SBL: Good and Bad

I had no real inclination to post detailed reflections on this year's SBL Annual meeting in Chicago. Mark Goodacre pointed out that the use of Twitter was an important part of proceedings this year, and even I had a go at it. Not sure what I think.

Instead, I thought I would list 5 good and 5 less good aspects of the Conference for me, in no particular order.


1. People: always the main event, getting to spend time with so many people who (a) share a professional interest and some of whom (b) you also count as personal friends. It was especially good to connect with members of the Chester TRS Department, my dear, dear friends Alan and Ellie Kreider and Brad Braxton, and many other US and UK friends.

2. Papers: the usual mix, but the highlights were a session on Gender, Sexuality and the Bible, Dale Allison's whirlwind presentation in the John, Jesus and History unit (also mentioned by Mark Goodacre) and Thomas Schmeller's elegant negotiation of the bridge between 2 Corinthians 1–9 and 10–13. I also very much enjoyed the session honoring Chris Rowland and discussing the recent Festschrift in his honour.

3. Meetings: On Saturday morning I met Clifford Green, who is Executive Director of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English project (one more volume to come in 2013) to discuss wider dissemination of the articles gathered together in Pacifica 25.2 (July 2012) which I edited. Green's book on Bonhoeffer's Theology of Sociality was what reconnected me Bonhoeffer's importance, so it was a pleasure to meet with him before going to hear David Congdon talk about Bonhoeffer's understanding of mission.

4. Receptions: Friday and Saturday nights were quiet. Monday was Chester, Oxford, Kings and Scottish, with T & T Clark/Bloomsbury and Sheffield on Monday. T & T Clark's was the best of these.

5. Books: Only 6 purchases of which the most important are NA28 and Konrad Hamann's biography of Bultmann, which I plan to read slowly alongside a re-reading of Bultmann himself over the summer break.

6. Chicago: sorry this makes 6, I wrote the others first, but this also needs to be mentioned. Its a great city.


1. The McCormick Conference Centre: The epitome of dystopian architecture. Everyone hated it, and not just because of the distances.

2. Bars: reception bars were lightening fast to dismantle at the appointed time, and hotel bars almost all shut up shop by 1am. This left little incentive to stick it out for those 3.30 a.m. discussions about life, the universe and the state of the discipline.

3. Sessions: we need less of them, with fewer papers in each session, to ensure better discussion and interaction by a greater number of qualified and knowledgeable people in the room.

4. Travel: 24 hours door to door: enough said.

5. Books: too many at only 20% discount which meant that they remained unaffordable.

Anyone else have a top 5, or 3, or a list of groans?

Oh, and watch this space for a new reception to be introduced into the Programme Book next year in Baltimore