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About Us

The Department of Theology and Religion has flourished at Durham University since its foundation in 1832, and has established an international reputation as one of the leading departments in its field.

Teaching and Research in the Department covers numerous aspects of our diverse field, drawing on methods derived from theology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literary studies, film studies, history, and the critical study of texts and languages.
Our Research
Autumn leaves outside Abbey House in Durham

In each of our three degree programmes these diverse methods and interests can be explored individually or creatively combined. Broadly speaking, our fields of research and teaching may be divided into three main areas of focus:

The study of religion explores the contemporary anthropological and sociological aspects of religion and worldviews both in the UK and around the world (including North America, Latin America, Africa, and South Asia).  Our research and teaching explore how religious meaning takes shape in response to social and cultural forces (such as neo-liberalism and post-colonial politics), and how it enters into all domains of life (including emotion, identity, health, and death).  From such perspectives, our studies range across Islam, Hinduism, and various forms of Christianity.

Our degree in Religion, Society and Culture allows specialisation in this area of study. Undergraduate modules explore such issues as: How does contemporary Islam engage with issues of gender and identity? How has the colonial legacy impacted religious practice?  

Christian theology embraces the study of many ethical, social, and philosophical questions, but does so via an engagement with Christian traditions of belief and reflection. Many of our modules interrogate that those traditions through considerations of fundamental Christian beliefs and their interaction (systematic theology), or through consideration of questions in historical theology and the history of Christianity.  We work within a range of Christian traditions, with particular strengths in the Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Areas of particular research expertise include the early Christian world (such figures as Augustine and Irenaeus), Thomas Aquinas, the Protestant Reformation, theology and migration, medical ethics, environmental ethics, modern Catholic theology, questions of gender and sexuality, and modern atheism.

These topics can be explored either within our degree in Theology and Religion or in our joint honours degree in Philosophy and Theology, whose particular focus is on the intersection between theology, religion, philosophy, and ethics. 

Within this field of study, our undergraduate modules explore issues such as: Can the presence of evil in the world be compatible with the existence of a good and powerful God? How do modern-day scientific discoveries relate to the Christian concept of creation? What is the Christian response to environmental and ecological issues?

Biblical studies covers the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the New Testament, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity.  We explore in depth the biblical and related texts in both ancient and modern contexts, and examine how they have been and can be interpreted from a variety of perspectives, including theology, history, and various forms of contemporary theory.  We are one of the few universities in the UK to offer a broad range of biblical and ancient languages, such as Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Middle Egyptian.

Biblical Studies can feature in any of our three degree programmes.  Undergraduate modules examine texts in their original languages or in English translation, and explore such issues as: What counts as a theologically and ethically appropriate reception of the Bible today? How might the Bible be read differently from minority and non-Western perspectives?  How was Jesus understood in texts that did not get included in the New Testament canon?

Obituary for Ann Loades, Professor Emerita in Theology

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Anne Loades who died on the night of 5/6 December 2022.

Professor Ann Loades, CBE was an Honorary Professorial Fellow at St Chad’s College and Professor Emerita of Divinity, University of Durham; Lay Canon Emerita of Durham Cathedral; and a former Chair of St Chad’s Council. After retirement in 2003 she lived in Tayport, Fife, and was appointed an Honorary Professor in the University of St Andrews.

She was born in Stockport in 1938, was a student at St Mary’s College, Durham to read Divinity and was supervised for her PhD initially by Alec Whitehouse and then John Rogerson. She became a college officer at St Mary’s and joined the Department of Divinity as a lecturer in philosophical theology in 1975.

Ann was the first woman to be given a personal Chair in Durham (in 1995) and in 2001 was honoured with a CBE for services to Theology. She had significant involvement with the Arts and Humanities Research Board/Council from 1999 to 2003 and was President of the Society for the Study of Theology for two years (2005-6). She also served on the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England and as editor of both the Modern Churchman and Theology.

Ann published widely on ecclesiology and spirituality, especially with respect to Anglicanism, and at the interface between theology and the Arts (she taught ballet to adults for many years); as well as producing studies in feminist theology. Her most recent publications included The Serendipity of Lifes Encounters (in the ‘My Theology’ Series of Darton, Longman & Todd, 2021), Grace and Glory in One Anothers Faces: Preaching and Worship (Canterbury Press, 2020), and a contribution to Contemporary Feminist Theologies: Power, Authority, Love (Routledge, 2021). A book of essays in her honour, Exchanges of Grace, was published by SCM Press in 2008.

Ann Loades will be remembered with most affection by her students, especially perhaps her research students, to whom she was an extraordinarily kind and invariably supportive mentor.

Jeff Astley

7 December 2022