Research students

The work of a number of postgraduate research students in Theology and Religion is closely associated with the work of the Network.

Brian Odem Bellamy

The Doors of the Church Are Open: The Present state of the Black Church and Ecumenism

I am examining the relationship between Father Michael Pfleger of the St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church and The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, formerly, of the Trinity United Church of Christ. Their relationship appears to be a successful example of an ecumenical relationship that also transcends racial barriers. Focusing on Father Pfleger's relationship with Trinity Church and other Black Protestants, I will use his ministry of social justice to serve as a test case for Black Theologian James Cone's idea that for one to participate in ecumenical exchange with Black Churches one must "become Black," in that one intentionally chooses to struggle with the oppressed in pursuit of freedom. This work will have major implications for the future of Black Church ecumenism and interfaith dialogue as the Black Church seeks to embrace the global community.

Gary Black, Jr.

The Impact of Postmodernism Theology on American Evangelicalism as Evidenced in the Emerging Church Movement

This research considers the effects of the ongoing shift from a predominantly modern to a postmodern epistemological paradigm on American Evangelical theology and ecclesiology. In recent years, several important research studies have revealed that rejection of Christian religion in America is growing causing previous decades of American Protestant hegemony, specifically within the more conservative branches of Evangelicalism to weaken. Yet the pursuit of spirituality and interest in personal spiritual formation as a category show no such decline. This research looks at the factors contributing to this change and apparent abatement of American Evangelicalism in general and conservative/fundamental Christianity in specific. It then focuses on the specific responses, reactions and reforms of theology and ecclesiology coming from within American Evangelicalism to these circumstances as evidenced in the deconstructive reform/protest movement of the Emerging Church. Textual research will review the intellectual history of the Emergent Church movement, its origins and history, key philosophers, and theologians. A qualitative research methodology will be employed in field research to discover the effects of postmodern epistemology on current theology, praxis, and leadership development contexts. This project is co-supervised by Dr Michael DeLashmutt of Sarum College, Salisbury

Jon Curtis

The History and Future of Abstinence within Methodism

My project is a study of the Methodist Church's approach to Teetotalism, and the choice of living a life without alcohol. I begin with the Bible Christians, a Methodist group who began here in Devon and became Total Abstainers long before it was accepted by the wider Church. I also consider the approaches by the Methodist Connexion throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, through Bands of Hope and White Ribboners, until the near present day, when Methodist Central Hall, Westminster opened a bar on its premises. Through Wesley's 'Theology of Sanctification' and current sociological work on alcohol and alcohol abuse, I intend to propose that there is much worth in some aspects of Teetotalism and Total Abstinence, and that it is somewhat surprising that, as an ideology, it is not included in current discussion, in the light of high levels of alcohol abuse, and all that entails. But it is even more surprising that the Methodist Church is not inclined towards this approach at any level in the 21st century.

Martyn Gough

The Influence of North American Conservative Christian Groups over the United States Defence Policy 1996-2008

Since the end of the Cold War, most of the major conflicts that the USA has been involved in, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan; have had religion as a contributing factor. The unipolar position of the USA has given it a unique role in foreign policy decisions and though many of the traditional Protestant Churches have opposed military intervention, the Christian Right has been almost unswerving in its support of the interventionist policies of both Clinton and Bush Jr. The constitutional separation of Church and State in the USA is an intrinsic part of the American psyche and most of the Churches welcome the freedom that such separation brings. But with the growth of conservative/evangelical Christians whose agenda seems tinged with the concept of both crusade and conversion of foreign powers by "those whom God has blessed." In this project I am seeking to establish the amount of influence exercised by the Christian Right over foreign policy and in particular over defence policy in the USA. This I hope to do on three levels; how local churches and ministries have sought to bring about influence over their members in environment; second, how the theology of the Christian Right has developed in isolation; third how on a national level the Christian Right was able to influence not just Forces personnel in-situ but to reach as far as the Commander in Chief.

Judith Parker

The Spirituality of Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman, died in Auschwitz twelve weeks after her deportation from The Netherlands in 1943. Her diaries and personal letters reveal aspects of personal growth through resolution of conflict; a deep appreciation of beauty in friendship, in music, in poetry, in nature; and, an awakening to the awareness of an 'Other' within that she chose to call God. They reflect an integrative spiritual quest that, I suggest, finds an echo in contemporary times. In the context of post WWII Christian spirituality, my project is to bring her writings to both a Christian and a wider readership, in ways that encourage inter-faith dialogue.

Bethan Willis

Miroslav Volf's Theology of Embrace and the Problem of Justice in the post-conflict Balkans

My research looks at the current problems of post-conflict justice in the Balkans. These include problems of conflicting justice claims, unjust courts and negative perceptions of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. My research suggests that justice processes have been seen to be unsatisfactory primarily because the conception of justice underlying current practices is flawed. Taking Miroslav Volf's theology of embrace back into the Balkan context (from whence it came) I ask how such a theology might shape a new theological perspective on justice. Having proposed a relational notion of justice rooted in the Trinity I demonstrate how it might be more successful than other theories or theologies of justice in addressing the issues which have thus far prevented post-conflict processes from pursuing justice for all parties.