Based on the experiences and building on the outcomes of previous IAPCHE (International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education) conferences in the European region in 2009 and 2016, the next INCHE (International Network for Christian Higher Education) EU Conference will to be held in Budapest.
This conference of INCHE Europe aims to support European institutions of Christian higher education in their present situation where the value of community as such is degraded, and only community building may have the potential to reinforce social groups and Christian presence in society.
Building Community in Fractured Societies
Challenges for Christians in Higher Education
“many parts form one body” (1Cor 12:12)
Christianity has not been uniform since the time of the apostles. Against the differences in some doctrines, Christianity as the body of Christ was one faith-community in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, this “golden age” of political and geographical unity was short-lived. The disintegration of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity into different European countries fragmented, not only politically but doctrinally, the one body of the Middle Ages.
Despite the existence of Christianity in different churches and in different countries, Europe was still predominantly a Christian continent until the 20th century. The French enlightenment started a new fragmentation of Europe where atheism, secularization and an increasingly extensive liberalism resulted in a fundamentally non-Christian and politically divided society in the 21st century.
Against this background, the INCHE Europe conference aims to provide the possibility of bridging some gaps between Christians working and studying in the different fragments of European society. We will offer insights into different levels of our Christian being and working in this fragmented situation and find ways to think about and work together on community building. It is only the building of new communities and the rebuilding of old ones that will enable us to restore and strengthen the network of European Christianity.
During the conference, we will focus on three different levels of community building:
At the MACRO level, we will discuss the general situation of Christianity in Europe. The present political, intellectual and religious situation constitutes a difficult or even a hostile environment for Christians. As our students live in this era, they should be educated for future responsibility. How they frame their position later depends on how they are prepared and nurtured during their formation at our institutes and universities.
At the MESO level, we will consider what this situation means in our universities/institutes. Augustine of Hippo’s classic imagery from The City of God (412-426) describes dual citizenship whereby Christians with a heavenly citizenship also are called to take their citizenship on earth seriously. At this level, we will explore the ways Christian academics deal with the important duality inherent in the fact that as Christians we always have to think internationally because the church of Christ is worldwide. The mission of a Christian university is to encourage the academic and social cooperation of the Christian communities in the world. At the same time, it is the task of Christian education to prepare students to work in their own domestic and national contexts in cooperation with other local Christian communities.
At the MICRO level we will investigate how individuals and communities share good personal practices, mostly but not exclusively in teaching through a university or institute. This level is sometimes referred to as the “classroom level”.
The “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20) creates a tension between the imperative to spread the gospel to others and the reality of pluralism in European society, in a given country and in a particular institution. At this level, we will focus on findings answers to the following questions:
How can we, Christians, achieve a balanced role in society?
How is our Christian identity related to concrete responsibility in society?
How can we build and carry on communities based on Christian values?
In the case of all the above-mentioned levels, different aspects are to be considered:
a) the theological aspect as the base and background for Christian being and living;
b) the pedagogical aspect as the tool of Christian education;
c) the historical aspect as the reflection on the past and future of the present situation;
d) the sociological aspect as the active condition of the current position of Christianity.
Building communities from a Christian perspective requires a special inner attitude that is strongly community-oriented and service-minded. This is our focus on the message of God and the application of this message to our current situation. Furthermore, the spiritual aspect of what we are doing, since the very coining of the conference idea, is based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-14: „Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
This conference will bring together outstanding academic research and consideration of current training practices. Throughout, there will be opportunities for hands-on work and personal reflection, allowing participants to share their insights and develop their portfolios.
We welcome all those interested in the connection between employment and religion, including Christian professionals and alumni of colleges and universities. It is our aim to draw on all these perspectives to share and stimulate joint thinking.
The INCHE Europe Conference 2020 will feature varied experiences from across Europe and in that spirit, we extend a warm welcome to all international guests. The main purpose is that in the end we go home reassured about God and ourselves as well as our institutes and societies.
There will be many opportunities to meet, talk and share inspiring practical examples. We hope for a blessed conference together. We hope to meet you all! Let's unite together at the INCHE EU Conference in Budapest!
We are very much looking forward to your participation!