Oct 04 2015

2015 Conference Report

Published by under Talks

Report to the October 2015 Dunedin Sea of Faith meeting on the

2015 Sea of Faith conference, St Cuthbert’s College, Auck.


Micawber vs Cassandra: Responding to an increasingly uncertain future


Lloyd Geering introduced the theme by recalling how he came to write his 1999 book ‘The World to Come’, which was prescient about our increasingly uncertain future. He brought his scenarios up to date: there are a few changes, and some have become more pressing.

As we’ve heard from Lloyd before, only we humans can solve the problems threatening the world. ‘For the first time in human history, the human species is being forced to become one global community – one in which all nations, races, cultures and religions are becoming intermingled, with each influencing the others’.


Anjum Rahman, a lively and impressive Muslim woman from Hamilton, spoke about the increasing diversity and the increasing divisiveness (power, wealth, poverty) in New Zealand: ‘we still don’t do well at recognising that the make-up of our country has changed or, at the very least, accept that other people do things differently and that our structures and institutions don’t serve them well’.

‘My contention is that it is time to move beyond these divisions to the realities of commonality. It is imperative that we do so, and in doing so, we build movements for change’. She says this applies to the future of the world, as well as of New Zealand.


Kennedy Graham, Green MP with an education and UN experience in international politics: ‘There is a new knowledge of the cosmos itself, spawning a new sense of infinite wonder. There is a dawning recognition that we are personally responsible for the degradation of the planet. And we are taking the identity and direction of our species into our own hands. The magnitude and impact of these developments are unprecedented and cannot be under-stated. We require ‘a change of mind-set – a sense of planetary responsibility, a new global political mentality’.

Although it wasn’t his main thesis, I found the insights Kennedy gave us into the working of the UN to be very encouraging. For all its flaws, it is doing much good work and it is the bones of a global government. But how to get there? It will take major change. First, we all need to encourage a ‘spiritual revolution’ in ourselves, our communities, and our species. Then ‘we need education, we need new political thinking, and a new form of transcendent thought’.

What sort of person might lead a global government? Kennedy suggested a Churchill, ‘for his stern and resolute good cheer’, and says Dag Hammarskjold came close to ‘speaking for the world’. Current thinkers he recommends are Joachim Schellnhuber (Germany) and Johan Rockstrom (Sweden).


Rod Oram, talking on The Theology of Economics, discussed ‘how our care of creation will enliven our theology and legitimise our economics’. From his opening contention that ‘economic is value-free’ he then used a remarkable array of slides to highlight planetary issues from an economics viewpoint. One slide (using a doughnut shape) showed all the issues to be addressed to provide a ‘safe and just space for humanity, with inclusive and sustainable economic development’.

He then demonstrated that, while the ‘issues are increasingly global, the solutions are increasingly local’. For every individual, our world encompasses

Ecology (home)

Economy (stewardship of a household)

Ethics (moral principle).

These matters define how we look after ourselves, our place and our planet, and also our relationships with each other and the planet.



These four papers are available at www.sof.org.nz/doclist.htm





On the Saturday afternoon David Hines (former Chair of Auckland SoF and Christian Atheist & Public relations officer, Secular Education Network) gave a talk:


Bible in Schools, no: Teaching about all beliefs, yes


He is very concerned that teaching the bible in schools is


  • Allowed in our secular country
  • Anyone can do it (including an increasing number of fundamentalists)
  • There is no control over what is taught
  • Children have to ‘opt out’ – which children are known to be reluctant to do






Gretchen Kivell

Frances Smithson

20 October 2015

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