On October 26 of this year, the 2015 Vincent Strudwick Lecture was held in Oxford with Dr. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, as lecturer. This annual lecture series, begun in 2011, focuses on the topic of religion and public life and was founded by the Graduate Theological Foundation in cooperation with Kellogg College, University of Oxford, to honor the work of The Revd Canon Dr. Vincent Strudwick. Canon Strudwick is an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College, Emeritus Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, former Director of the Oxford Theology Summer School, and Fellow and Bishop John Tinsley Professor of Anglican Theology at the Graduate Theological Foundation. A long-time friend of the GTF, Canon Strudwick was instrumental in the establishment of a formal affiliation between the GTF and the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education in 1994. Canon Strudwick is a figure who is greatly loved and deeply cherished by the Oxford and GTF communities alike as was evidenced by the outpouring of support and appreciation during this year’s event. The GTF serves as the founding sponsor of the annual Vincent Strudwick Lecture with Kellogg College as host and organizer of the event.
Held in a large lecture hall of the beautiful new Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, the lecture was very well-attended by members of the greater Oxford academic and faith communities. Speaking on the theme of “Religion and Belief in Public Life: proposed new legislation in a time of cultural change,” Dr. Rowan Williams, who now holds the title of “Baron of Oystermouth,” explored issues such as contemporary suspicion of public institutions; the concepts of “legal universalism” and “universal recognition (that dignity is the foundation of rights); and how legal universalism demands input from, and recognition of, religious and moral views and perspectives. Dr. Williams posed questions as well, such as “Can religious institutions withdraw from legal universalism when their views are non-negotiable?” and “Is the expression of a view prejudicial to the dignity of others?” He discussed the work of two commissions in the UK studying issues related to his lecture topic and how the idea of legal universalism, meaning that “the law is everybody’s business and everybody’s protection,” is often not evident or is taken for granted. He explored legal universalism as a fragile construct, noting that it is important to include religious views to address the need of protection of minorities. While he acknowledged that there is a type of “generosity versus panic” within religious communities, he also urged religious communities to realize that their stance does not have or can’t demand automatic recognition. Following his lecture, Dr. Williams answered questions from the audience about secular society, the history of human rights discourse, and the success of religious groups versus challenges or successes of secularism within British society.
Following the Strudwick Lecture, invited guests were welcomed at Kellogg College, one of the 37 constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, for a reception and dinner. Attended by Kellogg College students, fellows, and special guests, including members of the GTF staff, the event included a number of distinguished leaders within the academic and faith communities of Oxford. To read about the guests and the lecture, please visit our Facebook page where you can peruse a number of photos and corresponding captions.
Learn more about Canon Strudwick and the Vincent Strudwick Lecture by visiting our website.