School of Divinity

About CTPI

The Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI) promotes reflection and research on important public issues to which Christian theology can make a constructive contribution.

Founded in 1984 as the world's first centre for research on public theology, CTPI is a unique meeting place for theologians, social scientists, church leaders, policy makers and the public. Carrying on the University of Edinburgh's tradition of linking academic work to the surrounding community, CTPI is rooted in its Scottish context and oriented towards the wider global setting. CTPI has close connections with a wide range of local, national and international groups and institutions. In addition to Scotland, recent focus areas include the former Yugoslavia, the Millennium Development Goals, and British religious art.

CTPI was founded by Duncan Forrester to carry on New College's long tradition of public engagement. Forrester wished to promote a type of theological reflection responsive to the voices of the oppressed, and borne from intensive social scientific study of concrete issues affecting public life. Theology, he contended, should not just be for theologians, but should equip interested advocates and policy makers to make changes in the public sphere consistent with their theological convictions.

After Professor Forrester retired in 2000, Will Storrar took his place as CTPI director. Among his other contributions during his tenure at CTPI, Professor Storrar created the Global Network for Public Theology to unite other public theology research centers from around the world. CTPI remains an active member in the Global Network. Subsequent to Professor Storrar's departure for the Center for Theological Inquiry, in Princeton, the directorship passed to Dr Cecelia Clegg. Dr Clegg brought expertise in reconciliation and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland to the centre, where she initiated a two year project on 'Theology in the Public Square'. Professor Jolyon Mitchell took over as director in August 2009, and has initiated several new research projects.

CTPI is a university centre for academic research in public theology. "Public theology" describes a way of doing theology that has its focus on issues of public concern in the contemporary world. CTPI has accordingly hosted numerous conferences and published dozens of books and papers. Topics include public health, national identity, economics, poverty aid, justice, global health, the Reformation, sectarianism, media violence and peacebuilding, and many others. CTPI is committed to dialogue with the public, policy makers and practitioners, scholars from other academic disciplines and religious leaders from around the world.

Public theology

At its core, CTPI is a university centre for academic research in public theology.

The term public theology describes a way of doing theology that has its focus on issues of public concern in the contemporary world, as can be seen from the work we have done on:

  • poverty and welfare
  • justice and the penal system
  • peace and international security
  • suicide and public health
  • finance and ethics
  • national identity
  • devolution and citizenship

The Centre has the freedom to spot the issues of the future and offers opportunities for their timely consideration.

We are also committed to collaborating with colleagues from other academic disciplines and from different faiths and convictions.

Dialogue with the public

Dialogue is intrinsic to the work of the Centre.

We are particularly concerned with the dialogue between theologians and:

  • other scholars
  • policy makers and practitioners
  • the public, especially those whose voices are often not heard but who feel the impact of public policy on their lives

The Centre extends this dialogue and disseminates its findings through its programme of public conferences, its newsletter and its many publications.