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

Old Testament Job Opportunity in Melbourne

My Old Testament colleague here at the Uniting Church Theological College and Centre for Theology and Ministry retires at the end of this year. So, we are now advertising for a new Professor of Old Testament, to start in 2012. Details are as follows:








Applications are invited for the position of



at the Uniting Church Theological College Melbourne


The appointee will teach in the field of Old Testament Studies, enabling students of the Theological College and the United Faculty of Theology (an ecumenical Recognised Teaching Institution of the Melbourne College of Divinity) to explore the Old Testament, develop their knowledge and skill for interpreting its texts and to integrate their learning into their theology, preaching, teaching and practice of ministry.


The appointee will participate in the preparation and formation of candidates for the Uniting Church Ministries and resource the wider Uniting Church in understanding the Old Testament.


Appointment effective from 1 January 2012 for a period of 7 years


Closing date:  15 July 2011


The full advertisment can be downloaded by clicking on the folloing link Download OT ad April11.

Please feel free to circulate these details as widely as possible. I am happy to have a conversation with anyone who feels they might want to apply.

Professorial Predecessors: John C. O’Neill

In a seminar this morning on Romans 13.1-7 the student presenting made substantial reference to John O'Neill's view that these verses are an interpolation (a view with which I disagree). There was a wry smile on my face, however, for the student and perhaps none of the class could know that O'Neill was one of my predecessors in the role that I now hold. His first academic appointment was as Lecturer of NT at Ormond College, the Presbyterian College in Melbourne that later co-operated with Queen's College to form the Uniting Church Theological College. His appointment seems to have been made when Davis McCaughey, the Professor of New Testament then also became Master at Ormond (more on McCaughey in another post). He only stayed a couple of years.

O'Neill was nothing if not an independent mind.  I think I met him once at a British New Testament Conference years ago. I only really knew him for his interpolation theory in relation to the Pauline epistles, although it is clear that his scholarship ranged wide and deep and is especially creative in relation to issues of Jesus messianic self-understanding and mission.  From Melbourne he moved to take up a position at Westminster College, Cambridge and from there to a Chair in Edinburgh.

He died in 2003.  Tributes can be found from his colleagues Johnston McKay here (this seems to have been the obit. for the Times) and David Mealand (from the Independent here.)

Why George Carey Never Amounted to Much as an Archbishop

HT to Tortoise, commenting over at F&T, who pointed out the more than strange and unsettling resemblance between the singer on the right hand side of this crazy, Christian, beat trio:


and the former, never-amounted-to-anything-much-and-often-deeply-annoying/embarassing former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey:

The-faith-tones1 CareyDM2406_228x295

I know, I know, but I am supposed to be preparing classes for next semester, and needed a little light relief.


The World’s Best Preacher? And Other Random Thoughts

Ruth Gledhill has a post which includes a reflection on the quality of Rowan Williams' preaching: 'I've heard him preach time and again the most beautiful, evocative
sermons that will stand in my soul as guiding lights over a lifetime.' It set me thinking about who is the best preacher I have heard. In early days I would have said a Tony Campolo, or an Eric Delve. But now? The unknown preacher who was caught on tape by Keith Clements and played to a group of Bristol Baptist College students in 1987 sticks out. The sermon was called 'Will a Simple Prayer do at Midnight?" and I still remember the lines: e.g. on Reagan, "I don't care what astrologer the First Lady decides to see, but I do care about the way her husband does his Voodoo economics'. That was a sermon in the black church, and that prompts me also to mention Brad Braxton who is a friend and a brilliant preacher. Sticking to the US – William Willimon (never heard him live but seen clips); Barbara Brown Taylor (ditto); Tom Long (ditto). Back in the UK? honourable mention to Brian Haymes, not least for the sermon he preached at a leaving service for close friends at Didsbury Baptist Church; Mary Coates, for her sermon printed in Silence in Heaven called 'Standing in the Stable' which makes me shiver every time I read it etc etc.

What about you? Who is the best preacher you have heard – combining form, delivery and, importantly, content.

Other random links:

Andy Goodliff has information about the 2010 Whitley Lecture, to be delivered by my friend David Southall.

Steve Harmon draws attention to substantial engagement with his book on Baptist Catholicity in the journal Pro Ecclesia. No library in Melbourne seems to take this journal – so I am looking to find a copy of the articles.

The Guardian has started a new series on aspects of literary theory, The first is on Barthes' notion of the Death of the Author.

George Hunsinger on the historical reliability of the gospels.

The power of Bach's Cello Suites.

Back in the Saddle

I am back at my desk, after a long break over Christmas and New Year and including a week spent avoiding the Melbourne heat down on the Gippsland Lakes. The next few weeks are reasonably quiet, but there is much to do including writing an article on 2 Cor 3, finishing a couple of book reviews and preparing for classes for Semester 1.  I am teaching the following units this semester: Pauline Studies; Ethics in the New Testament and The Theology and Practice of Preaching.

There is also some significant planning to be done: for a Biblical Studies research seminar here in Melbourne, to be launched this year; a one day conference on Paul: Then and Now with John Barclay as a keynote speaker; planning for papers to be given at conferences in July; and several articles to be completed. We also are about to undertake a substantial review of the ministerial formation programme here at the Centre for Theology and Ministry.

The hope is that all this activity will in turn generate some blogging.  Watch this space.