Theology and Covid-19 conference image of Coronavirus against background of Universe

Christian Theology in the midst of Covid-19

An online conference held on 17 June 2020

COVID-19 has changed our lives suddenly and dramatically. As the crisis unfolded, immediate responses at individual, community, national and international levels naturally focussed on the actions needed to treat the sick, limit the spread of the infection and bring it under control, care for those who were particularly vulnerable, manage the economic impact of the pandemic, and so forth. At the same time, many people’s time and energy were consumed by sudden and major changes to working and domestic life, combined with the personal impact of the pandemic on them and their loved ones.

For Christian people, communities and theologians, there are also theological questions to be asked about the pandemic and our responses to it. Examples include:

  • How should Christian communities read the Scriptures in a time of pandemic;
  • What can be learnt from historical Christian responses to plagues and diseases;
  • How might we speak of divine action, judgement and mercy in relation to COVID-19
  • Questions about ethics, politics and economics in light of the pandemic;
  • Questions about suffering, trauma, loss, and appropriate pastoral responses;
  • Questions about the Church, its identity and its practices of worship, mission and pastoral care

Christian Theology and Covid-19 conference image of church with closed signs

image by Kyle Ryan on Unsplash

Why now?

While these questions will no doubt occupy theologians for some time to come, there are good reasons to begin the theological work now, in the midst of the crisis.

  • First, churches and Christian people are called to respond, here and now, to the demands of the situation, and it is surely important that those responses be resourced by theological reflection.
  • Second, religious commentary on the pandemic has the potential to do harm, by informing and motivating dangerous, damaging or reckless responses, so those who do theological work bear a responsibility to ensure that it is done well even in the heat of the day.
  • Third, normal times seem unlikely to return for some while to come (if indeed things ever return to just how they were before), so this theological work cannot be put on hold until they do.
  • Finally, there may be distinctive gains from doing this work in the midst of a crisis that in different ways involves us all. The view is different from here, and it seems worth trying to capture that different view, not least as a resource for later and longer reflection.

Programme and papers

Download the Theology in the midst of COVID conference programme

For the papers presented at the conference, see below. These papers are offered to the academic community, churches and all who are interested, as initial theological thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us on Twitter #PandemicTheology if you would like to join or continue the conversation. 

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks to all who have helped with the organisation and running of the conference and its follow-up:

  • The Programme Committee, consisting of Prof. Rachel Muers (University of Leeds), Prof. Peter Scott (University of Manchester) and Prof. Chris Southgate (University of Exeter), who have given generously of their time and wisdom in the planning and running of the event;
  • The paper authors and presenters, for providing such a rich range of theological reflections.

Contact the organiser

Prof. Neil Messer, Professor of TheologyDepartment of Theology, Religion and Philosophy

Join in the conversation on Twitter: #PandemicTheology

Image top by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash