I missed the news in the venerable ODT, but caught up today through the Otago Bulletin that the University of Otago has succeeded in raising the money they need to establish a Chair and Centre for Theology and Public Issues Centre. The Bulletin reports:

New Zealand’s first research centre tackling social issues such as poverty, social welfare and the environment from a theological perspective is also soon to be established, thanks to the legacy of a millionaire entrepreneur.

The University has announced that the Howard Paterson Chair in Theology and Public Issues and an associated research centre will be established as part of its Leading Thinkers initiative.

The professorial appointee to the new Chair will direct a centre charged with undertaking and promoting informed theological and ethical analysis of the challenges facing contemporary New Zealand society.

The Chair and Centre for Theology and Public Issues are being made possible through a major gift by the Paterson Charitable Trust and substantial support from the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland, and Gore couple Ian and Annette Tulloch.

The Otago Centre will be based on the long-time Centre for Theology and Public Issues at New College, Edinburgh. It will be interesting to observe how things upfold. Curious to me, from earlier reports, is the proposed inclusion of MSD on the Board. I would have thought that theology’s engagement with the state is the subject of the Centre, not part of its governance. Hopefully the Centre does not become captive to Constantinianism before it makes its first utterance.

Raising the money for the Centre has been a great effort. For while the Centre has been in the making for years, it got the money faster than I thought they would. In their Annual Report to ANZATS for 2005 the Dept said:

The Department has begun the process of establishing a Centre for Theology and Public Issues. It is hoped to establish an endowment, sufficient to appoint a Professorial Director of the Centre in perpetuity. This project has been accepted as part of the University’s Advancement Campaign. In April, the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland made a Grant of $150,000 towards the establishment of the Centre. Murray Rae represented the Department at a meeting at the University of Edinburgh in September, when it was decided to establish the Global Network for Public Theology, of which the Department will be a part.

It is also interesting in light my previous posts about the demise of CASI that this Centre will take over some of the functions of that body – with Presbyterian funding. The Church won’t fund CASI properly but finds money for a university centre.

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