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03 December 2012

Nationwide search for a theologian of the future

Nationwide search for a theologian of the future

As the country debates the importance of religious education, the Evangelical Alliance is partnering with the London School of Theology (LST) and Christianity magazine to find a future theologian.

The Rising Theologian competition is being run to champion and raise awareness of theology in the UK.

The prize is the chance to win a fully-funded BA or MA in Theology from LST around £20,000.

Dr Krish Kandiah, executive director: churches in mission, at the Evangelical Alliance said: "All of us are theologians, the only question is whether we are good ones or not. I believe our Church needs to invest in facilitating more of us to formally study theology to help equip us all to grow to maturity in Christ and to make an impact for the gospel in our culture.

"We're excited that the Rising Theologian will help give someone the chance to study theology who may not otherwise have had the chance."

The competition is being launched at a time when there is national debate about the importance and role of religious education in schools.

Research by Oxford University last week found that 64 per cent of people agreed that pupils must know about Christianity to fully understand the nation's history.

But it also revealed that some teachers were not entirely comfortable in teaching Christianity and the approach they should take, for fear of being accused of "evangelising" their students.

Dr Nigel Fancourt, a lecturer in RE at Oxford, said the "presentation of Christianity can be incoherent, lacking in intellectual development, or too stereotypical".

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, which strongly criticised the Oxford study, said: "Religious education will always be a happy hunting ground for the evangelically-minded. They realise that the cross-over point from education to proselytising is very hard to define."

Responding to the Oxford survey, education specialist, Ann Holt, former government adviser and teacher, said: "We now have a generation of teachers whose knowledge of Christianity is very thin at best and often non-existent. Most primary school teachers are non-specialists. It's largely an issue of training. It hardly features in the general training of primary school teachers and that's got worse with the emphasis on literacy and numeracy."

The Rising Theologian competition is an attempt to rekindle the importance of religious education and theology and will also mark the 70th anniversary of LST, which started life as London Bible College in 1943.

Entry is open to over-18s who live in the UK. Entries can either be a short essay (1,000 words maximum) or a short film clip (five minutes maximum) – entitled: The future of the Christian church in the UK.

A selection of the best entries detailing the thoughts of people as to what the future of the Christian church will be will be published and made available online.

Matt Adcock, director of communications at LST, explained: "Rising Theologian is a competition like none before it. This is for everyone who has thought about studying a BA or MA in Theology but might have been put off by the cost.

"At the London School of Theology we believe theology is the living breathing engagement with God and his Word. Theology, on a personal level, is a way of finding answers to the biggest questions about God and our place in the universe… Now we are making a full degree either at undergraduate or postgraduate level available to someone who can step up and prove they have the right sort of mind to benefit from it."

Entries can be submitted by email to: info@eauk.org by Tuesday, 30 April 2013.

Successful shortlisted candidates will be invited to present their thoughts at a live event at LST on 29 June 2013. The judging panel will be made up of members of the partner organisations and the shortlisted candidates will be able to ask for advice and feedback on their preparation for the live event.

The winner, who will be decided on the night of 29 June, will be able to start their degree in October 2013.