A Critical Evaluation of the Public Theology of Manchester Cathedral

  • Dominic Budhi-Thornton

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis seeks to critically evaluate the public theology of Manchester Cathedral. To do this, I have first analysed and interrogated dominant understandings of the nature of the public sphere in democratic societies and religion's potential contribution in this arena. I have observed three approaches to religion's publicness, which correspond to three key thinkers: John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, and Paul Ricoeur. I have used these approaches to analyse the field of public theology noting both the common features of public theology and the diversity of approaches among public theologians. By developing a public-ethnographic approach to the primary research context, I analyse three different areas of public engagement at the Cathedral: The Cathedral's interreligious character, its public theology of racial justice and its public theology of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Though Manchester Cathedral's public activity reaches beyond the three areas that I have selected, these three demonstrate key areas of concern and values which are active in all areas of its public activity. I explore how Manchester Cathedral's public engagement is shaped by two core concepts: common humanity and human flourishing. In this critical evaluation of the Cathedral's public theology, I attempt to show how Manchester Cathedral's inclusive public theology provides a foundation in which deeper conversations about ethics, justice, identity, and relationality may be conducted in the context of diversity. I demonstrate the risks of public theologies of inclusion at the Cathedral becoming theologies that homogenise people's differences and promote the need for some publics to be assimilated into a larger whole. Therefore, drawing on the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, and womanist, black, and queer theologies in particular, I attempt to understand how public theology needs to engage with the distinctive cultural and social visions of individuals and communities.
Date of Award31 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWren Radford (Supervisor) & Peter Scott (Supervisor)

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