National Cathedrals Conference – Speakers Announced

24th February 2022

“Our cathedrals have weathered difficult and turbulent times in the past. And we will again – but only through collaboration.”

Speakers Announced for National Cathedrals Conference – The Rt Hon Sir John Major and Lord Andrew Adonis

Key players from both sides of the political spectrum will reflect on the current state of the nation and explore how cathedrals can be part of the new political landscape at the second National Cathedrals Conference this May.

The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH will deliver the keynote speech on the opening day of the Conference. After focusing on the role and responsibilities of the Church in our national life, he will argue that Brexit and Covid have changed our future. He will reflect on the British character, before turning to the challenges, risks and opportunities that lie ahead for the United Kingdom.

And the Labour peer, Lord Andrew Adonis, who currently chairs the European Movement and served in both the Blair and Brown administrations, will ask if there is space in our current political climate for ethical politics, and if so, what role the church can play.

Sir John and Lord Adonis are part of a packed and varied programme of talks, workshops, learning and debate around social, racial and climate justice – the key themes for this, the second National Cathedrals Conference which will be held in Newcastle Cathedral from May 16-19.

Entitled, Different Country Different Church this four-day conference will see leaders of the 42 Church of England cathedrals and ecumenical partners from home and abroad, gather in person to hear about the challenges and opportunities for the future direction of the Church and society.

It takes as its inspiration the words of Pope Francis: If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalisation and will hear from Austen Ivereigh, writer and papal biographer, who collaborated with Pope Francis on his vision for a post-Covid world during the lockdown.

Speakers on climate justice include the lead bishop for the environment, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, the Christian conservation charity, A Rocha, leading Christian environmentalist, Lorna Gold and Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at Cambridge University.

Social justice will be explored by Austen Ivereigh, Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, Anne Richards, part of the Church of England’s Faith and Public Life department, and Selina Stone, speaker and consultant on theology and social justice.

And racial justice will be explored by scholar activist, Prof Robert Beckford, Sharon Prentis, a Mary Seacole scholar for her interfaith work, and writer and broadcaster, Fr Azariah France-Williams, author of Ghost Ship.

There will be debate and action planning following each of these topics and an afternoon of workshops that will explore these strands further with insights on trauma theory, welcoming back visitors, and implementing racial inclusion.

The Church Commissioners will deliver a session on going forward with the new Cathedrals Measure, and the conference will be closed by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell with a Eucharist following a final keynote address in which he will knit together the conference themes and ask: How do we talk to England.

The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, the chair of the Association of English Cathedrals and National Cathedrals Conference lead, said:

“Our cathedrals have weathered difficult and turbulent times in the past. And we will again – but only through collaboration.

“This conference gives us the opportunity to gather together, take breath after these last two years, and work on a strategic vision which will steer the future direction of our cathedrals in the wake of the pandemic across these key narratives of social, racial and climate change.

“We will ask ourselves: how do we serve a world that has become increasingly isolated from religion and still plant the seeds of our mission,’ he added.

There is daily worship, time for networking, open surgery sessions with insurers, the Church Commissioners, and funding experts, plus a well-stocked marketplace.

Visit the website here.