The William Temple Foundation was founded in memory of Archbishop William Temple shortly after his death in 1944.
Founded as a theological college based in North Wales, then later in Rugby, the college trained both lay men and women to relate Christian faith to the realities of the secular world. In 1971, the college moved to the Manchester Business School as the William Temple Foundation, conceiving itself as a ‘college without walls’ and focusing on training programmes, research, publishing and teaching in the field of Christian social ethics. The Foundation’s first Director was David Jenkins, who later became Bishop of Durham. Jenkins was soon joined by John Atherton who remained involved as an Associate Research Fellow of the Foundation, and was widely regarded as one of the foremost British theologians working on economic issues and public theology until his death in June 2016.
During the 1980s the Foundation took a leading role in developing community work among British churches. At a similar time, the Foundation was a driving force behind European church networks, bringing together theologians, economists and activists to develop common agendas. The Foundation was also a major contributor to the Faith in the City Report published in 1985.
Since 2001, under the leadership of the Foundation’s current Director of Research, Prof Chris Baker, our emphasis has been on urban change (the postsecular city), religious and spiritual capital, wellbeing, and economic affairs. The pursuit of these research aims has increasingly involved creative partnerships with Christian groups, other faiths, and secular organisations.
Recognising societal shifts and a changing landscape amongst the institutions and traditions we formerly worked with (Trades Unions, public and voluntary sector, the macro-economic consensus, Church, Christian social ethics and pastoral theology), since 2001 the Foundation has re-emerged as a research and ideas hub and public theology think tank, resourcing action through teaching, training and publications.
The Foundation worked in partnership with the University of Chester from 2009 to 2017. The fruits of this partnership included establishing the Centre for Faiths and Public Policy, a research and conference centre providing high-quality teaching and supervising doctoral research.
Since 2017, the Foundation has developed a new partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London, and especially its Faiths and Civil Society Unit. This partnership will focus on developing joint research projects, as well as enabling our new William Temple Scholars to develop interdisciplinary research on key aspects of religion, belief and public life.
Whilst remaining within the Temple tradition, the Foundation continues to develop and adapt the principles of Christian social thought and practice. In the years ahead we seek to work collaboratively with people of all faiths and those from secular traditions towards a deeper understanding of both the theory and practice needed to sustain the economic, social and political wellbeing of society.
As a research and ideas hub and public theology think tanks we have fashioned a relational and reciprocal approach. Though combining direct engagement with empirical research and creative academic exploration, the William Temple Foundation provides space and support for people of all faiths and beliefs to critically engage with public life.