14 october 2008

New centre for theology, ethics and public life

Professor Nigel Biggar, Al McDonald, Chair of the McDonald Agape Foundation,
Professor Nigel Biggar, Al McDonald, Chair of the McDonald Agape Foundation (MAF), Suzie McDonald, Director of MAF, and Jonathan Aitken, Director of MAF, taken at the launch of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.

Oxford University is launching a new centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life today (14 October 2008), to be known as the McDonald Centre. It will examine what contribution Christian ethics can make to issues of public concern.

The McDonald Centre will be based in the Faculty of Theology, part of Oxford’s Humanities Division. Dr Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology and Canon of Christ Church, will be its director; and Dr Bernd Wannenwetsch, University Lecturer in Christian Ethics and Fellow of Harris Manchester College, will be its deputy director.

Dr John Perry will hold the McDonald Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Christian Ethics and Public Life at Christ Church.

Dr Biggar said: ‘Today's heightened public interest in religion is not just the result of alarm at religiously motivated violence by the likes of Al Qaeda. Long before 9/11 there was a growing awareness that some forms of religion have resources of moral reflection and formation that liberal democracies badly need.

‘In this context, the McDonald Centre will contribute to public deliberation by bringing the resources of Christian ethical traditions to bear on moral issues of public concern—such as penal policy, the public responsibility of the media, and international relations—and by developing them in conversation with other traditions of religious and philosophical thought. 

‘It will involve collaboration both between Theology and other academic disciplines such as Philosophy and International Relations, and between academia and those who shape public deliberation and policy.’

...the McDonald Centre will contribute to public deliberation by bringing the resources of Christian ethical traditions to bear on moral issues of public concern... and by developing them in conversation with other traditions of religious and philosophical thought.

Dr Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology

The Centre will pursue its work through occasional seminars, working conferences, series of McDonald Lectures, and sustained collaborative research projects.

This interdisciplinary venture is being funded by a five year benefaction from both the McDonald Agape Foundation and the University’s John Fell OUP Research Fund.

The donor, Alonzo McDonald, was formerly Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House for Jimmy Carter and worldwide CEO of McKinsey & Co., and he has taught in business and management at both Harvard and Yale.

He said: ‘As distinguished institutions well known to scholars and public officials around the world, Oxford and Christ Church are ideal locations for this Centre, with their long traditions of working with world leaders and seeking out the highest academic, ethical and political perspectives for the advancement of society.

‘Professor Biggar proposed the McDonald Centre as an ideal vehicle for expanding Oxford’s international collaboration with eminent scholars and public figures over ethical issues of global importance, and I fully support that.’