THE Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing 2013 has been
awarded to Dr Luke Bretherton for his book Christianity and
Contemporary Politics, published by Wiley-Blackwell, it was
announced this week (
Books, 24 May).
The prize was presented by the former Archbishop of Canterbury
Lord Williams of Oystermouth at the Telegraph Hay Festival on
Tuesday. Dr Bretherton, who is now the Associate Professor of
Theological Ethics at Duke University Divinity School in the United
States, was formerly Reader in Theology and Politics at King's
College, London. His book was described by Lord Williams as "a
finely argued theological take on the situation we face, based on
practical examples and resources".
On receiving the prize, Dr Bretherton said: "My book was born of
a deep pastoral concern about how the Church can faithfully
navigate contemporary political life." He described his hope of
giving "people tools and understanding in discerning the
relationship between Christian commitments and social, political,
and economic concerns".
Of the six shortlisted titles, Lord Williams said: "We were
deeply impressed with the level of sophisticated engagement with
the challenges and anxieties of the world we are in. Every
contribution has encouraged theological confidence, which is what
we want the prize to do."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby,
commented this week: "I am delighted that Rowan has agreed to
continue his excellent initiative this year, the Michael Ramsey
Prize. Equipping ordinary Christians, as well as church leaders and
thinkers, with a sound intellectual basis to their faith is more
important than ever in this age where Christianity is so often
challenged by aggressive secularism."
In his Church Times review of Christianity and
Contemporary Politics, the Revd Professor Michael Northcott
wrote of how Dr Bretherton had established himself "as a leading
figure in political theology by giving a profound synthetic account
of political theology and theology" (
Books, 25 June 2010).
Dr Bretherton has commented that he wrote the book in response
to "questions that repeatedly came up among those I worked with,
whether they were students, clergy, those working with faith-based
organisations, or Christians directly engaged in public life". He
described such questions as being "related to how to make sense of
and faithfully engage with politics by, on the one hand, not
compromising Christian beliefs and practice, and, on the other,
building a common life with non-Christian others".
On Tuesday, Dr Bretherton said that he was "very, very
surprised" to have won. He had thought that the Revd John
Gillibrand's book Disabled Church - Disabled Society might
get the award, as it was "beautifully written, and about a key
His own book was written out of pastoral concern, with the
intention of equipping those who were "struggling to connect
theology with social policy". It is an attempt to enable those
engaged in faith-based social action both to think practically
about how they can interact with others - other-faith groups and
organisations such as local councils - and also to reflect
theologically and critically about what they are doing.
He addresses questions for church projects such as the
conditions that might be attached to accepting state funding, and
the Christian ethos of social projects that reach across the whole
He hopes that the prize will give the book a higher profile so
that the "key audience" of "church leaders and people engaged in
public life will be stimulated to read it".
Dr Bretherton, who is originally from Ladbroke Grove in west
London, is 44 and married, with two young sons. He says that he
hopes to return to Britain in due course. He has won £10,000 and an
original artwork, a mosaic plaque made by Dee Hardwicke. The other
five shortlisted authors have been awarded £1000 each.