The third Pusey House Theological Conference was a great success, writes Guy Willis


Walking along St Giles on an early July afternoon, I felt like an English tourist abroad who had unwisely chosen the heat of the day to explore the city. A little too early to gain access to my accommodation, I refreshed myself with lunch in a café. At the next table a lively discussion of recent work in theology was in full flow and, as my food arrived, an Orthodox priest appeared in the doorway. 

Both my neighbours and the new customer were certainly in Oxford for Descent of the Dove: Knowing and Loving the Spirit of Truth, the third Pusey House Theological Conference. It took place at Pusey House, Oxford, between the 4th and 6th of July 2022. Delayed due to the pandemic, it was once again a great success – and not only because all tickets were sold.

There is no doubt that the continuing popularity of this event is due to its quality, setting and also to the unique ethos of Pusey House which underpins the whole enterprise. It is intellectually rigorous without excluding those of us who are not professional academics, orthodox (with a small ‘o’) whilst being truly welcoming, and suffused with a real sense of worship and devotion. The conference is interdisciplinary, ecumenical and international.

The final speaker will probably be the best known to most, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams. As at previous conferences, he agreed to give a final paper summing up the seventeen papers given over the course of the three days. He did this, of course, brilliantly. In addition to the papers there was the daily round of worship of Pusey House, including several sung services with sermons, and on one day Orthodox Vespers in place of Evensong. By setting serious theological enquiry within the context of prayer and worship, it can be seen for what it truly is – the love of the knowledge of God – and not some dry, abstract exercise.

I left somewhat tired after three days of intense listening, discussing (and dining) but theologically refreshed and intellectually stretched. This kind of conference really does continue a priest’s training and development. It is especially pertinent for those who feel that their theological bookshelf stops the year they left college. And as the proceedings will be published (and reviewed here), those who were not fortunate to attend may like to refresh their library with its fruits.

Fr Guy Willis is the Registrar of Pusey House and 

Reviews Editor for New Directions.