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2016: A Year in Review

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A big thank you to all of readers in 2016. Communications Executive Charlotte Binns looks back on the Foundation’s year…

There will be many a blog post written about 2016, not just as the year draws to a close, but in the years to come it will continue to be cited as the year when the world seemed to shift beneath our feet. Undoubtedly, as the Foundation enters a new year, we will be regularly responding to the new global political landscape. But without needing to look further than the boundaries of our organisation, we face 2017 with a mix of trepidation, resolve and hope. This year we lost our great friend and colleague John Atherton, who has been an anchor to the Foundation for four decades.

We pay tribute to the life and work of John Atherton here >>

While 2016 certainly poised challenges, we also celebrated many successes.

The second series of Temple Tracts has been very well received and increasing cited, and covered topics ranging from religion and civil society, to LGBT Muslims, to ethical consumerism. Guest writer Professor Craig Calhoun’s contribution ‘Religion, Government and the Public Good’ has proved especially popular and influential in shaping some of the post-Brexit debates.

Find out more and download Temple Tracts here >>

Re-imagining Religion and Belief for Policy and Practice, a project co-convened by Our Director Chris Baker, together with Professor Adam Dinham, made three successful research trips to Montreal, Oslo and Melbourne, as well as holding a discussion day in the House of Lords. The Foundation also played an important role in the Faith in Work network this year, taking our work on spiritual capital to a new level.

Read reflections from the House of Lords discussion day >>

Meanwhile, our own Faith and Flourishing Neighbourhoods Network held two engaging meetings reflecting on case studies and concepts of community and brings to a close the series on this theme. Members decided that there is much more to discuss and develop so resounding themes will be considered at their next meeting in February (all welcome).

Join the Faith and Flourishing Neighbourhoods Network >>

This year’s annual lecture was hosted at Christ Church, Oxford and delivered by Bishop Libby Lane. Bishop Libby spoke to a 60-strong audience on the theme of gender and sustainable transformation, followed by a lively question and answer session.

Watch the full lecture online here >>

Another big event the Foundation helped to organise this year, in partnership with the University of Worcester, marked the 75th Anniversary of the Malvern Conference. Our Director Chris Baker offered a keynote address to the conference which was titled ‘Social Justice: building a fairer, more equal society’.

On the blog, some of our most popular posts came from fantastic guest bloggers such as Ruth Valerio on embracing the monastic tradition today, Alison Webster on the Church and sexuality and Chris Heinhold on the challenges of researching Islam in the UK.

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 our guest bloggers, and to everyone we’ve worked with this year. Here’s to 2017!

If you believe in our mission to continue and to develop William Temple’s legacy of social, economic and political justice, would you consider supporting our important work in 2017?

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2015: In Review

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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.


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.


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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The Bureaucratization of Friendship: Rethinking Interfaith Dialogue

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In reporting Archbishop Justin Welby’s address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews last week, the Telegraph’s “click bait” headline read, “Welby: Let’s stop pretending all religions agree”. The Board of Deputies own website ran with the markedly less dramatic “Archbishop of Canterbury urges faiths to come together to combat religious violence.” Not having heard the speech myself, I can’t write confidentially on the nuances of Welby’s argument or where he might have hoped for the emphasis to lie.  Either way, it is clear that the Archbishop raised some significant issues which deserve unpacking.

The Telegraph reports Welby’s mention of “profound differences” between religions and that any pretence of wide scale agreement is “dishonest”. Crucially for the Archbishop, we need increased honesty on issues of religious difference in order to stand-up to the challenge of violent religious extremism. As an interfaith activist, but one who regular critiques the sector, I’ve been known to make similar arguments. A “we’re all the same really” approach, the “tea and samosa” model of interfaith dialogue practiced by small insular groups, won’t ever have the society changing impacts which interfaith work, I believe, has the potential to achieve. As I have argued elsewhere, it is only when we discus differences, when we step outside of our comfort zones and challenge preconceived ideas of both ourselves and the other, that true progress will be made. I’m happy to make the argument that religions need to discuss their differences; so why did I feel so uncomfortable when the Archbishop of Canterbury broached the subject?

Some of this unease is because the notion of difference is relational: different compared to what? Compared to whom? For the white, upper middle-class, male leader of the Church of England, it is easy to begin conversations around difference because (in a British setting at least) you are the de facto neutral position; the Archbishop is not that which is different; the other; the exotic. It might, therefore, be worth raising the question as to whether intuitional forms of interfaith work ever begin from a level playing field whereby everyone is equally different. In such situations, I can imagine how a representative of a marginalised religion, or a widely demonised religion, might find more appeal in discussing that which is shared and to explore commonalities, rather than to highlight the things which mark oneself as different. After all, as a society we don’t have a great track record of encouraging the assertion of religious difference. Look for example, to recent furores and misunderstandings surrounding issues such a Sharia law, halal meat and the wearing of the face veil or niqab.

Of course, it is not only our recent history which suggests our lack of tolerance towards religious differences, both in society and institutionally. Our contemporary understanding of the term religion is, as Karen Armstrong suggests, an early modern product of Protestantism, which “set an agenda to which other faith traditions would be expected to conform”. In “Anglican Britain”, from the past to the present, religious difference is either subsumed as part of self-defined and fixed definitions, or is demonised and set apart.

Tucked at the bottom of the Telegraph’s article, Welby is quoted as having said, “True friendships and relationships can withstand honesty about differences in values, opinions and religious understandings and a common commitment to mutual flourishing in diversity.”  Much of the interfaith work in which I’m involved is based on relationship building, usually between young and self-reflective people, coming together as part of a peer group, and acting together on issues beyond simply our religious identities. During these encounters, as Welby describes it, I have come to grow in “true friendship” which has often involved the difficult, yet profoundly powerful experience of mutual disagreement. But can the same be said of institutional forms of interfaith work? These “official” interreligious meetings, with their necessary doctrinal limitations, and careful need for “representation” appear a world away from the informal gatherings of youth I’m more familiar with. They are an example, as my colleague Chris Baker describes, of the bureaucratization of relationships, often at the expense of real respect and trust.

So why have we fallen into this rhetoric of interreligious similarities and shared statements? Can minority faith leaders speak with the same confidence on the question of difference, as the Archbishop of Canterbury? And why has the Archbishop yet to find a neutral “safe space” where faith leaders from all backgrounds feel fully able to meet the challenge he lays out? I would argue that the institutional approach to interfaith work practiced by our faith leaders might be holding the conversations back. For like all friendships, we are attracted to the other person in the first instance for our similarities, the things we share and it is only once a friendship has solid foundations when the difficult conversations can be broached. If faith leaders are failing to have these difficult conversations, then perhaps the necessary groundwork, the foundations of friendship, are too shaky to support them.

So how to build these friendship? First of all, these things take time and effort. Sitting together on high-profile panels at conferences, delivering one-off key note speeches, and signing shared statements, cannot provide foundations for enduring friendships. I have built my closest interfaith friendships through informal gatherings, one to one appreciative dialogue, sending jokes via WhatsApp, and working and volunteering together on shared social action projects. Maybe these models won’t work for faith leaders, but clearly something more effective, something multi-layered and sustainable must be tried in order to build the real friendships necessary to support those tricky conversations. In his address, Archbishop Welby appealed for an interfaith ideology “that undermines, that subverts, the arguments of the radicals’”. As I have argued before, the most subversive thing we can do to challenge violent extremism is to work together to develop “true friendships”. If we can meet as equals and grow together across lines of difference, this ideological position is the exact opposite of the ideology of religious extremism.

Charlotte Dando is Assistant Director of William Temple Foundation.

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Stigmatisation of Young Muslims Plays into the Hands of Terrorists

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In his autobiographical account of growing-up Muslim in the USA, the interfaith activist Eboo Patel reframes W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of the ‘colour line’ stating, ‘I believe that the twenty-first century will be shaped by the question of the faith line,’ with religious totalitarianism on one side, and religious pluralism on the opposite. Patel continues, ‘The outcome of the question of the faith line depends on which side young people choose… All of these [young] people are standing on the faith line. Whose message are they hearing?’ With around half the Muslim community in Britain under twenty five, the attitudes and opinions of the younger generations plays a significant role in shaping the identity, development and social position of the wider British Muslim community. But what kind of messages are being heard by young British Muslims?

In his definitive historical account of Muslims in Britain, The Infidel Within, Humayun Ansari suggests that, ‘Muslim identity in Britain is being constructed very much against a background of negative perceptions about who and what Muslims are’. Young British Muslims, most of whom were teenagers at 9/11, have experienced their formative years surrounded by a discourse of “radicalisation”, “extremism” and “integration”. They have grown-up within communities subject to increased public scrutiny and suspicion; or as researcher Laura Zahra McDonald puts it, ‘the cross-societal perception of Islam as dangerous, in relation to both belief and identity.’

Rifa’at Lenzin argued that, ‘There is a Muslim identity before and another after September 11.’ Conversations with numerous young British and American Muslims during research I conducted last year confirmed this notion. As one female interviewee who grew-up not far from New York and was fifteen at the time of the terrorist attack explained,

It was really a shift, I think, in terms of how people looked at me and interacted with me and, I mean, there were a lot of hate crimes that happened after 9/11 and a lot of mistreatment of Muslims. And I was really taught to put my head down and not talk about the fact that I was Muslim. And I almost carried a really heavy heart for a long time, and a lot of shame with being Muslim because I felt I was associated with terrorists.

In another interview I was moved to hear how the participant and her friends often preface the things they do and say with the phrase ‘I’m Muslim, but it’s OK.’ A joke, but not really a joke; this prefacing is something closer to a sad self-conscious need to apologise for belonging to a group so mistrusted by society.

Whilst one reaction to the scrutiny and criticism of an important aspect of a young person’s emerging identity might be to feel ashamed, another natural reaction is to become defensive. As an interviewee who was eleven at 9/11 stated, ‘We almost grew up in a position to be defending our religion. So not just trying to understand our religion, or like, practice it, but to understand it so we could defend it.’ She went on to say:

I think a lot of people’s spiritual journeys are driven by the confusion and angst and like, sense of not belonging for young Muslims. And I think that actually hasn’t played out yet. I think there’s going to be a generation of Muslims who are really messed up because the climate they grew up in was one of reacting to this mess of stereotypes.

This ‘mess of stereotypes’ articulated by my interviewee, which may have diminished slightly in the years since 9/11, recently returned with abandon. And it is vital to consider how the cultural milieu which portrays young Muslims, without nuance, as potential jihadists, will negatively affect the emerging identities of these young adults, as well as their understanding of their place within British society. All of the young people I interviewed have been involved in community-building interfaith work of various forms. For many of them, this work is a positive response to the negative public and political discourse which surrounds their religion. Through interfaith work they have a platform to represent a different side of Islam, to rewrite their own stories. But adopting this kind of attitude takes a strong sense of self-worth and self-belief, often difficult for young people. One of my interviewees explained, ‘9/11 happened when I was in Year 7…once the media started to highlight this disparity in society, the lack of integration… you start to question where do you fit into that dichotomy. Are you part of the British Muslim community, are you part of the wider British society?’ Eboo Patel, quoted at the start of this post, went on to found one of the USA’s most successful interfaith organisations, IFYC, yet he writes, ‘I see flashes of the ingredients that prepared the ground for [7/7 bomber] Hasib Hussain’s suicide mission in my own life.’ For Patel, this included, ‘A gut-wrenching feeling of being excluded from mainstream society.’

The government has been quick to suggest the confiscation of passports and a ban on the return of British nationals who have travelled to places like Syria. There has also been the usual claims that Muslim leaders are neither condoning groups like “Islamic State” loudly enough, nor doing enough to prevent young Muslims becoming “radicalised”. It is pertinent to remember that half of British Muslims are under the age of twenty-five, so the traditional leaders or community gate-keepers therefore, may not be those whom the government needs to engage. As my friend Usman Nawaz suggested on BBC Breakfast last month, the government needs to open up dialogue with young British Muslims. It is essential to speak to such British citizens with care and concern, to attempt to understand their grievances and the potential attraction of jihadist groups.

Let’s be clear, it is absolutely right to utterly condemn terrorist acts of all kinds and to protect our country from violent threats. And it is also clear that the Muslim community has a lot of work to do in protecting its young people from extremist agendas. But this cannot be the responsibility of the Muslim community alone. The rise of so-called ‘Jihadi Johns’ cannot be explained away by pointing towards dissident Muslim voices and nothing else; British jihadists are not formed in a vacuum. Let’s be honest enough to address voices in both our political and media debates which homogenise and stigmatise Islam and young Muslims. And let us consider the effects such voices have on the young people who hear them.

Charlotte Dando is Assistant Director – Communications & Development at William Temple Foundation

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Society is Starving: What Religion Taught Me About Food

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Within and beyond my work at the William Temple Foundation, I am an active member of the interfaith movement in the UK and Europe. And there are many, many reasons why I love this work. But I have a guilty admission; one of these reasons is the food! Religious communities can be fantastically hospitable, from sangar at Sikh gurdwaras, to the feast of a Shabbat dinner, I have happily munched my way through numerous interfaith encounters. Recently the subject of food in religion has been on my mind for the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan began last weekend. It is a very special time for many Muslims; a time of reflection, spiritual renewal, and in my experience, delicious communal iftars (evening meals) at the breaking of the fast each day.

In the religious context, food and community are inextricably linked. As a Church of England Priest recently reminded, it is no surprise that eating and drinking is at the heart of the Christian liturgy. The bread and the wine of Christian worship, whilst food for the soul rather than nourishment for the body, demonstrate the power of sharing and eating together.

In the interfaith context food offers a handy stating point, as something which we can all discuss from our differing perspectives, thereby offering a space from which further discussions might grow. It is also an opportunity for giving, receiving, and sharing, thereby developing bonds of trust from the start. As such, members of British Muslim communities have developed all sorts of ways for none-Muslims to experience and understand their fasting, and (most excitingly for a foodie like me) to share in the breaking of the fast. One example is a project called Dine@Mine, started by one of my closest friends with the aim of matching Muslims who are eager to share their hospitality, with non-Muslims keen to learn more about Ramadan.

But whilst food can be a great source of celebration for many faith groups, in recent months, it has also been a great cause of concern. Food has become the junction where religion and politics meets. Responding to the dire needs of their communities, faith groups up and down the country have set up food banks. Whilst these projects might be seen as another example of the hospitality of faith groups, food banks rarely exist for the purpose of sharing communally; of eating and drinking and being together. For how can they? The rise of food poverty in Britain is a stark reminder of the most basic need of food. And what becomes clear is how poverty is not a mere matter of physical deprivation, but that it also robs basic dignities, diminishes spirituality, and limits the ability to be social (with inevitable impacts on mental wellbeing).

The invaluable social capital of faith-based organisations is undoubtedly filling vital welfare gaps. And for all we might celebrate these chances for outreach and service, as my William Temple Foundation colleague Chris Baker recently pointed out, the success of such programmes may come at the dangerous cost of normalising food banks. In doing so, we risk normalising the notion that the state no longer exists to assist in the most basic needs of its citizens.

Further, in responding to food poverty there is the risk that religious hospitality becomes a culture of giving, rather than a culture of sharing. And there is, of course, a distinct difference between the two. Unlike giving, which implies a one-way transfer, sharing is imbued with commonality, commitment and equality. In a society that has more than enough to go around, gaping inequalities risk starving us of more than just physical nourishment.

Charlotte Dando is Assistant Director for Communications & Development at William Temple Foundation

Read more from our bloggers:


The Welfare State, Like Christendom, Is Over by Chris Baker

Christians and Muslims: Past & Present, Perceptions & Principles by Julian Bond

Will The Real Trojans Please Stand-Up! by John Reader

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An Unlikely Story: How the Media Reveals Christianity’s Relevance

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Of recent religious stories, the one generating the biggest splash across my Twitter feed was a scathing take on the BBC TV comedy Rev. Writing in the Guardian James Mumford describes the show as ‘pernicious’, undermining the church and a, ‘failure of representation’. Needless to say, numerous followers of this popular show jumped to its defence both online and via the Guardian’s Letters page. Prize for the wittiest tweet goes to cartoonist Dave Walker who wrote, ‘Saying Rev damages the church is like saying Fawlty Towers undermined hotels.’

Although less prevalent (at least amongst the Tweeps I follow) there was some agreement with Mumford’s criticism of Rev. P.M. Philips for example, tweeted, ‘in all its brilliance, [Rev] offers the same views of clergy that is the stock view of the beeb/media’. Mumford’s accusations follow swift on the heels of Tim Stanley who lambasted Rev for being too nice, and offering an inaccurate representation of Christianity. The ‘too nice’ argument incongruously arises in sharp contrast amidst recent criticisms of American TV shows which depicted Christian characters as viciously judgemental, argumentative and even murderous.

A supportive comment under Stanley’s piece suggests, ‘The show [Rev] is created by the luvvies in the media, so it doesn’t have a lot to do with real Christianity.’ The secular media, according to this line of thought, is unable to adequately portray “real” religion, for they know so little about it. Yet this begs the question of the media’s clear attraction to religion, faith and belief. Time and again these secular “luvvies” turn to religion and religious themes to provide a space for compelling narrative, drama and comedy.

Across the Atlantic, Time magazine recently ran the story, ‘God is Dead. Except at the Box Office’ depicting an increasingly secularising American audience which increasingly produces and consumes films with religious content. Such a phenomenon might be described by my William Temple Foundation colleague Chris Baker as yet another paradox of the post-secular age: the more that institutionalised religion appears to be in decline, the more people appear to talk about it.

I recently reviewed the book Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacred by Knott, Poole and Taira (the review will appear in the next edition of Crucible journal) in which the authors suggest that religion and religious themes receive greater media attention than some religious groups presume. They suggest that for people of faith, ‘it is not so much the absence of coverage that should be of concern as the wrong kind of coverage’. For Mumford and Stanley, the ‘pernicious’ Rev clearly falls under the ‘wrong kind’ category; an unsuitable portrait of the Church of England, and Christianity in general.

Another current example of religiosity presented in the media, comes in the form of the film Calvary, an extraordinarily dark comedy which follows a curious week in the life of rural Irish priest Farther James. This time the media “luvvies” take on the Irish Catholic Church and paint a grim depiction of child abuse, ‘bad priests’ and morally loose congregants openly lambasting the church’s increasing irrelevance. Yet Father James is cast as the (albeit flawed) hero throughout, drenched in humility and, as described by director John Michael McDonagh, a ‘genuinely good’ person. The film may be a secular take on the sacred but it leaves the viewer struck by relevant and important questions of death, sin, virtue and forgiveness as it intersects themes of God and godlessness, goodness, sorrow and pain – often in surprising ways.

But for all its merits, Calvary is very clearly a highly dramatized work of fiction. And according to the authors of Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacred, so often missing from media representations of religion are, ‘the everyday practices, beliefs and lives of ‘ordinary’ religious people.’ The eponymous Rev Adam Smallbone strikes me as a pretty ordinary religious person. In fact, he is a bit of a loser really, often coveting other people’s success and regularly saying and doing the wrong thing. But perhaps it is this ‘everyday’ representation which holds such appeal. With 1.7m viewers tuning in each week, as tweeter Keith Hitchman points out, this is almost the same number as those who regularly attend church so, ‘Perhaps Rev is how people want Christians to be?’.

Whilst it may be possible to argue that examples such as Rev and Calvary undermine religious institutions (certainly they both take pot-shots at church hierarchy, hypocrisy and institutional corruption) it’s much harder to suggest that they undermine religion or Christianity per se. Rev’s Adam Smallbone and Calvary’s Father James both offer portraits of church leaders who are far from perfect, who fall and fail like the rest of us, yet guided by God, they keep going and aim to do better. Representations of the flawed clergyman for some, might support the claim that the media colludes with the very worst stereotypes of the church. Yet people are watching, debating, and reflecting on Rev in droves – as my Twitter feed testifies. Religious and secular audiences alike are finding these imperfect clerical characters, these candid public representations of Christianity, to be both compelling and relevant. As such, these portraits of very human, clearly flawed, contemporary Christians perpetuated by the secular media, might indicate opportunities for the continuing role of the church in this complex post-secular society, rather than suggesting its undermining and demise.

Charlotte Dando is Assistant Director – Communications & Development at William Temple Foundation.

Read more blog posts:

”Never mind what Jesus Would Do: Progressive Atheism & the Big Society” by Chris Baker

“Blurred Encounters in a ‘Messy Church'” by Greg Smith


Image: Copyright held by Big Talk Productions
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New look William Temple Foundation, same enduring values

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Welcome to the first blog post of the brand new William Temple Foundation website. After many months of consultation and collaboration, we’re proud to reveal the Foundation’s new look. We hope that you like it!

Our makeover however, is not simply a matter of aesthetics. We continue to promote the economic, social and political wellbeing of society, but we’ve taken some time to carefully evaluate who we are, how we should work, and how we can best act on our values of social justice. Our long noteworthy history remains significant for informing the work of the Foundation as we continue to be led by the visionary thinking of Archbishop William Temple. Over the last sixty years we have built on and developed Temple’s intellectual legacy, but our growth must ensure that we are active and relevant to contemporary concerns, and accessible to a modern audience.

We have dropped our former moniker of ‘research institute’ understanding ourselves to be remerging as a research and ideas hub. Whilst our staff and Associate Research Fellows continue to produce in-depth, innovative empirical research, there is so much more to the Foundation. Beyond publications we connect clergy, church workers, community activists, policy makers and academics, understanding that they can learn from one another. We believe that creative academic work is improved by interaction with everyday activities. Likewise grassroots activists may benefit from engagement with academic theory and empirical research. In this way, we seek to build a bridge between high-level theory and research, and everyday application and practice.

Our activities span a range of networks, sparking and sharing ideas which inform both our own research as well as that of others. We aim to create spaces for deep-thinking on the role of religion in public life through our involvement in blogging, conferences, lectures, seminars, teaching and training events, publications and research supervision. And we also offer bespoke training opportunities catering to a range of organisational needs on issues of religious literacy and civic engagement.

Whilst we are rooted in the Anglican tradition, we are a progressive organisation that seeks to engage a diverse array of religious and secular thinkers. We work across a wide range of academic disciplines from theology to human geography, from philosophy to economics, and much more.

We hope you’ll agree that the new website reflects this diversity of experience and expertise.

So how can you get involved with the new-look William Temple Foundation? First of all you can sign-up to our newsletter on the website’s homepage to keep up-to-date with our research, activities and new developments. And you can follow us and engage with us in dialogue on Twitter. We’re also looking for guest-bloggers to contribute posts to this section of the website, so if you have an idea you’d like to share, please do get in touch. You can read and share the wide range of research published by our staff and Associate Research Fellows. Or you can join one of the many networks we work with. And you are invited to attend our future events which will include a high-profile conference to mark the 70th anniversary of Archbishop William Temple’s death to be held later this year.

As we step into a new era of growth and development for the William Temple Foundation, we look forward to meeting and working with many more community activists, academics, clergy and people of all faith and belief backgrounds, as we share our vision for a just and inclusive society. We hope that you’ll be one of them.

Charlotte Dando is Assistant Director – Communications & Development at William Temple Foundation.

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