Theology Summer School



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

  • Exploring the theme "Human Being - Being Human: Theological Perspectives on Person and Community in an Age of Anxiety".
  • 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: 2-8 August - Morning Seminars

  • The Gospel of Matthew
  • The Mystery of Personhood: Classical Christian Reflections
  • Pauline Anthropology: What Does Paul Think Human Beings Are Like?

Week 1: 2-8 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • Discerning the Human
  • One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism? Sameness and Difference in Understanding the Human
  • Psychological Perspectives on Christian Character Formation

Week 2: 9-15 August - Morning Seminars

  • Can We Read the Incarnation in the Old Testament?
  • Early Christian Perspectives on Human Being
  • Flourishing Well: Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Week 2: 9-15 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • Female Disciples and Their Experience of God
  • 'School of the Lord's Service': Monastic Wisdom as a Guide to Being Human
  • Thinking 'Human': Image, Experience, God

Each seminar has five two-and-a-half hour meetings, and classes will usually contain no more than 18 participants. Classes run from 09.00-12.00 and 13.30-16.30, Monday-Friday, with a mid-session break of 30 minutes for coffee/tea.

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 - "Newman's Sacramental Vision"
    In the year of the canonisation of John Henry Newman, Professor Roderick Strange considers his significance for the Church's understanding of the human person.
  • Week 2 - "Adam and Christ, Human Solidarity before God"
    An approach to theological anthropology, presented by Professor Frances Young.

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

Week 1: 2-8 August

Morning Seminars

The Gospel of Matthew

The four evangelists were theologians as well as witnesses to the historical Jesus. For many centuries the most beloved of all the gospel-writers was Matthew, who was a brilliant poet and teacher. He writes from within the Jewish tradition, intent on showing that Jesus is its culmination and fulfilment. Modifying and often expanding the Gospel of Mark in his own way, Matthew incorporates much more of the moral teaching of Jesus, giving memorable and striking guidance for the Christian life. Recent discoveries continue to throw light on the motivations and force of this teaching.

Tutor: Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB, former Chair of the Oxford University Faculty of Theology and General Editor of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible.

The Mystery of Personhood: Classical Christian Reflections

This course will trace some of the theological anthropologies of the ‘golden age’ of Christian doctrinal formulation. It offers engagement with the potent reflections of such thinkers as Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Pontus and Dionysius and shows how they lead us to realise that true human selfhood is Godward oriented and leads to Christ. Growing into the image and likeness of Christ is what constitutes being human. At the same time we will see how Jesus Christ, true God and true Man is the perfect example of genuine personhood. The early historical period is bursting with remarkable events and striking characters that have borne fruit over time, promoting ever-fresh understandings of what it is to be a human person.

Tutor: Dr Julia Konstantinovsky is researcher and tutor in Theology, Patristics and the History of Late Antiquity at Oxford University.

Pauline Anthropology: What Does Paul Think Human Beings Are Like?

Paul never tells us precisely what he thinks about human nature, but it is clear that for him those humans who are ‘in Christ’ are somehow different. Sometimes he expresses this in terms of a ‘new creation’, because of what has happened in Jesus’s death and resurrection. He also speaks of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ which roughly means humanity as either closed to God or open to God. Somewhere in all this there is Paul’s attitude to women: does Paul think women are really human beings?’ Then there is the question of what Paul means by sin, and what it does to human nature. Does it, for example, obscure the sinner’s humanity? In Paul everything finally comes back to Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was, in effect, a falling-in-love with Christ, after which nothing was ever the same. For Paul Jesus was the model human being. All these aspects will be explored as Pauline anthropology.

Tutor: Fr Nicholas King SJ, New Testament scholar and writer. He is currently Assistant Catholic Chaplain for Oxford University at Campion Hall, Oxford.

Afternoon Seminars

Discerning the Human

This is an exploration of personal idealism as a framework for Christian belief. It involves discussion of the nature of the soul, the mind/brain relation, the place of humans in the history of the universe, the ultimate destiny of humanity and the personal nature of ultimate reality. These are among the most fundamental questions of Christian philosophy. To pursue them involves openness to many different and sometimes conflicting ideas, and a readiness to enjoy the process of enquiry and debate while remaining committed to faith in Christ.

Tutor: Professor Keith Ward, philosopher, theologian and former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University.

One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism? Sameness and Difference in Understanding the Human

Contemporary theology faces critical issues in a world in which faith is challenged by rising forces of populism, nationalism and xenophobia. Christianity has always affirmed the oneness of humanity and an essential connectivity across ethnic, cultural and geographical boundaries. The course will offer an analysis of how issues of power, dynamic relations between different groups and different constructions of personal identity affect what it means to be human. We explore how our humanity is impacted by issues of power, gender, ethnicity, ‘race’, sexuality, disability etc. We also consider how these factors might provide creative tools for Christian theology and ministry.

Tutor: Professor Anthony Reddie, Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent’s Park College, Oxford.

Psychological Perspectives on Christian Character Formation

This course will explore findings from contemporary empirical psychology in the area of positive emotions, character strengths and virtue and investigate their application to the task of Christian growth. This is a fairly new but rapidly expanding approach to the study of spirituality and discipleship. The course will bring psychological insights into conversation with the Bible and consider the contribution of classical Christian writers such as Ignatius of Loyola, George Herbert, and C S Lewis. The task of the seminar will be framed in terms of ‘cultivating the fruit of the Spirit’, a co-operative venture in which human psychology and the Holy Spirit work together in a process of radical transformation towards the ultimate goal of maturity in Christ. The approach will combine conventional academic study with simple (painless!) practical exercises and discussion.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt, Karl Jaspers Lecturer in Psychology and Spirituality at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford.

Programme details

Week 2: 9-15 August

Morning Seminars

Can We Read the Incarnation in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament is no mere preparation for the New; it is revelation in its own right. Its portrayals of the human condition are as valid now as ever, set against its great sweep of salvation history. Old Testament stories and experiences introduce themes that will become central to Christianity; the nature of God as love, the Word of God in the formation of community; how hope comes out of condemnation and faith from persecution. The doctrine of the Incarnation, of God’s humanity in Christ, did not come from nowhere: God’s engagement with his human creation pervades the whole of the Hebrew Bible. The course will be demanding, but not technical, assuming a familiarity with the broad outline of Old Testament history, and willingness to appreciate the literature of the Hebrew Bible.

Tutor: Canon Nicholas Turner, former lecturer in Old Testament studies at Oxford University, recently retired.

Early Christian Perspectives on Human Being

This seminar will engage with some early Christian texts so as to discover how the first Christian theologians thought about being human. We will consider the various ways in which they shared, yet also challenged, contemporary assumptions, especially those of the science of their day, medical philosophy, alongside other characteristic ideas drawn from scripture, such as creatureliness and being made in God’s image, Debates about bodiliness, attitudes towards disability, ill-health and death, as well as understandings of sin and salvation will figure large in discussion. Extracts from Irenaeus, Athanasius, the Cappadocians and Augustine will be shared with other lesser known but significant texts.

Tutor: The Revd Professor Frances Young, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham.

Flourishing Well: Sex, Gender and Sexuality

In this course we shall consider the ways in which sex, gender and sexuality have been understood throughout Christian history. We explore how biblical accounts of creation and human origins have informed various patterns of community and personhood, and consider how contemporary understandings might engage with them. We will debate Christian betrothal and marriage, together with changing understandings of marriage and how these have affected the Church. We will consider understandings of sexuality and gender as defined characteristics, as well as recent explorations of a more fluid approach, including transgender experience. Sharing of stories and experiences will be encouraged.

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

Afternoon seminars

Female Disciples and Their Experience of God

The dominant language of Christian theology and spirituality down the ages is patriarchal. The human norm is assumed to be male. But there have always been female disciples and there are challenges within the Gospel to the idea that women are any less than fully human. This course sets out to discover how women, and some men of medieval times renewed the language of the Christian faith through their own reading of the tradition and their own experience of God. We consider the contributions of Anselm, Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Julian of Norwich and others who show the significance of women’s response to God and perception of God.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury is the Precentor of Portsmouth Cathedral and is a researcher, writer and teacher in the field of medieval women’s literature and gender studies.

'School of the Lord's Service': Monastic Wisdom as a Guide to Being Human

This course explores the Christian monastic tradition as a spiritual way not only for monastics but for anyone who seriously wants to engage in living an integrated Christian life. In this seminar we shall explore the best known Monastic Rule, that of St Benedict of Nursia, though strong links will be made with other Rules, such as that of Basil, Augustine and Francis. In general we shall use the Rule of St Benedict (RSB) to examine the themes of Person and Community, Seeking God alone, Prayer and Work, Human Growth and Conversio Morum and Radical Openness to the World and to God.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons, Director of Studies for Theology and Religion at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education and Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

Thinking 'Human': Image, Experience, God

Three quandaries underlie contemporary Christian debate about ‘being human’. First, What is it to be ‘in the image and likeness of God’? Then there is the more personal, existential question, Who am I, who are we? Western people often reply in terms of some feature of their experience, which sometimes excludes those who I am unlike, which limits who is human to those who have experience like mine. Christians will also want to engage with a third quandary, to consider that being human means in terms of our createdness, what God has done for us in Christ and our end in God after death. These themes raise another issue, which should come first in our thinking about being human: creation, redemption or eschatology? This seminar will aim to help us think clearly about these issues and to develop our own views about them.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Andrew Moore is a research fellow of Regents Park College, Oxford.


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


Residential - £1,335 per week; Non-residential - £990 per week


Programme fees

  • Residential - £1,335 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 2 August to Friday 7 August 2020 inclusive (Week 1) or Sunday 9 August to Friday 14 August 2020 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 8 August and the morning of Sunday 9 August 2020.

  • Non-residential - £990 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 2020 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 2020, 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 2020.

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 April 2020 - course information, including detailed course content and required preparatory reading
  • In April 2020 - 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 July 2020 - confirmation of arrival day arrangements.

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 November 2019, but may change following the departure of the UK from the European Union (EU). We anticipate that, if changes are made, it is most likely that EEA and Swiss national participants 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 participants 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

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to enable you to be admitted to the UK. The university takes no responsibility for a visa being denied at any point before or during a course.

Please note that the standard cancellation policy applies in all cases. (See "Cancellations", above.)

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.



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).