This year's conference

Letter from Judith Pritchard

from Signs of the Times, No. 27 - Oct 2007

I was both surprised and gratified when my small part in having dreamed up the theme of our recent conference was acknowledged at its outset.

I enjoyed the conference immensely - the speakers, the company, the food and, above all the splendid eucharistic worship. So I was even more surprised recently, while happily engaged in deleting old files from the computer, to discover my original letter to Nick Henderson, requesting not a conference on violence but a conference on non-violence .

The difference perhaps accounts for the slight sense of disenchantment which has beset me since returning home. The conference assumed what is for me a less than complete theological outlook. I would have liked some reference to some understanding of the Cross which gives rise to creative pacifism as exemplified in Quakerism.

Giles Fraser came the nearest with his outline of the writings of René Girard - whereas Norman Kember, although well-received and respected, never even mentioned the crucial relevance of Bonhoeffer, whose name was incorporated in the title of his talk! Had he dashed off the title in response to the programme editor and then forgotten it?

I am not a trained theologian although I have had a lifelong addiction to casual theological reading. Do academic theologians have nothing to say about the impossibly-seeming otherness of the Cross? Plenty of people do, e.g. Martin Luther King, Walter Wink, Gandhi implicitly and Paul Oestreicher whose front page article in the current issue of The Anglican Peacemaker cannot be bettered. But, with the exception of Wink, they are not academic theologians and can perhaps better be described as radical (not liberal) thinkers.

The relevance of the atomic bomb unleashed on Hiroshima is not that it is just another weapon capable of destroying the world. Nor is it the case that most people cannot grasp this. Its significance lies in its crystal clear exposition of our modern-day experience of 'the desolating sacrilege'. Where it merges with the Cross human thought comes to an end. Which is perhaps why we can't have a theology of the Cross. Or can we?

In the words of my favourite prayer 'cleanse the thoughts of our hearts...'

A strange idea is it not?