Lumen Conference

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Lumen Research Institute International Conference

Faith, Cohesion, and Communities

To inquire about the conference, please contact:

Dr Maureen Miner Bridges, at 
or Prof Kirsty Beilharz, at

Faith, Cohesion, and Communities

Wed, 2 Aug 2023 8:30 AM – Thu, 3 Aug 2023 5:00 PM AEST
Location: Excelsia College

Keynote Speaker

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Ph.D.

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Ph.D. | Lumen Conference 2023 | Excelsia College

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Ph.D., is Commonwealth Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a Faculty Affiliate appointment at the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University (Human Flourishing Program), and he is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Virginia. He has published widely on the science of self- and other-forgiveness among other topics, and he has developed the REACH Forgiveness model (see for free resources), supported in over 30 published randomized controlled trials, and other practical interventions to help people reach their potential.

Reverend Canon Professor Scott Cowdell

Reverend Canon Professor Scott Cowdell | Lumen Conference 2023 | Excelsia College

Scott Cowdell is Adjunct Research Professor in Theology with the Centre for Religion, Ethics and Society (CRES) at Charles Sturt University and Canon Theologian of the Canberra-Goulburn Anglican diocese. His PhD is from the University of Queensland. He is the author of ten books, most recently René Girard and the Nonviolent God (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018) and Mimetic Theory and its Shadow: Girard, Milbank, and Ontological Violence (Michigan State University Press, 2023). These further develop his internationally recognized theological engagement with the mimetic theory of religion, culture and violence developed by the French American theorist René Girard (1923-2015). With Joel Hodge (Australian Catholic University) and Chris Fleming (Western Sydney University) he founded the Australian Girard Seminar in 2011, serving as its President and co-editing its ‘Violence, Desire, and the Sacred’ series with Bloomsbury Academic, which currently stands at twelve volumes. Fr Cowdell also writes about ecclesiology, with Church Matters: Essays and Addresses on Ecclesial Belonging published in 2022 with Coventry Press, Melbourne, showcasing his contributions over 25 years. His next book is Why Church?, currently (March 2023) being completed during a period as Dean’s Scholar at the Virginia Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church.

Professor Rob McIver

Professor Rob McIver | Lumen Conference 2023 | Excelsia College

Robert K. McIver began his professional career as a teacher of mathematics in a state high school in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since then, he has been a student, a church pastor and is now director of the Scripture Spirituality and Society Research Centre, and a professor in biblical studies in the Avondale Seminary at Avondale University College, where he has taught since 1988. Alongside his research interests in biblical studies, Rob is lead researcher on the research project undertaken for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which investigates how employees of Adventist organizations perceive the relationship of their work and the wider mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rob has published 9 books, and edited 6 others. He has published in academic journal as diverse of the Australian Religion Studies Review, the Journal of Biblical Literature, New Testament Studies, Applied Cognitive Psychology and the Monash Bioethics Review. Robert’s goal in the classroom is to communicate the excitement of seriously studying the Bible.

Book Launch

Join us for the launch of two books at the Lumen Research Institute International Conference 2023: Faith, Cohesion, and Communities.


Time/Date: 12:45pm–2pm (conference lunch break), 2 August 2023


Venue: Excelsia College



Redeeming Truth and Community in the Age of Individualism: Meaning and Morality in the Contemporary World


Embracing Diversity: Formative Christian Higher Education and the Challenge of Pluralisms


For more details and how to register, download the book launch flyer here.

Conference Theme

In The Phenomenology of Spirit of 1807, Hegel described the social reality of his time as the ‘topsy-turvy world’ (die verkehrte Welt) in which even the best-made projects turn into their opposite – ‘a dream of freedom into terror, morality into hypocrisy, excessive wealth into poverty of the majority’ (Slavoj Zažek, Surplus—Enjoyment, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022, p1). More than two hundred years later, it is not clear that signs of ‘progress’ such as the Internet of Things (pervasive computing), artificial intelligence, tremendous scientific advances, greater psychological understanding of the mind and cognitive mechanisms, the march of democracies, capitalism, globalisation of cultures, trade, and economy, have achieved coherence and ordering of the topsy-turvy chaos to which Hegel referred. The aspirations of freedom, fraternity and equality are not realised; there is fragmentation across all areas of life instead of connection, compassion, and justice.

In the area of social media, the internet promised us infinite connectivity and certainly transformed the social experience of whole generations. Education, too, is transformed by play-inspired methods of maker-space learning, peer-learning, intercultural dialogue, new histories and geographies enabled by real-time discourse, and the synchronous exchange of ideas. Churches have (in some cases) become ‘mega’, global not local, with multilingual live translation and televised, and our Bibles are in our pockets on a phone not a tenderly leather-bound tome. Cities and populations are expanding to cover tens of thousands of kilometres but condense people into closer and closer proximity.

Yet despite this growth, people feel ever more isolated and lonelier. Students in online classrooms claim to be disengaged and excluded from communities of learning, practice, and social interaction. Older people are more likely to feel depressed and lonely than overwhelmed by the speed of the topsy-turvy world. Mental health, counselling, and wellbeing practices are seeing increasing numbers of people affected by identity and personality disorders. One can sit on a Tokyo train amidst millions of commuters and feel alone or even die from overwork (karoshi) without being noticed. Zaźek posits ‘we live in a weird moment where multiple catastrophes—pandemic, global warming, social tensions, the prospect of full digital control over our thinking …—compete for primacy’, (ibid, p.2) where arguably these multiple catastrophes have amplified the disconnection, disintegration, and fragmentation of individuals, communities, and societies.

In response, we are holding the ‘Faith, Cohesion, and Communities’ conference. This 2023 Lumen conference asks the questions of whether Christian faith can contribute meaningfully to cohesion, and whether Christian faith can influence re-connection, integration, and orderliness amidst the chaos. Further, through the gathering and transformation of communities, can such faith offer ethical insights mitigating cultural dilution, virtuality, and social and political fragmentation, together with steadfast commitment to appease violence and unrest? Or, is faith, too, a victim impacted by fragmentation? How has Christian faith been impacted by fragmentation of self, society, polity, economy, or culture?

Pre-conference workshop

Pre Lumen-Conference workshop on forgiveness:
1 August 2023
Workshop with Keynote Speaker Emeritus Professor Everett Worthington:

Title: Forgiveness: What Do Science and Christian Theology and Practice Tell Us about What Is It and How Can We Do It and Help Others Do It

The free, interactive workshop will look at individual forgiveness but also at stimulating forgiveness and reconciliation in the community and workplace. See registration link below.

Forgiveness is a Christian value, but it also enhances workplace, social cooperation, and personal wellbeing and inner peace even in secular contexts. This workshop is therefore relevant to people of all professions and faiths. It is approached here from a psychological point of view.

Everett L Worthington, Jr, PhD, is Commonwealth Professor Emeritus working from the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a Faculty Affiliate appointment at the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University (Human Flourishing Program). He continues to be active in research and speaking around the world. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia. He has published over 45 books and around 500 articles and scholarly chapters, mostly on forgiveness, humility and positive psychology, marriage and family topics, and religion and spirituality. He also has developed the REACH Forgiveness model (see

Workshop summary and objectives

I draw on a lifetime as a Christian who has studied the psychology of forgiveness since the 1980s. I seek to provide participants with a Biblically consistent, scientifically informed understanding of what forgiveness is and how to help friends, family members, clients (if any), and church attendees forgive, if they wish to do so. 

Primary objectives

By the end of this workshop, the participant will be able to

  • Summarize scientific theories of forgiveness. 
  • Define two types of forgiveness and differentiate them from reconciliation.
  • Use REACH Forgiveness to help oneself and others forgive.

Secondary objectives
• Help their own or other couples’ relationships using information from the Hope-Focused Couple Approach.
• Help oneself and others forgive themselves for things they have done or ways they have fallen short of their own expectations using six steps to Self-Forgiveness.

Can communities become more forgiving?
1 August, 9:30am–4pm

Excelsia College, 69–71 Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park 2113

What does forgiveness mean?

Everett believes there are two types of forgiveness. ‘Decisional forgiveness’ involves deciding to forgive a personal offense and letting go of angry and resentful thoughts and feelings toward the person who has wronged you. ‘Emotional forgiveness’ involves replacing the negative emotions with positive feelings like compassion, sympathy, and empathy. Research shows that emotional forgiveness is where most health benefits lie. This type of forgiveness can reduce our stressful reaction to a transgression – and stress has been shown to lead to a suppressed immune system and an increased risk for cardiovascular issues. Emotional forgiveness also keeps us from ruminating over the wrong that was done to us, and rumination can be harmful, too; it has been associated with a number of mental health problems, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. Decisional forgiveness is more important in repairing and reconciling relationships.

On his website, Everett offers ‘no-cost resources’:

Research supporting REACH Forgiveness is extensive. Nathaniel Wade, William Hoyt, Julia Kidwell, and Everett Worthington (2014) published a comprehensive meta-analysis of all outcome research on forgiveness in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Everett’s workshops have been variously tailored for both secular and Christian groups, i.e. for everyone – religious or not. Forgiveness can be involved in many personal and relationship problems. Even when forgiveness is an issue for a person who is depressed, anxious, with a personality disorder or any psychological disorder, most psychotherapy does not spend much time on forgiveness. Everett’s work in forgiveness includes self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others, his ‘method’ and resources, and building forgiveness around the world. In the lead up to the Faith, Cohesion and Communities Lumen Conference, we anticipate this workshop will look at individual but also group, community and societal dimensions of forgiveness and how forgiving can make for better personal and professional relationships.  

Can communities become more forgiving?
Everett is completing a project attempting to see the community impact in Christian colleges when a campus organises a two-week ‘forgiveness blitz’. It seems to me that, at a time of material scarcity, when natural disasters, war, enmity, ethnic and religious diversity and other forms of differentiation have the potential to create division, the exploration of personal and community capacity for forgiveness is urgent.

Venue: Excelsia College, 69–71 Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park 2113
Date and time: 1 August, 9:30am–4pm
Register for the FREE workshop, light lunch included, here.

Lumen Conference Schedule with speakers and topics

Faith, Cohesion and Communities at Excelsia College 2-4 August 2023

Tuesday 1 August: Workshop on Forgiveness with Prof Ev Worthington
Time Session Speaker Topic
9:00am - 9:30am
Arrive and coffee
Session 1

Prof Everett Worthington

Understanding forgiveness

Morning tea
Session 2
Prof Everett Worthington
REACH forgiveness
Session 3
Prof Everett Worthington
Wednesday 2 August: Conference Day 1
Time Session Speaker Topic
8:30am - 9:00am
Arrive and coffee

Peter McKeon, CEO Excelsia

Opening and Acknowlegement of Country

Opening prayer
Prof Kirsty Beilharz
Professor Jerry Pattengale
Keynote 1 with Q&A
Prof Everett Worthington
More forgiving communities
Morning tea
Keynote 2 with Q&A
Rev Canon Prof Scott Cowdell
René Girard on community, cohesion and faith today: Individualism, undifferentiation, nihilism, apocalypse
Lunch and book launches
Peter McKeon, Prof Jerry Pattengale, Prof Kirsty Beilharz, Dr Maureen Miner
Embracing Diversity from ACHEA 2021; Redeeming Truth and Community in the Age of Individualism from Lumen 2021
Invited address
Prof Jerry Pattengale
Writing for the wider public
Paper session 1
Short break
Paper session 2
Close, optional conference dinner (own expense)
Thursday 3 August: Conference Day 2
Time Session Speaker Topic
8:30am - 9am
Arrive and coffee
Keynote 3 with Q&A

Prof Rob McIver

What should a Christian church be contributing to contemporary society?

Morning tea
Paper session 3
Ensemble from School of Creative and Performing Arts
Invited address
Prof Everett Worthington
What we know about hope from science and Christian practice
Paper session 4
Panel and Plenary Q&A
Prof Everett Worthington, Prof Rob McIver, Prof Jane Fernandez
Christian contributions to more coherent communities
Prizes and close
Peter McKeon