The Berkeley Public Theology  Program, supporting the study of theology in a globalizing world

Berkeley Public Theology Program

In Spring 2015, the Henry Luce Foundation awarded BSCR a three-year, million dollar grant for a Berkeley Public Theology Program, to begin in Spring 2016 and run through Fall 2018. This program integrates robust academic research, student engagement, BCSR programming, and outreach beyond the university to the public at large. Through this Program, BCSR aims to reshape the landscape of religious studies at Berkeley and chart new paths for the study of religion in the public university.


Public Theology Inquiry Group
A long-term faculty collaborative research group comprised of faculty from UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union is charged with overseeing the Berkeley Public Theology Program and developing robust research programs, conferences, and workshops that invite scholars to Berkeley in the hopes of changing how we think about theology in the modern world.


Theology and the Public University
In order to reorient theological study, the Public Theology Program will support a broad and comparative investigation of the ways this study happens, past and present, here and abroad. This investigation will unfold as a series of two annual fall workshops on comparative approaches to theology, with participants drawn from a diverse group of institutions. These workshops culminate in a major international conference in 2018, which convenes leading scholars and intellectuals from across the world in order to open American higher education to the variety of ways that theology might be done in different political, legal, and religious settings.

Our past Vernacular Theologies Event


Theology and East Asian Traditions
Inquiry into theology must include comparison and description of the commitments and modes of inquiry of all traditions. As a paradigmatic case, we examine how a public university should engage the rich and multi-vocal canons that influenced two thousand years of East Asian civilization. Workshops scheduled for Spring 2016 and Spring 2017 bring together scholars who are redescribing the role that Asian traditions have played in Asia and the West.

Our past West to East Special Event


Berkeley Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Public Theology
For academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18, BCSR will support a top early career scholar to come to Berkeley for one year. The Public Theology fellows are integrated into the activities of BCSR and its Public Theology program, including workshops and the development of model curricula.


New Directions in Theology Graduate Student Grants
New Directions grants supports eight early-career graduate students working on topics related to religion with $5,000 in funding and regular meetings with faculty to discuss relevant readings and receive intellectual guidance.


Theology in the Curriculum
In order to serve the expressed interests of undergraduate students, BCSR faculty use the Berkeley Big Ideas courses as a platform for exploring theological topics. In 2018, six faculty are invited to develop new curriculum exploring theological topics and will work with the university to implement this curriculum.


Public Programs
Berkeley Lectures in Public Theology
This program invites innovative thinkers and public figures to Berkeley to reflect on the past, present, and future of theological inquiry. The program will feature several lectures per year for the period of the grant. The capstone of this series is an annual Luce Lectureship in Theology, in which a person of major international stature gives both a public lecture and one-day workshop.

Sacred Texts, Public Talks
Beginning 2017, a series of public events seeks to engage the world beyond Berkeley, reaching out to religions organizations, communities, and the public at large to converse on specific religious texts. Unlike our other programs, these events take place off the Berkeley campus, bringing together the academic talent of our institutions and communities that are too often peripheral to the conversations on religion that we aim to create.


Faculty Research Groups
As a way of integrating the Berkeley Public Theology Program with the innovative research of Berkeley faculty, BCSR will support a series of faculty research projects that advance both BCSR’s larger Religion in the World Initiative and the Berkeley Public Theology Program. By linking these projects together, we aim to build a distinctive approach to religion that sees its dynamic interrelationship with the world around us.


Each of these programs includes a workshop and a faculty research group. Topics include Theology and Religious Practice (Saba Mahmood, Anthropology), Places of Religion (Thomas Laqueur, History), Technologies and Media of Religion (Niklaus Largier, German, and David Marno, English), Object Histories: Religion in Translation (Beate Fricke, History of Art), The Religious Sensorium (Charles Hirschkind, Anthropology), and Theology and Economy (Susanna Elm, History).