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The AC Colloquia Series presents an internal forum for faculty and postgraduate students to share their latest research "in-house" for feedback from and discussion among colleagues. Each Colloquium typically has two speakers, with time for Q&A after each presentation. The Colloquia Series are held at AC Sydney campus on the Ground Level, room G-04.

To RSVP, please contact Ingrid Ryan at


Join us in 2019 for our Colloquia series. Dates are listed below along with the corresponding host for each session:

5 March 2019: Host: Dr Rebecca Loundar

2 April 2019: Host: Dr Adam White

7 May 2019: Host: Dr Kevin Hovey

4 June 2019: Host: Dr DJ Konz 

6 August 2019: Host: Dr Katherine Hurrell

3 September 2019: Host: Dr Daniel Thornton

1 October 2019: Host: Dr David Hastie

5 November 2019: Host: Dr Caroline Batchelder 

Triangulating Forgetfulness: the Autoethnographic, the Academic, and the Homilitic in tension. 

David Jones

This autoethnographic research explores my experience of being caught in a cognitive “perfect storm”. The raging elements include on the one hand, a disability, such that my recall seldom takes the form of personal narrative – recall requires prompting, and is often first propositional, not storied; together with a compensatory way of working with a heuristic frame - although it has allowed me to succeed in enterprise, it appears to others as an esoteric and bare cognitivism. On the other hand, my story is marked by a long and passionate pursuit of a Christian onto-epistemology, where knowing and being are inseparable; and my discoveries are theological, so any deficiency in academic markers makes them seem homiletic in nature. The former, cognitive parts of the storm seem antithetical to the “evocative” autoethnographer; the affective parts seem seditious to the academic. This paper explores the seemingly abstract academic phrase “Christian Speech Enactivism” to pose my dilemma: how can I be true to who I am, and use what I see as the epistemologically congruent methodology of Autoethnography to conduct my research?

Divine Self-Enrichment and Human Well-Being: A Systematic Theological Inquiry, with Special Reference to Development and Humanitarian Aid.

Dr. Jacqueline Service

Christian involvement in international development and humanitarian aid is prolific. It is premised on improving human well-being. With well-known notions of ‘love thy neighbour’ and a history and tradition of caring for the poor it seems obvious why churches and Christians are involved in ‘development’ and ‘humanitarian’ work. But is it that obvious? What is the rationale for Christian involvement in the contemporary dominant development paradigm, and not merely engagement in charity, preference for the poor, or liberation movements? As a secular agenda increasingly determines the development space, the question of what difference ‘faith’ makes to Christian faith-based development organisations (FBDOs) becomes both significant and urgent. Arguably, many Christian FBDOs have acquiesced to secular pragmatic rationales to undergird the formulation of their work. Much less referenced is the role of theology as an explanatory and pragmatic influence. In many ways therefore FBDOs are devoid of the influence of ‘faith’, or more particularly, the influence of a robust theological foundation. This thesis addresses this deficit by locating a Christian rationale for human well-being in relation to the doctrine of the triune God. Specifically, this theological inquiry examines the triune God’s work in, and for, creation with a view to identifying the characteristics and dynamics of divine well-being through the intra-trinitarian movement of gift and receipt. This gifting and receiving within the Godhead is identified as ‘Divine self-enrichment’ — defined as God enriching God in the perfection and fullness of God. The mode through which Divine self-enrichment occurs is essentially kenotic. The thesis provides an extended inquiry into the theological logic of kenotic-enrichment, and its implications for human well-being. In particular, the thesis argues that the pattern of kenotic-enrichment is to be discerned in the dynamic economy of God in creation and human life. When humanity exhibits characteristics of kenotic-enrichment identified in the economic Trinity, there we see intimations of the work of God. In this sense, the archetype of divine enrichment is antecedently operative in the creation; where kenotic-enrichment conditions created well-being. The thesis, therefore, argues that a theology of triune self-enrichment provides an alternate, and complementary, theological paradigm for Christian rationale and praxis of international development and humanitarian aid.

Framing Revelation, Pentecostally

Dr Jon Newton 

Research on the reception history of biblical texts shows that how a text is framed shapes the interpretation of that text. Framing a text refers to the assumptions, presuppositions and questions, even ideologies, the reader brings to that text, which bring different meanings out of it. The reception history of Revelation illustrates this point. In this paper, I will look at selected examples of how this framing has affected the interpretation of Revelation. For instance, reading frames drawn from events in the middle ages and Reformation helped create the Historicist interpretations; Dispensationalism influenced Pentecostal interpretations in the twentieth century; other early Pentecostal interpretations were framed by the experience of Pentecostals as a distinctive sect-like group. I then discuss how a different Pentecostal frame might influence the interpretation; that is, what would a reading influenced by the event of Pentecost, and its outflow in Acts, and the expansion of modern Pentecostalism, look like? I sketch parallels between Revelation and Acts and draw on C. Kavin Rowe’s World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age. Thus, I will suggest that such a reframing of Revelation would produce a more missional reading in line with the mission of the church given by Jesus in Acts 1:8. I will finish by comparing readings of Revelation 17-18 (the downfall of the harlot Babylon) and especially the call to “come out of her, my people” (Rv.18:4), from these perspectives.

Unity through Performance: A Performance - Critical Approach to the Book of Revelation 

Dr U-Wen Low 

Performance criticism understands various Biblical texts as performed works, which were later encoded as texts. Similar to liturgy, the performance of texts creates a new reality for listeners. By recreating reality through spoken language, John is effectively "reculturing" his audience, drawing them together through thier shared experience of the text. However, the ekphrasis language of the text lends itself to multiple interpretations, meaning that every performance of Revelation has the potential to be a unique interpretation of the text. This paper aims to demonstrate that despite this array of possible interpretations, the shared experience of a performance of Revelation nevertheless results in John's original goal: to unify an audience in the face of seeming persecution and oppression. The performance of the text therefore acts to transform the community that hears it, providing a sense of hope against oppression and giving fresh weight to John's three central priorities for the Christian community: to wait, witness, and worship.

Ministry Approaches in Chinese Collectivism

Annie Tang

From field experience, mission workers have come to realise that it is crucial to understand how the cultural theme of collectivism shapes gospel ministry while aiming to fulfil the great commission. This paper explores: the features of Chinese collectivism, its implications for missionaries from non-collectivist cultures, the four sets of values of collectivism that conflict with Christianity, Jesus’ evangelistic and discipleship efforts in context of collectivism, and approaches for ministries to Chinese background people.    The purpose of this research is thus to facilitate the evangelistic and discipleship effort by suggesting the language, approaches, and methods suitable for ministry to diaspora Chinese.

The paper describes how collectivists view the society as a collection of groups, each with its values and expected behaviours.  A hierarchical system of status keeps order and peace within the groups and in society at large.  However, some values within collectivism have the potential to conflict values with Christianity.  Nevertheless, Jesus’ ministry work is an example of his adaptation to collectivist culture and the resulting benefits to his work for the gospel. The paper concludes that in following Jesus’ model, Chinese ministries can overcome the obstacles collectivism imposes and use its features to advance the fulfilment of the great commission. 

Suggestions for Chinese ministry workers include the formation of inclusive Christian groups that focus on oneness, placing emphasis on prayer and scripture reading, focussing ministry approach on the family as the basic unit of ministry, awareness of the primacy of status in Chinese culture and its acknowledgement in ministry work, and emphasising the importance of teaching Chinese background believers to find their identity in God and seeking God in decision-making. 

The even Greater Commission: Relating the Great Commission to the missio Dei, and human agency to divine activity, in mission 

Dr DJ Konz

This paper proposes a means to reconcile and properly order two of the dominant missiological concepts of the past century: the so-called “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18–20, and the concept of missio Dei. The paper thus seeks to offer a more robustly trinitarian basis for mission based upon the Great Commission, and a means to better understand the relationship between divine and human agency in mission. To do so, the article offers an historical and theological primer on the two concepts, then contends that the Great Commission should be understood as a second-order frame of reference for mission, located within the wider trinitarian framework of the “even greater” co-missions of the Son and Spirit. Then, the paper then draws on the theology of Karl Barth to affirm that the church, insofar as its actions correspond to God’s own activity in the Spirit, can be regarded as the locus of human co-activity in the pneumatological missio of God, and, finally, proposes that properly ordering the Great Commission and the missio Dei allows for a co-operative, if asymmetrical, co-missional account of the relation between God’s actions and human agency in mission.


Listen to the Voice: A literary study of 1 Samuel 15 including an investigation of the significance of herem

Joseph Kohring 

Frequently labelled a “herem text,” 1 Samuel 15 often presents a difficult moral dilemma. Modern scholarship has sought to resolve this issue by asking questions such as: “Did God really command genocide…” or “How could God command genocide…” This paper argues that these questions of historicity, unto themselves, devalue the text by ignoring the purpose of its composition and the artful, linguistic beauty found therein. In an effort to highlight the creativity in the narrative, this paper offers an alternate question: “What is the function of the text and how does it contribute to the purpose of 1 and 2 Samuel?” A close reading of the text reveals that herem is best understood as a literary vessel through which the narrative is told. This paper concludes that 1 Samuel 15 has been inaccurately labelled a “herem text” as herem is not the primary concern of the narrative. Instead, this narrative reveals that a king is not judged by his ability or inability to govern, but by his paradigm of power. This narrative reveals the command for Yahweh’s king: “Listen to the voice…”

The Impact of Pentecostal Revelatory Experiences on the Theology of Scripture 

Tania Harris

Pentecostalism has been defined as a worldview that sees itself in historic continuity with its biblical counterparts. As such, Pentecostals expect to access experiences that correlate with the experiences of the first century church. These include revelatory experiences that involve direct and spontaneous interaction with the Holy Spirit via dreams, visions, auditions and prophetic encounters and the reception of extra-biblical, particularistic, future-oriented and previously unknown information. The capacity to “hear from God” in this way has been shown to be a core and distinctive component of Pentecostal spirituality. Pentecostals draw particularly on the narrative accounts to interpret and understand their own experience. Thus the stories and experiences depicted in the Scriptures become the model for how God’s voice is heard, discerned and responded to.

While one cannot make the claim that contemporary inspired experience is identical to biblical experience, it is clear that the correlation has a significant impact on the way Scripture is read and understood. Cargal (1993) reminds us that the relationship between the Scriptures and Pentecostal experience is a dialectic one. Pentecostals understand their experience in light of the Scriptures (particularly the New Testament narratives) and their experience then acts back on the way the scriptures are received.

However, the relationship between inspired experience and the Scriptures has been a contentious one throughout history. The Pentecostal claim to contemporary inspired experience that is in alignment with the biblical characters has been seen to pose a threat to the uniqueness and authority of scripture and more generally, to theological orthodoxy itself. The inability to reconcile inspired experience and the Scriptures has often led to a rejection and/or dilution of revelatory experience, particularly by evangelicals in the reformed tradition.

The question is in what way does contemporary revelatory experience impact our understanding about the nature of Scripture? My paper will explore these issues drawing on the findings of my PhD studies in three urban Australian Pentecostal churches and in dialogue with relevant theorists, showing the implications of contemporary revelatory experience for understandings about the nature of inspiration in the Scriptures, hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures and authority of the Scriptures.



Click below for speaker information and abstracts.

Embracing Vulnerability: A Case Study on Educational Experiences and Social Integration of Migrants and Immigrants in a Swedish School

By: Carissa Henriksson

Over the recent decade, Sweden’s social and cultural climate has rapidly changed due to their relatively high intake of asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, and immigrants. This study addresses some of the issues that have arisen in Sweden, through an anthropological lens applied to a school-based integration program focusing on school-aged children. What is happening in the minds and ‘worlds’ of immigrant and migrant youths in Sweden? The answer will shed light on what may cause them to successfully integrate or to retaliate (‘dis-integrate’) in some form. How does the educational and school experience aid or hinder the social integration of these youths? This case study, in one Swedish school, considers the dynamics and nuances of transnational movement, identity, social and behavioural factors, gender roles, religious issues, bullying and discrimination, language barriers, and cultural interactions playing a role in sojourner social integration journeys.

Issues of educational policy, equal rights, and classroom dynamics are also considered, as participants’ experiences through schooling impact on their social interactions. Within and around each area of concentration lies the perplexing theme of ‘vulnerability’ and how this trait is inflected either as a productive resource or a barrier to integration.


Between two pillars: How unmarried, evangelical Christian women in Australia responded to sacred and secular norms in the period 1890-1970

By: Karen Pack

In light of the increasing sexualisation of society, the evangelical church’s focus on marriage and domesticity, and the large numbers of single women engaged in missional and justice work, what can be said about the role of unmarried Christian women in evangelical churches from 1890-1970? To what extent did unmarried Christian women conform to the apparent ideals of society and Church regarding their ideal and expected role in home and church? This thesis aims to examine understandings of what was considered “proper” for unmarried women throughout the period 1890-1970, and then to compare the lives of unmarried evangelical Christian women throughout the period, to determine whether they conformed to or challenged dominant ideals of femininity and purity, and their motivations for doing so.

What is “successful” religious acculturation? A case study of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East in diaspora in Australia.

By: Ps Allan Davis

The dilemma facing migrants in maintaining home culture traditions while adapting to new ones, has been the subject of study for decades, particularly as multiculturalism has become a relevant topic for Governments, policy makers, service providers and citizens. There is still room for study of diasporas whose acculturation processes are impacted by ancient religious and cultural conventions. Large numbers Syriac Orthodox migrated to the West in the 20th Century; many are now doing so as refugees. Australia has a small but growing community. Migrants settling in multicultural Australia face acculturation challenges. Religion often plays a part in helping them resettle, self-identify and connect socially. In the Syriac Orthodox Church community, these issues are complicated by the need to establish a new cultural identity while retaining Syriac liturgy and praxis.

Findings from this project so far (based on qualitative research involving interviews, focus groups and ethnographic fieldwork) confirm the importance of heritage values, religious identity, effective intergenerational transmission of tradition and belief, and sympathetic government policies, in their acculturation in Australia.

The project will enhance understanding of acculturation issues facing new cohorts of immigrants and refugees in Australia; provide better information for decision makers; and offer evidence to equip service providers helping them. Policy makers and church leaders are interested in the findings, given continued refugee outflows from the Middle East.

Pentecostal Sacramentalism and the Australian Christian Churches

By: Ps Phillip Webb

Since the early 1990’s, Pentecostal theologians have begun to explore the possibility of a Pentecostal sacramentalism. Building upon the early ecumenical work of David du Plessis and Walter Hollenweger, these theologians have sought to understand the Pentecostal identity through sacramental language, some going so far as to describe Pentecostalism as having been an unrealised sacramental tradition from its inception. This paper is the preliminary research of a PhD and will 1) describe the proposed methodology to be undertaken in this research, following Bernard Lonergan’s functions of meaning, grounded and participatory ethnography, and the trialogical theological method of Amos Yong; 2) present an overview of the developing, though at times contradictory, body of literature concerning Pentecostal  sacramentalism to date; and 3) demonstrate the importance of this current research through grounding the literature, which has been largely conceived in the abstract, within the broader ecumenical understandings of sacramentalism and in the real life practices of Pentecostal worship, especially in their practices concerning the Eucharist. This paper concludes that an under-developed sense of Pentecostal sacramentalism is to the detriment of a Pentecostal self-understanding and that deliberate ethnographic research in Pentecostal congregations will provide a significant contribution to a Pentecostal theology of sacramentalism.

Transformational Caregiving: Integrating the 'Head' & 'Heart'

By: James Rengger

Christian caregiving must be a dynamic and transformational process that requires the progressive integration of a caregivers ‘head’ and ‘heart’ knowledge to ensure caregiving remains within the boundaries of God’s overriding caregiving actions. According to the 2016 National Church Life Survey, 70% of surveyed churchgoers have an appetite for innovative approaches that seek to develop new ways to make better connections internally and externally of the Church environment. Furthermore, 32% of respondents reported that developing spiritual growth along with facilitating unity through building a strong sense of community are priorities for them in the short-term. What this means is that there is currently an opportunity for integrating an innovative process that seeks to combine the outlined priorities into the life of the local church. The action-reflection-corrective action model of caregiving is one such approach that can support these priorities. Therefore through the structured process of critical analysis and reflection of caregiving encounters, combined with intentionally engaging with the wisdom of the Christian tradition offered through an action-reflection-corrective action model can go a long way to satisfying the desires churchgoers are craving.


The Economic Contribution of Church Attenders to Australian Society

By: Rev Dr Philip Hughes

SEIROS (Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society) commissioned the Christian Research Association to conduct a national survey of Australians in 2016 to explore volunteering.

Analysis of the 6,702 usable responses to the survey showed that church attenders did more hours per month than non-religious in volunteering. Some of those extra hours were spent within their churches. However, 60 per cent of the hours spent in their churches were spent in activities and programs for the wellbeing of the wider community. The survey showed that, on average, Australian adults volunteered about 7.1 hours per month for the sake of the community. On average, church attenders contributed 10.2 hours per month.  When those additional three hours per month are multiplied by the 2.7 million Australian adults who attend a church monthly or more often, their additional contribution to the community per year is about 86 million hours and worth about $2,587.8 million when a rough estimate of the skill level of the volunteering is taken into account.

Pastoral Care in Dialogue with Social Sciences

By: Christopher Cat

This paper examines how some social-psychological models of expectancy, self-efficiency and coping can dialogue with some principles of pastoral care to inform ministry research into pastoral care strategies for people with chronic somatic, situations that cause suffering. The paper first shows how challenges to day to day functionality are perceived as suffering and then how engagement with models of self-efficiency can engage with expectations to empower day to day living and coping with suffering. This engagement will then be considered in dialogue with some pastoral care agendas showing both how pastoral care can be enhanced by the dialogue and the unique contribution Christian pastoral care can make for people experiencing suffering. Throughout each section the facilitative roll of human relationships in forming expectations, and aiding (or hindering) self-efficiency and coping will be considered.

Disability as mediator between the right and left in the ethics of abortion and voluntary euthanasia

By: Professor Shane Clifton

In the polarised debates about beginning and end of life ethics, disability advocates, who normally align with left-wing social and political forces, have tended to side with conservative religious voices in expressing concerns about the impact of abortion and euthanasia on disabled futures. This paper draws on the theory of transformative choices, as well as the virtue ethics tradition, to explain the alignment between the religious and disability perspectives, and outlines the consequences and prejudices of the legislative and cultural developments that have embraced the free choice logic. Yet it also recognises the inherent contradiction of disabled advocates taking a paternalistic position against the personal agency of women and people facing terminal illnesses. It goes on to argue that a disability perspective can help to mediate between the polarised perspective of free choice and religious pro-life advocates.

Fasting, Bodily Care, and the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3–15

By: Lyn Kidson

Abraham Malherbe in his essay, “Medical Imagery in the Pastoral Epistles,” argued that medical terminology was used polemically to describe the heretics or opponents. In relation to 1 Timothy, the opponent’s teaching is described as “diseased” and their minds “are corrupt…[and the opponent’s] diseased condition is exhibited in their demeanor, in their preoccupation with controversies, verbal battles, and wranglings (1 Tim 6:4–5).” In this paper Malherbe’s identification of this medical schema is the starting point to explore the connections between the opponents commands not to marry and abstain from foods (1Tim 4: 2-3) with the instruction to younger widows to marry in 1 Timothy 5: 3–15. This exploration will begin by first noting some structural elements in the letter, then will define the word didaskalia (1 Tim 4:1) to be clear on what type of teaching the opponents are doing and how this might sear their consciences. It is this searing which enables them to abandon the faith and pay attention to spirits and demons. The imagery of the seared conscience appears to be medically inspired and this suggests a link between the “other instruction” (didaskalia), fasting, sexual continence, and ancient medical advice about care for the body. Ancient medical advice on health focused on balancing the humors within the body. The excess of some humors was believed to be the underlying cause of sexual desire. Expelling the excess sperm, a humor, was seen to bring the body back into balance, restoring health. However, since the humors were generated by nutrition it was possible to a certain extent to regulate sexual desire through diet. From the evidence of Tertullian it appears that Christians utilised this theory in an attempt to balance the humors and therefore remain healthy while being sexually continent. It will therefore be argued that the command of the opponents, which forbid marriage and fasting, relates directly to the instructions to the young widows to marry in 1 Timothy 5:3-15. Drawing on the work of Methuen (1997), who argued that the term widow (chera) could overlap with the idea of an unmarried women, it will be argued that the young woman in 1Timothy 5:11 is a virgin rather than a woman whose husband had died. Founding his instructions on the current medical advice, the writer of 1 Timothy is pessimistic about young women keeping their vows of celibacy (1 Tim 5:12) and is thus opposed to them entering into the order of widows (1 Tim 5:11).