Theological Reflections on Mining

It cannot be assumed that countries with large mineral deposits should consider themselves blessed. The phrase ‘resource curse’ is familiar in debates about how natural resources like metals, minerals and oil are sourced by relatively developed countries in ways that leave a trail of devastation in their wake. But it is not enough to scapegoat the mining industry. Most, if not all, citizens of relatively developed countries benefit from the products of mining. Churches, pension funds, and many other investment bodies, also have money in mining and are thereby implicated in the actions of the companies in which they are invested. Mining companies vary considerably in policy and practice with respect to environmental protections, wage levels and employment practices, the payment of taxes and other revenues, relationships with local communities, and more.

Mine-dredging of sand dunes at Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal Province for ilmenite, rutile and zircon.

Mine-dredging of sand dunes at Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal Province for ilmenite, rutile and zircon.

Esther Reed has been involved with the Mining and Faith Reflections Initiative since 2014 as member companies and churches aim inter alia to enable and support a dialogue in ways that encourage openness, honesty and the sharing of different perspectives on mining. One current topic of conversation is the possibility of chaplaincies at mine sites amongst some of the participating companies.


‘Engaging with the Holocaust in Secondary RE’ Report

Last term I was fortunate enough to assist and attend a conference organised by our own David Tollerton. Spread across two days, the ‘Engaging with the Holocaust in Secondary RE’ workshops inspired a great deal of healthy discussion and a fascinating insight into the current specifications used by major exam boards.

The first day’s workshop included presentations from Sarah Hall (University of Birmingham), Alasdair Richardson (University of Winchester), Alana Vincent (University of Chester) and David Tollerton. Sarah gave us an insight to a new exam board Judaism specification and how Holocaust studies has been incorporated into it. What was particularly interesting in this discussion was questioning how the major exam boards are expecting teachers to gather the necessary material and deliver this in a relatively short space of time. With the Holocaust being such a complex part of modern history to discuss, finding the balance of where to place Holocaust education in schools proves to be difficult. One aspect of this which was discussed at length was the argument of whether the Holocaust should be taught in history lessons as a study of past events or placed in RE as constructive activism.  Nevertheless, it is a balance that must be reached, as Alana raised the point that a lot of undergraduates are undertaking their Theology course with a very narrow and limited understanding of both the Holocaust and wider Jewish experience.

The morning training event the next day welcomed current and aspiring Religious Studies PGCE students along with a selection of current RE teachers from the South West area.

Jenny Carson, Education Officer at the Holocaust Education Trust (HET) began the morning’s presentations by discussing the work of the HET and how teachers can access the resources available. Jenny emphasised the importance of thinking about pre-war Jewish life and how that resulted in quite varied experiences of Nazi persecution. With this in mind, it is crucial that teachers represent the Holocaust in the classroom in a way that ensures students are not coming out of the classroom thinking that the Holocaust is centred around Auschwitz.

We then heard from Sarah, who was interested in discussing how visual art can be used as a refreshing stimulus in Holocaust education and how this relates to current educational policy and practice. Students will of course have different ways of learning, and engaging with visual art which is accessible to all, regardless of academic ability, can be helpful in encouraging creativity of thought and emotional learning. Sarah used the praxis of SMSC which focuses on incorporating spiritual, moral, social and cultural modes of learning. All schools in England must show how well their pupils develop in SMSC and visual art can provide a useful way of addressing religious plurality when teaching the Holocaust.

Holocaust in Secondary RE 8 Dec #1

Lastly, Alasdair addressed the extent to which teachers ought to ‘sanitise’ the events of the Holocaust in the RE classroom. With this he suggested that we need to put more of a focus on how students are learning rather than the outcome, and allow them the space to think in a critical and analytical way. In whichever subject the Holocaust is being taught there needs to be a certain level of impact and recognition of testimony’s importance, but without needlessly sharing gratuitous images and stories. Alasdair raised the point that when we commodify knowledge we leave no room for human connection. In the classroom, emotional engagement with a topic such as this is inevitable, with some students having a more vivid emotional response than others. An important message that the aspiring and current teachers received from Alasdair’s discussion was that to be a reflective practitioner is to understand that the pedagogy of a student’s learning goes beyond a surface level of what they know, but looks at how they affectively learn. Further to this comes a consideration of the prior experiences of students and asking what potential prejudices and connections each student is bringing to the topic.

What stood out for me from attending this conference was that teachers are powerful people who have the ability to really shape a student’s outlook. It is one thing to have all the right resources, which of course is of huge importance with this topic and something which I hope will be made more readily available in the near future. It is another thing, however, to act with honesty and integrity while having the student’s best interests at heart. From the healthy and honest discussions had by those in attendance I feel very hopeful that Holocaust studies will continue to an important part of the syllabus and will become more freely interdisciplinary.

Emma Bolton, MA student.

Prideaux Lectures 2017: Christian Faith in Apocalyptic times

John de Gruchy

May 2nd 7pm Exeter Cathedral: “Christian Faith in Apocalyptic Times”

May 3rd 7pm Xfi Building, University of Exeter: “Prophetic Witness When Things Fall Apart”

john de gruchy

On May 2nd and 3rd we are delighted to welcome the distinguished South African Theologian, John de Gruchy to deliver the Prideaux lectures.

The Prideaux Lectures are a unique collaboration between the Cathedral, the Diocese and the University of Exeter. They were instituted under the Will of the late Canon S P T Prideaux to ‘honour the memory of Bishop John Prideaux of Worcester, a Devon man who from humble origin rose to great heights in the service of learning, his University and the Church’. John Prideaux was born at Stowford, Devon, one of twelve children of a local farmer. He is said to have walked to Oxford, where he became a servant in Exeter College, before becoming a student, then fellow, the Rector of the same College! He was later Vice-Chancellor and then Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, and was appointed Bishop of Worcester shortly before the outbreak of the English civil war.

Because of Prideaux’s background, the lectures named after him are intended to appeal to an audience which spans both the university and also the ministers and people of the church in Devon. It is particularly appropriate, then, that this year’s lecturer is someone who has served both university and church: John de Gruchy is an ordained minister in the United Congregational Church and served two congregations before working for the South African Council of Churches. He then took up a post in the University of Cape Town, eventually becoming Robert Selby Taylor Professor of Christian Studies.

Like John Prideaux, John de Gruchy has lived through times of serious civil division and political unrest: times which in both cases gave rise to radical theologies of various hues and to the use of much apocalyptic language. John de Gruchy has used his scholarship to engage in the work of reconciliation and social justice and to reflect theologically on a wide range of political and social issues both in South Africa and beyond. He is renowned for his scholarship on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and academic who resisted the Third Reich and was executed by the Nazis in 1945. In his lectures, John de Gruchy will offer a Christian analysis of the current times of global crisis and uncertainty. He will probe the relationship between freedom, justice and power, and suggest a Christian response which is prophetic, which offers hope, and which renews a politics for the common good.

(Morwenna Ludlow)

To enable us to gauge numbers, please book a free place on for May 2nd and / or May 3rd.           Or email .

Full URLs below:


Ethnicity, Race, and Religion

ERR conference 1 cropped

Helen John and Rebekah Welton

Between 9th and 11th August 2016, the University of Exeter’s Theology and Religion department hosted a conference entitled ‘Ethnicity, Race, and Religion: Identities, Ideologies, and Intersections in Biblical Texts and Interpretation’. This was made possible due to an AHRC Leadership Grant, for which Professor David G. Horrell is the principal investigator.  It brought together participants from such diverse locations as Botswana, Belgium, the USA, and Australia, as well as from across the UK. Such a broad range of backgrounds, worldviews, and scholarly areas of interest precipitated three days of fascinating papers and discussions. In particular, the event was characterized by the desire to learn from one another’s knowledge of issues of ethnicity and race, whether focused on the text, its historical interpretation, or issues and approaches within the contemporary Academy.

 The first plenary address was delivered by Professor Musa Dube (University of Botswana) and was entitled: ‘The Bible in the Bush: The First ‘Literate’ Batswana Bible Readers’. Professor Dube introduced the audience to issues of translation and mistranslation in the Batswana Bible, reflecting on the way in which missionary control over translation both entrenched patriarchal systems in the missionised community and violated local beliefs by aligning positive spirits with biblical demons.

 In the second plenary, Dr Ma. Marilou S. Ibita from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium presented on ‘Of Ioudaioi, Hellēnes and Others: Exploring the (In)Visibility of the Intersections of Ethnic Identities, Religion and Hermeneutics in Biblical Texts from a Lowland Filipina Christian Perspective’. Dr Ibita presented her dialogical approach, focused on ‘maximally Christian identity’ in partnership with ‘maximal solidarity’. This was illustrated by looking at the examples of the Filipina Christian traditions and highlighted the need to be open to biblical interpretations from diverse contexts. 

ERR conference 2 cropped The third plenary address was delivered by Dr Gregory Cuéllar (Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, USA) on the topic of ‘S.R. Driver and Higher Criticism: Mapping “the Differences of Race” in Genesis’. Dr Cuéllar took us on a journey through Driver’s reliance on theories of racial hierarchy in his (Driver’s) attempts to interpret Genesis narratives. It was particularly eye-opening to hear some of the ways in which Driver “identified the races” which made it clear that biblical scholarship needs to be aware of its problematic past and realize that “white” should not normative.

 In amongst these three plenaries were ten papers delivered by a range of scholars, from PhD students to experienced academics. There was an enormous range of topics, ranging from taxation to disability, food to film, identities to representation and biblical texts to biblical hermeneutics. The conference ended with a panel discussion, chaired by Professor Horrell and with input from each of the invitation speakers: Professor Musa Dube; Dr Ma. Marilou S. Ibita; Dr Gregory Cuéllar. One of the stand-out features of this discussion, reflecting on issues raised throughout the conference, was the extent to which participants felt Biblical Studies was characterized by a trend to marginalize non-normative readings, be they from locations further away from its Euro-American centre, or those which do not conform to ‘traditional’ methods of biblical criticism. The conference certainly asked some provocative questions about what precisely biblical criticism is or should be as we move forward into the 21st Century.

 Rebekah Welton is a PhD student in the Department of Theology & Religion; Dr Helen John received her PhD in the Department in April 2016