It seems the University of Chester has (quietly) pulled together an impressive looking line-up in its list of theology staff. While other universities are cutting jobs, since the summer they have recruited Rob Warner (sociology of contemporary religion), Elaine Graham (public theology), and Chris Baker (public and urban theology) to add to David Clough (christian ethics), Celia Deane-Drummond (theology and science, Tom Greggs (systematic theology) and Anthony Thiselton (new testament and doctrine), amongst others. It will be interesting to see if how they shape the department.
There is a definite move in English theology departments towards a more public and political theology - King's with its Faith and Public Policy Forum convened by Luke Bretherton; Cambridge with its Interfaith Programme directed by David Ford; Nottingham with its Centre of Theology and Philosophy, the home of John Milbank; Oxford with its McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life directed by Nigel Biggar; Manchester with its Centre for Religion and Political Culture co-directed by Graham Ward; Exeter with its Network for Religion in Public Life directed by Esther Reed; Bristol with its Centre for Christianity and Culture directed by Gavin D'Costa.
Now this probably reflects two things. Firstly this is where the available research funding is and secondly a renewed interested of theology in the public square. There is the New Visibility of Religion and faith is finding itself it a myriad of relationships with Contemporary Politics, to which theologians are writing Political and Public theology, asking how can we best speak in Public Places and how do we best engage with a diverse Religious and Secular World. You can find theologians writing on The Ethics of Human Rights to the University, Vegetarianism, Euthanasia and New Labour.
I'm excited by this new engagement with public and political life.