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Comment > Letters to the editor >

Is there a theological brain drain?

Sir, — Your recent extract, concerning the Revd Sarah Coakley, from Rupert Shortt’s book God’s Advocates ( Features, 9 September) illuminated an accelerating trend in the UK. We are losing our most able theologians to America.

I am no academic, but just looking around people I know on the move at the moment, I see Dr Sam Wells, one of the finest young moral theologians, and Dr Mark Goodacre, one of the leading English New Testament scholars, both off to Duke University.

It is not that the whole missionary enterprise depends on theologians. But unless challenging and deep theology is taught and experienced, a Church seeking to preach the gospel in a post-Christendom world will simply end up mouthing easy platitudes. (After all, there is quite a lot of evidence of this already.)

If British universities can no longer afford to teach theology, the Church of England’s preference for placing theological colleges near universities cannot solve the educational issues of the next few decades.

Training theologians and then creating the exciting and challenging contexts in which they can do their most creative work may seem like an impossible dream in the current intellectual climate in this country. The question is whether we have a future as a missionary Church without such investment.
NICHOLAS HENSHALL
Derby Cathedral Centre
18/19 Iron Gate
Derby DE1 2GP

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