conference will be  Presidential Address: ‘Plurality in the Capital: Christian Responses to London’s Religious Minorities’; Guy Stroumsa (Oxford) ‘From Qumran to Qur’an: the religious worlds of early Christianity’; Jonathan Phillips (Royal Holloway) ‘Rhetoric and Reality: Christian – Muslim Relations at the Time of the Third Crusade’; Nabil Matar (Minnesota) ‘Islam in Britain: Henry Stubbe and Charles Hornby, 1671–1705’; Brian Stanley (Edinburgh) ‘Christians, Muslims and the State in Twentieth-Century Egypt and Indonesia’.  Speakers at the winter conference will include Mona Siddiqui (Edinburgh).

John Wolffe, President-elect 2013–14

For the programme of the Summer Conference,  click here.

The resulting volume was published as Christianity and Religious Plurality, Studies in Church History 51 (Boydell, 2015).