Inaugural conference of Hope Ecumenical Network lays ground for new narratives in Christian higher education

Liverpool Hope University has welcomed representatives from at least 15 universities and colleges with Christian identities at the inaugural international conference of the newly founded Hope Ecumenical Network, reports William Kelly of, who was one of the delegates.

The two day symposium of international, national, local and internal like minds with an interest in Christian higher education (HE), was called to foster an open, inclusive and ecumenical approach to considering the conference theme: “Hope for the Future of Christian HE: Faith, Cooperation and Lived Experience”.

The Western university tradition grew from foundations in Christian HE institutions. Today, in an increasingly secularised world, the future of Christian HE is in question, and the focus of the proceedings was to consider the potential for greater cooperation across stakeholder groups and assess how the lived experience of faith within Christian higher education sits against a largely secularised context, where matters of faith are becoming increasingly privatised.

Across the two days, a range of influential speakers, theologians and leaders in Christian education shared their shared faith experiences and good professional practice from a personal and reflective perspective. The event also included visits to Liverpool’s Catholic and Anglican cathedrals.

“It was a true team effort both internally and externally with invaluable contributions from Liverpool Hope staff and our local, national and international friends and colleagues,” said Dr Anthony Anthony Ridge-Newman, Associate Professor (media and politics and digital media) within the School of Humanities at Liverpool Hope University, who co-founded the Hope Ecumenical Network with Associate Dean (International) Dr Wendy Bignold.

“With guests from Michigan to the Philippines and many places in between, we shared good practice, insights, rich thinking and fellowship,” said Dr Ridge-Newman.

“We have been truly humbled by the very kind wishes and feedback from those who attended. Many have commented on the “Hope hospitality”, which was very much our pleasure. Many have also acknowledged the fruitful developments that have stemmed from the proceedings.”

“The event was not about principles, definitions, philosophy or theology”, said Dr Richard Gunton, Senior Lecturer at University of Winchester and Director of Faith-in-Scholarship at Thinking Faith Network.

“Rather, it was a showcase of what is already happening and a space to reflect on how God’s Spirit might be at work, and particularly about what might be possible in the UK.

“I came away greatly inspired by current initiatives, ideas and future possibilities,” said Dr Gunton.

Following the success of the inaugural event, the university plans further research collaboration and the establishment of an international practitioner community to engage in debate and discussion related to Christian Higher Education themes.

To find out more about the Hope Ecumenical Network, go to: