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Global Congress to Address Spirituality and Ethics in Sports

Posted: Tue, 02 Feb 2016 10:51

Global Congress to Address Spirituality and Ethics in Sports

Why do many premiership footballers cross themselves when they run on to the pitch, or point to the sky when they score a goal? Does religious belief impact upon psychological states, performance and athlete well-being? What is the role of chaplains in professional sports teams and at mega-events, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Can sport-faith projects be used to facilitate national peace and reconciliation? Historically, how has the Church and sports interacted and what are the differences, if any, between Protestants and Catholics?

In order to address these questions, and many more, York St John University and Bible Society are collaborating to host the Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity, 24-28 August, 2016.

A major aim of the Congress is to bring together athletes, practitioners, politicians, academics, representatives of sport and theology think-tanks, Christian leaders and administrators for a critical discussion on sport and faith.

One goal of the Congress is to ask critical questions about the moral and ethical dilemmas that plague modern-day sport. For example, consider the systemic institutional corruption evidenced within FIFA and the ongoing doping scandal in the world of athletics.

Secular ethical reflection and practical initiatives have undoubtedly had some positive impact, and yet, since the birth of the academic discipline of Sports Ethics in the early 1970's, corruption, abuse, the sexual objectification of women, greed and violence have significantly increased. While a range of social, political and cultural changes have contributed to this state of affairs, is it time to look deeper, perhaps, to a spiritual root cause?

Academics from sport studies and theology, will seek to answer such questions, through various keynote lectures, thematic seminars, a post-graduate forum and oral presentations.

Keynote speakers include, Professor Scott Kretchmar (Penn State University, US), Professor Afe Adogame (Princeton Theological Seminary, US) and Professor John Swinton (University of Aberdeen, UK), will explore ethical issues in sporting locales, the sport-faith symbiosis in Africa and the theology of disability sport, respectively.

The Rev. John Boyers will reflect on over 20 years' experience as the Chaplain of Manchester United Football Club, under Sir Alex Ferguson, and more recently, the Dutchman, Louis Van Gaal.

To-date, 65 delegates—academics, clergy and practitioners—have had abstracts on a wide-range of topics accepted, to deliver oral presentations during the congress. Encouragingly, these abstracts, have come in from across the globe: US, UK, China, Canada, France, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, Poland, Belgium, Thailand, China, Australia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ireland, a number of African countries, truly making this a global event.

In the words of the Rt. Hon. Lord Mawhinney: "This Conference is an excellent way to bring together the various practitioners and disciplines of sport and Christianity. The emphasis on the integrity of its enquiry should ensure that the Conference's conclusions are taken seriously." We intend to make an impact on the thinking about the links between sport, theology and society – links that have a long history and must be further developed in the 21st Century.

Dr. Nick Watson is senior lecturer in Sport, Culture and Religion at York St John University: n.watson@yorksj.ac.uk

For readers wishing to explore the topic further, in addition to the books noted above, see the publications below with full-text access:

Bickley, P. (2014) The State of Play, Prepared by Theos for Christians in Sport and Bible Society, Swindon, UK: Bible Society. See: http://www.christiansinsport.org.uk/page.asp?section=1017&sectionTitle=The+State+of+Play

Duyvenbode, M.v. (2012) Sporting Life: Reflections on Sport, Culture and Church, The Bible in Transmission, Spring. See: http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/about-bible-society/our-work/bible-in-transmission/the-bible-in-transmission-spring-2012/

Jeremy R. Treat (2015) More Than a Game: A Theology of Sport, Themelios (Journal of the Gospel Coalition), 40 (3). Full text online and Pdf.: http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/more-than-a-game-theology-of-sport

Parker, A. and Watson, N.J. (2015) Sport, Celebrity and Religion: Christianity, Morality and the Tebow Phenomenon, Studies in World Christianity, 21(3) pp: 223-238. See: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/1096/

Watson, N.J. and Parker, A. (2013) A Christian Theological Analysis of the Institutions and Governance of Sport, A Case Study of the Modern Olympic Games, Journal of Religion and Society, 15: 1-21. Full text available online: http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2013/2013-22.pdf

Watson, N.J. and Bolt, B. (2015) Mixed-Martial Arts and Christianity: "Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide", The Conversation, 5 January, see: http://theconversation.com/mixed-martial-arts-and-christianity-where-feet-fist-and-faith-collide-34836

Tags: Sport, Sport and Development, development

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