Higher Education Chaplaincy and the Changing Role of Religion in the Public Square
: a contextual theology for university chaplaincy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Theology and Ministry


University chaplaincy has received little attention in discussions of the role of religion within the secular university. Theologians have primarily considered chaplaincy as a generic form of ministry rather than constructing accounts based in the different chaplaincy contexts. By contrast this thesis aims to construct a contextual theology for chaplaincy based in an understanding of the role of religion in the public square of the secular university. Using a discourse analysis of recent policy documents and reports from government, the Higher Education Sector and the Churches I seek to uncover their underlying understandings of the role of religion in secular Higher Education. This analysis reveals that although there is little mention of chaplaincy outside the Church documents the secular university is a complex fusion of secular, multi-faith and Christian themes with religion in the university increasingly understood through thin accounts concerned with managerial processes. The thesis then examines the history of chaplaincy in the British university looking for a coherent theological narrative for the development of this context. This history shows how the growth of university chaplaincy has been shaped by increasingly diverse forms of society. Using the historical narrative and contemporary analysis I then build a typology for contemporary chaplaincy responses. In the final chapter I offer a theology for university chaplaincy based in an understanding of the essentially diverse nature of secularity, on the dialogical accounts of the university offered by Ford and Higton and an understanding of Christian responses to otherness through hospitality drawn from the work of Barnes and Bretherton. The thesis argues for the importance of the Higher Education chaplaincy for the university, the Churches and for academic theology, concluding with recommendations about the training and support of chaplains
Date of Award1 Feb 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLuke Bretherton (Supervisor) & Andrew Wright (Supervisor)

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