Shaping debate on religion in public life.

2015: In Review

14 Dec 2015

It has been another exciting year for William Temple Foundation. From publications to professorships, from new research to facilitating challenging discussions, we’ve been blessed to work with a diverse group of activists, clergy, and academics, as together we further the debate on religion and public life. Assistant Director Charlotte Dando reflects on 2015…

Out and About

From Chester to Birmingham, London to Leeds, starting in early 2015 we’ve been running our own events and speaking at others all across England, as we aim to open up important discussions on religion and public life to ever wider audiences. Hosted by Leeds Civic Hall, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu delivered our inaugural annual lecture, challenging the 130-strong audience with a message that we can all be catalysts for change. Keep an eye on our website for details of our 2016 annual lecture, coming soon.

In February, together with Church Urban Fund and the Joint Public Issues Team, we asked “What role can faith communities play in building a politics of hope?” at a pre-election conference in London. Vibrant discussion at this interactive event was sparked by a series of case studies, which were all recorded and ready to listen again on our YouTube channel.

As spring turned to summer, our Director of Research Chris Baker and I were invited to join the Archbishop of Canterbury at a garden party in the grounds of Lambeth Palace. Later in the summer, Chris Baker along with our Associate Research Fellow Eve Poole entertained the festival crowd at Greenbelt with their unique takes on religion, politics and capitalism. One Twitter critic described Eve’s presentation as “one of the great talks ever @greenbelt”.

Big Ideas

Responding to a request from clergy and academics, we are facilitating the Faith and Flourishing Neighbourhoods Network to create space for theological reflection and to bridge academic perspectives and practical experience. Our first meeting, held in Birmingham in June, gathered together an excellent group of academics and civil society leaders whose discussions ranged from the forces of globalisation to the narratives of nostalgia. Read more about joining the network and the next meeting in February 2016.

Continuing his work on the AHRC funded project Re-Imaging Religion and Belief for Public Policy and Practice, Chris Baker has been involved in conducting a number of high-profile interviews and co-running a residential programme at Gladstone’s Library. Transcripts of interviews with Steve Bruce, Talal Asad, Rowan Williams, Linda Woodhead et al can be found on the project’s website.

Everyone at the Foundation was delighted to congratulate Chris on his appointment as William Temple Professor of Religion and Public Life at the University of Chester. Professor Baker’s inaugural public lecture was a very special occasion, with a large audience engaging in a lively Q&A. The lecture can be watched in full on our YouTube channel.

This year we’ve been growing the seeds of a new project called the Spiritual Capital Development Company. We’re thrilled to have recently recruited Shanon Shah to help coordinate the developmental stages of the project, and he is already proving an asset to our small team.

Publications

One of the most exciting projects we launched this year is Temple Tracts – a series of e-books offering accessible and engaging introductions on key debates in religion and public life. We launched the series in April with Associate Research Fellow Greg Smith’s critical analysis of the welfare state and exploration of how faith communities are patching up the safety net. While all six titles so far have proved popular, the accolade of “best seller” goes to Foundation trustee Hayley Matthews and her Tract exploring gender and sexuality in the Church of England.

Our staff and Associate Research Fellows have published an impressive array of titles this year. Published in March, 21st Century Evangelicals edited by Greg Smith, explores the social and political engagement of British evangelicals. In the same month, the publication of Eve Poole’s highly rated Capitalism’s Toxic Assumptions is set to redefine the next generation of economics. A collaborative effort from Associate Research Fellow John Reader and Chris Baker, together with theologian Tom James, resulted in the April release of A Philosophy of Christian Realism. Meanwhile, we were pleased to see that economist Professor Angus Deaton, who has endorsed the work of Associate Research Fellow John Atherton, has been awarded a Nobel Prize.

Online

We have continued to respond to the biggest stories and highlight some of the most significant new research and new researchers through our blog. In our most popular post of the year, Chris Baker coined the pseudo celebrity couple name “Frankieklein” as he analysed the post-secular context which led to the partnering of Pope Francis with secular environmentalist Naomi Klein. A number of excellent guest bloggers have brought a multitude of research, ideas and opinions to our pages, but it was Wendy Dossett’s analysis of spiritual anonymity in the addiction recovery movement which sparked the most debate and gained the largest readership.  John Reader’s provocation ‘Food Poverty Reveals Britain’s Starved Political Imagination’ was another big hitter, while Eve Poole’s most recent reflection on advent has proved incredibly popular.

Thanks to all of the lovely people who read and share our posts on Twitter, all of our friends who like our Facebook page and everyone who receives our newsletter. For exclusive interviews, inspiring lectures and more, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Looking ahead

What a year 2015 has been! Our small team operates on a tight budget and so we ask, if you believe in our mission to continue and develop William Temple’s legacy of social, economic and political justice, would you consider supporting our important work in 2016? We need your help to continue to organise reflective, inclusive events, and to develop cutting-edge empirical research. And when you join our group of supporters you receive discounted books and much more. Thank you and Happy Christmas.

All that’s left now is for me to extend a big thank you to everyone who has helped to make this year special, from our Associate Research Fellows, to all of our guest bloggers, and to everyone we’ve worked with this year. Here’s to 2016!


More from our bloggers:

All I Want for Christmas is a Brand New Policy by Greg Smith

The 24 Carat Countdown: In Search of an Authentic Advent by Eve Poole

With Open Arms: A Christian Response to the Immigration Crisis by Hayley Matthews

Meet our team: in a series of short films, our staff and fellows talk about religion and research – watch now!

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