This thesis explores the beliefs of Church of England (CofE) parish ministers about religions other than Christianity, and the theological frameworks supporting them. I argue that these beliefs are informed by a Ministers’ Theology of Faiths, which evaluates other religions predominantly with regard to their ‘beneficent potential’, namely their effects on the flourishing of individuals and communities; it draws on a ‘Cure of Souls’ Framework of Ministry that implies responsibility for parishioners of any faith and none. In an era of fundamentalism, Islamophobia and religiously inspired violence, beliefs about other religions are socially significant because they influence attitudes and behaviours. Within the Christian tradition they are theologically significant since they express beliefs about God and humanity, and inform approaches to religious others. CofE clergy represent the established church and embody the Christian tradition in local communities, many with substantial numbers of non-Christian parishioners, yet little is known about their beliefs. Drawing on constructivist grounded theory, this interdisciplinary study employed an innovative, multifaceted methodological approach, using the nominal group technique in focus groups, and prompt cards and a semi-structured questionnaire in qualitative interviews with 21 ministers in the southern, largely rural Diocese of Winchester and in Leicester, a religiously diverse city in the Midlands. The principally Christian perspective of interviewees was held in tension with perspectives originating from other aspects of their personal and social identities. Ministers emphasised the centrality of relational and experiential factors in the formation of their beliefs, resulting in recognition of the influence of the cultural context on religious faith, appreciation of the commonalities between the religions, and relationships marked by mutual respect. These findings suggest that CofE institutional policies and practices for clergy training and ministerial development should facilitate improved opportunities for ministers to engage with people of other religions, and to empower their congregations likewise.
|Date of Award||7 Mar 2016|
|Supervisor||Anna King (Supervisor), Tansy Jessop (Supervisor) & Paul Hedges (Supervisor)|