Theology Summer School 2019

Course details

Residential - £1,310 per week; Non-residential - £970 per week

Sun 04 Aug 2019 - Sat 17 Aug 2019

Theology Summer School 2019



A residential summer school for members of the clergy, theologians and teachers of religious education.

  • Exploring the theme "The Meaning of Sacrifice".
  • Offering one-week seminars taught by members of Oxford's Theology Faculty, distinguished theologians and prominent church leaders.
  • Providing the opportunity to study and live in Christ Church, one of Oxford University's largest and most beautiful colleges.

The academic programme consists of

  • study in small interactive seminar groups with specialist tutors; and
  • an evening lecture each week given by a leading scholar in the field.


Applicants choose one morning seminar and one afternoon seminar per week from:

Week 1: 4-10 August - Morning Seminars

  • John's Gospel: Going Deeper into the Mystery
  • Mary Magdalen: Penitent or Preacher?
  • Sacrifice and the Death of Christ

Week 1: 4-10 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • Compassion in Care
  • Martyrdom, Praise and Other Sacrifices
  • Trauma, Resilience and the Bible

Week 2: 11-17 August - Morning Seminars

  • Discipleship and Sacrifice in C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Charles Williams
  • Sacrifice in Liturgy and Life
  • Sacrificial Love: Searching for Unselfish Holiness

Week 2: 11-17 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • How Should We Think of God's Work in Christ?
  • Science and the Sacraments
  • The Suffering Self: Early Christianity and the Martyr Tradition

Each seminar has five two-and-a-half hour meetings, and classes will usually contain no more than 18 participants.

Please note that most applicants choose to attend both weeks of the summer school; however, it is possible to attend one week only.


In addition to the daily seminar programme, there will be an evening lecture each week:

  • Week 1 - Professor Paul Fiddes on "Sacrifice, Atonement and the Overcoming of Violence"
    Paul Fiddes is Professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University and Professorial Research Fellow at Regent's Park College, Oxford.
  • Week 2 - Professor Jane Shaw on "Sacrifice and the Spiritual Life"
    Jane Shaw is a well-known writer, teacher and historian of religion. She has recently been appointed Principal of Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

In Week 1 there will be a special guest lecture:

  • Terry Eagleton on "Sacrifice"
    Terry Eagleton is a literary scholar and cultural theorist; he is currently Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University. His most recent publication is Radical Sacrifice (2018).

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 26.5 contact hours per week, comprising

  • 25 hours of seminar meetings (12.5 hours per seminar); and
  • a lecture lasting 1.5 hours.


Participants are welcome to attend services at Christ Church Cathedral.

Oxford is a diverse city, rich in places of worship for people of many faiths and denominations.

Social programme

A number of social activities will be arranged during the summer school. These may include informal tours of the college and the city of Oxford.

Programme details

Seminar options

Applicants take one morning course and one afternoon course per week. Classes run from 09.00-12.00 and 13.30-16.30, Monday-Friday.

Most applicants choose to attend both weeks of the summer school; however, it is possible to attend one week only.

Week 1: 4-10 August - Morning Seminars

John's Gospel: Going Deeper into the Mystery

John’s Gospel has been described as ‘a magic pool in which an infant may paddle, and an elephant swim’. This course will look closely at the text of the fourth gospel and try to follow what the evangelist is doing. We shall look in particular at the ways in which John presents the mystery of Jesus, and the many levels at which he presents that mystery.

Tutor: Fr Nicholas King SJ is Delegate for Formation for the British Province of Jesuits and a well-known New Testament scholar.

Mary Magdalen: Penitent or Preacher?

The figure of Mary Magdalen has fascinated Christians down the centuries. As ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ her Biblical story has been fused with that of the ‘woman who was a sinner’ and given rise to legends of her life of penitence in which she becomes an archetype of the sexually sinful woman restored by Christ. Recent feminist analysis has separate out the Biblical story from the later legends. But the legend itself shows Mary, not only as a penitent but also as a missionary preacher who as far back as medieval times opened the possibility of an apostolic preaching role for women.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury studied classics at Oxford and completed a doctorate on the legend of Mary Magdalene at King’s College, London. She is currently Precentor of Portsmouth Cathedral.

Sacrifice and the Death of Christ

Sacrifice, not creed, constituted religion in the ancient world. Christians were dubbed ‘atheists’ for refusing to participate. But sacrifice provided the language in which they expressed their own understanding of worship and atonement; the death of Christ being the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. This course explores what they meant by sacrifice, considering theological, anthropological and exegetical approaches, old and new.

Tutor: The Revd Professor Frances Young was Edward Cadbury Professor at the University of Birmingham until retirement in 2005. Her research interests are in early Christianity and patristic thought.

Week 1: 4-10 August - Afternoon Seminars

Compassion in Care

This course explores the role of compassion in healthcare. Putting Christian theology in conversation with classical thought, health philosophy and political theory we will consider what compassion actually means in practice by looking at topics such as ageing, cultural differences, fault, responsibility and the use of time. By reflecting theologically on everyday clinical care we will try to discern what compassion can and should mean in practice in today’s complex healthcare landscape.

Tutor: Professor Joshua Hordern is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics in Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology and Religion.

Martyrdom, Praise and Other Sacrifices

The Reformation and Counter Reformation was a period of spiritual renewal marred by the tendency of some Christians to persecute one another. This course investigates the writings of some of the great English pastor-poets of the period, including John Donne, George Herbert and John Bunyan to discover how they explored personal faith and its public expression in troubled times. No literary expertise will be assumed!

Tutor: Dr Roger Pooley is Honorary Research Fellow in Humanities at Keele University where he taught English for many years.

Trauma, Resilience and the Bible

Trauma and resilience are buzzwords in the secular world, and, increasingly in the church. Christian ministers are expected to develop resilience, new selection criteria for Church of England ministers require candidates to develop it. But what is resilience and how does it relate to Christian tradition? This course will explore the physiological bases of trauma and resilience, offer practical guidelines for responding to trauma and for building resilience and explore evidence of trauma and resilience in the Bible.

Tutor: Dr Meg Warner is a Biblical scholar, currently working as post-doctoral researcher with the University of Exeter’s ‘Tragedy and Congregations’ project.

Week 2: 11-17 August - Morning Seminars

Discipleship and Sacrifice in C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Charles Williams

In this course we shall look at the work of three of the most important of the ‘Inklings’, the 20th-century Oxford Christian writers. We will examine, through their imaginative literature, as well as their specifically religious works, what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In particular we will concentrate on what the role of sacrifice, atonement and redemption in their conception of the Christian life.

Tutor: Professor David McNaughton taught philosophy for over 40 years at the Universities of Keele and Florida State Universities and is now an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh.

Sacrifice in Liturgy and Life

In this course we shall consider the place of sacrifice in the Church’s liturgy and sacramental life, the way in which the various theories of atonement have informed the practices of the various churches, and the use, or otherwise, of ‘sacrifice’ as a model for the living and commending of the Christian faith.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Keith Riglin is Chaplain and Assistant Dean at King’s College, London, and a visiting lecturer in its Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

Sacrificial Love: Searching for Unselfish Holiness

Sacrifice is not an easy topic but it is an essential component of Christian life and witness rooted deep in the life and teaching of Jesus. His own example points to a countercultural witness which has always had a subversive element. This course examines this holy and creative tradition by using some of the more marginal characters of recent Christian history including Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum and asks what challenges they pose for us today.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons is Director of Studies for Theology and Religion at Oxford Unviersity’s Department of Continuing Education. He is a Melkite priest and Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Week 2: 11-17 August - Afternoon seminars

How Should We Think of God's Work in Christ?

Christians differ about what God accomplished in Jesus, especially by his death on the cross. Many views of this can be traced to the Bible, but the Creed does not endorse any single view. What orthodox Christianity does affirm is that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. This has implications in a religiously plural world and raises the question of whether Jesus can save all humans if he is indeed unique. This course will consider accounts of salvation in terms of who Jesus was and what he did.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Andrew Moore is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University.

Science and the Sacraments

Christians see sacraments as rituals through which God’s grace is uniquely active. They are ‘visible signs of an invisible reality’ (St Augustine). This is part of the ancient belief that any tangible element of creation may speak of the existence and presence of God. But what happens when concepts of matter, energy and humanity change with scientific advances? In this course we shall consider sacramental thought in the light of the sciences, challenging and enriching our understanding for the 21st century.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Shaun Henson is Lecturer in Science and Religion in Oxford University’s Faculty of Science and Religion, and Chaplain to St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

The Suffering Self: Early Christianity and the Martyr Tradition

For the early Christians the obvious way to follow the crucified Christ was to embrace martyrdom. This course looks at the appeal of martyrdom in early Christianity through an encounter with the martyr literature of the early Church including the prison diary of Perpetua. We then see how the martyr tradition was transformed after Constantine’s conversion, looking at some of the stories of the desert fathers, and consider what guidance they offer that is still relevant to today’s Christians.

Tutor: Angela Tilby is a writer, teacher and broadcaster who has worked for many years in theological education. She is a Canon Emeritus of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Recommended reading

Each seminar has its own requirements for preparatory reading.


All participants who complete the programme will receive an attendance certificate.



Founded in the 16th century, Christ Church is one of Oxford University's largest and most beautiful colleges.

Bedrooms and meals

Participants who choose to attend the summer school on a residential basis will have a single study bedroom.

Bedrooms are located on the four floors of the modern (1960s) Blue Boar Quad; all rooms have private bathroom facilities (shower and toilet).

Participants cannot be accommodated at Christ Church either prior to or beyond their programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this summer school cannot be accommodated in college.

Residential participants will take meals (breakfast Monday-Saturday and dinner Sunday-Friday) in the college's dining hall. Participants make their own arrangements for lunch. Should participants have any dietary requirements (eg vegetarian, gluten-free) they are required to complete the relevant section on the application form.

Please be aware that accommodation at Christ Church is limited and may not be available for those who submit their applications towards the end of the admissions period.

Non-residential participants

Participants who choose to attend the summer school on a non-residential basis are responsible for finding their own accommodation. Information on accommodation in Oxford is available at:

Please note that dinner will be provided for non-residential participants at Christ Church from Sunday-Friday.

IT facilities

Please be aware that there are no computers provided for participants' use at Christ Church. However, for those who bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc) with them to Oxford, wireless internet access is available throughout the college, including the residential accommodation. Public internet access is available at Oxfordshire County Library, c. 10 minutes' walk from Christ Church (opening hours are 09.00-20.00, Monday-Thursday; 09.00-17.30, Friday and Saturday).


Residential - £1,310 per week; Non-residential - £970 per week


Programme fees

  • Residential - £1,310 per week
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the weekly lecture); accommodation in a single room with private shower and toilet for the nights of Sunday 4 August to Friday 9 August 2019 inclusive (Week 1) or Sunday 11 August to Friday 16 August 2019 inclusive (Week 2); meals in hall - breakfast Monday-Saturday and dinner Sunday-Friday (no lunch).

Participants attending both weeks of the summer school will be provided with complimentary bed and breakfast accommodation on the night of Saturday 10 August and the morning of Sunday 11 August 2019.

  • Non-residential - £970 per week
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the weekly lecture); no accommodation; dinner at Christ Church from Sunday-Friday.

There are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.

Invoicing and payment

Successful applicants who accept their offer of a place on the summer school will be invoiced for the appropriate programme fee once they have been formally enrolled on the programme.

Invoices will be emailed to participants together with full instructions for payment. Fees may be paid online with a credit or debit card, or by bank transfer.

Participants are required to pay the full fee within 30 days of the date on which their invoice was issued.

Please note that:

  • participants are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs (see "Cancellations", below);
  • a participant's place on the summer school is not confirmed until their fees have been paid in full;
  • places will not be held for participants whose fees are not paid in full by the due date; and
  • in no circumstances will participants be admitted to the summer school unless all fees have been paid in full.

When you have paid your fees

Your place on the summer school is confirmed as soon as your payment is received by OUDCE.

You will receive a receipt for your payment: by email if paid online, or by post if paid by bank transfer.

If you are a non-EEA participant you will receive a letter by post confirming your enrolment and course details which may be used to support your application for a short-term study visa: this letter will be sent by post (see "Level and demands", above).


All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's Short Selective Course Terms and Conditions.

A contract between OUDCE and a participant comes into being when a participant accepts an offer of a place on the summer school.

You have the right to cancel this contract at any time within 14 days, beginning on the day you accepted the offer.

Please be aware that if you cancel your place at any time after the expiry of the 14-day period you will not be entitled to a refund of the price paid for the summer school.

If you wish to cancel your place on the summer school you must inform the Programme Administrator by email at

You are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs, and you should consult your travel agent and/or insurer for information and advice. OUDCE does not provide any insurance cover.

OUDCE reserves the right to alter details of any course should illness or any other emergency prevent a tutor from teaching, and to cancel a course or seminar if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 15 May 2019 If it is likely that individual seminars or the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days, and possible options clearly explained.

If you have not heard from OUDCE by 22 May 2019, you should assume that the course and your seminars will be running; there is no need to contact us to confirm. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

Teaching methods

Elements of seminar teaching will normally include:

  • mini lectures by tutors; and
  • tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There is no assessment for this course.


Before you submit your application

  • ensure you meet the admissions requirements (see "Selection criteria", below);
  • make sure you have all the required supporting documents listed below;
  • ensure you are familiar with the terms and conditions of enrolment on the summer school, especially those relating to payment of fees and cancellations (see "Payment", above); and
  • read the 'Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements' (see "Level and demands", below).

The application process

Download, print and complete the application form.

Please ensure all sections are completed fully, clearly, and in BLOCK CAPITALS.

The form must be accompanied by:

  • A brief statement of purpose (350-400 words) detailing your reasons for wishing to attend the summer school. This should include what you hope to get out of the programme, and what you are likely to contribute to the intellectual life of the summer school. This may include the relevance of the summer school to your current employment, professional or personal development, or present course of study. It is essential that you clearly state your reasons for wishing to enrol on specific seminars.
  • In the case of non-native speakers of English, official evidence of English language competency.
  • A letter of recommendation from a person who is well placed to comment on your suitability of the programme - eg a member of the clergy, a religious leader, or an academic in the field of theology and religious studies. A reference from a family member is not acceptable. Please note that the letter of recommendation must refer specifically to your application to the Oxford University Theology Summer School.
  • Photographs (UK passport-sized - ie 4.5cm high x 3.5cm wide), with your full name printed on the back of each: please provide four photographs if you are applying for one week of the summer school; six if you are applying for both weeks.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be posted to: Theology Summer School, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK

You may wish to send your application by a courier service or registered post for speed and/or security of delivery.

We are currently unable to receive applications by email.

After you have submitted your application

You will receive an email from confirming receipt of your application materials, and informing you when your application will be reviewed by the Programme Director.

Application deadline

Applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis or rolling basis until 1 May 2019.

There is a limited number of places available on every seminar, and in assigning successful applicants to classes the Programme Director will pay particular attention to applicants' personal statements.

Notification of the Programme Director's decision

Applicants will normally be notified of the Programme Director's decision by email from within 14 days of their application having been received.

Applicants who are offered a place on the summer school must respond in writing within 14 days to accept or decline the offer. In accepting an offer of a place applicants are committing to paying their programme fees in full by the due date.


Participants will be formally enrolled on the summer school once they have accepted their offer of a place.

The enrolment process includes the issuing of invoices, which will be emailed to participants together with full instructions for payment (see "Payment", above).

Further course information

Participants will receive the following information by email from prior to the summer school:

  • In February 2019 - course information, including detailed course content and required preparatory reading*
  • In February 2019 - joining instructions, containing a wealth of practical information to assist participants as they prepare to travel to the summer school (eg how to get to Oxford, arrangements at Christ Church)*
  • In June 2019 - confirmation of arrival day arrangements.

*Successful applicants who accept their offer of a place from February 2019 onwards will receive this information on enrolment.

Any queries?

Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at

Level and demands

Participants are expected to

  • undertake preparatory reading in advance of the programme;
  • attend all seminar sessions and plenary keynote lectures; and
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics.

Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements

Please note: The information in this section is correct as at December 2018, but may change following the departure of the UK from the European Union (EU) in March 2019. We anticipate that, if changes are made, it is most likely that EEA and Swiss national students will need to follow the same immigration rules as non-EEA nationals. We do not expect any changes to the short-term study visa itself, but this is not guaranteed. We will update you as soon as we have further details. In the meantime, up to date information regarding arrangements following the exit of the UK from the EU, is available on the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.

If you are an European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national you do not need a visa to enter the UK to participate in the summer school. You are free to enter the UK as long as you show your EEA or Swiss passport on arrival.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national, you may need to apply for a visa to enter the UK depending on which passport you hold.

If the system shows that you require a visa: you should apply for a short-term study visa, which allows students over the age of 18 to study either part-time or full-time for up to 6 months in the UK.

If the system shows that you do not require a visa: you will still need to bring certain documents to show at the border in order to be admitted as a short-term student.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national we strongly recommend that you establish whether you will require a visa before submitting your application. Please check current visa processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in the country you are applying from. You should ensure your summer school application is submitted as early as possible to allow yourself sufficient time to complete the visa application process.

The Programme Administrator will provide all non-EEA students with a standard format letter by post confirming enrolment and course details once their fees have been paid in full.

For legal reasons the Programme Administrator is not permitted to provide any visa advice to applicants: all such enquiries should be submitted to Oxford University’s student visa and immigration advisers via email at

Disabled participants (including those with mobility difficulties)

The aim of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE) is to treat all participants equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals` needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.

When applying for OUDCE`s college-based summer schools, prospective participants with mobility difficulties or visual or hearing impairments may want to make preliminary enquiries to the Programme Administrator, as the age and layout of these colleges often makes them user-unfriendly (although adaptations are often possible). Oxford, as an ancient city, tends to be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. The number of very old buildings, designed in an age less sensitive to issues of disability, makes access to much of the city centre difficult. However, OUDCE will do as much as it is able to make study with the department possible.

Applicants should contact us if they will have problems gaining access to a bedroom or a teaching room that is located on upper or basement floors, or to the college dining hall (which is reached via a flight of stairs).

Selection criteria

This is an intensive programme of study taught to an informed international audience.

Applicants should be confident that they are academically and linguistically prepared for such a programme.

Academic requirements

Applications are welcomed from:

  • members of the clergy, especially as part of their continuing ministerial development;
  • theologians;
  • teachers of religious education; and
  • lay people with an interest in theological study at university level.

Although the direction of the summer school is essentially Christian, religious leaders and members of other faiths will be warmly welcomed as participants.

English language requirements

As participants are expected to engage fully in seminar discussions and may be required to produce written work it is important that applicants can demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in the four language skills - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must provide evidence of their competency in the form of an original certificate or a certified copy that is not more than two years old on the date the summer school starts. These applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • IELTS Academic - minimum overall score of 6.5, with not less than 6.5 in each of the four components
  • TOEFL iBT - minimum overall score of 100, with not less than 25 in each of the four components
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) - grade C or above.

For further information on English language qualifications:

However, non-native speakers of English who have successfully completed a full-time degree-level programme at a university where English is the language of instruction or who have significant business and professional experience in an English-speaking environment may not need to provide a certificate of English language qualification. Please contact the Programme Administrator for further details.