Chaplaincy Research Degrees

The Centre welcomes applications from those interested in working for a research degree (MPhil or PhD).

Any area of interest relating to chaplaincy would be considered. The following areas represent current research interests for the Centre:

  • The practice of chaplaincy in different sectors (including models of chaplaincy and questions of professionalism)
  • Empirical research into chaplaincy (especially qualitative approaches)
  • Chaplaincy in a multi-faith context
  • Chaplaincy and public policy (especially in relation to equality and diversity)
  • The implications of chaplaincy for an understanding of the public role of religion and spirituality
  • Ethical questions relating to chaplaincy
  • Chaplaincy education and professional development

Current research students:

Jo Bryant


Negotiated, Asserted or Assumed: The Status and Integration of Minority Faith Groups in Acute Healthcare Chaplaincy
Since the 1991 Patients’ Charter acknowledged the diverse religious needs of patients, visitors and hospital staff, significant developments have been made in the inclusion of non-Christian groups into NHS chaplaincy teams. This research aims to examine the implications of the shift from visiting minister to chaplain, and the extent to which minority faith groups have been integrated into chaplaincy teams. This exploration of integration is concerned with how minority faith chaplains and representatives relate to their chaplaincy colleagues, and how their institutions and respective faith communities perceive their role. Methodologies drawn from practical theology, sociology and religious studies will be employed, alongside qualitative ethnographic techniques for gathering data in a series of case studies. It is hoped that this project will introduce a greater diversity of voices into academic research in healthcare chaplaincy, and offer new insights about how the NHS is providing spiritual care for those of all faiths and none.

Further Information
Jo Bryant is a full time AHRC-funded PhD student based primarily at Cardiff University, supervised by Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray and Revd. Dr Andrew Todd. She graduated with a BA (hons) in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Leeds in 2012 and completed an MRes in Theology under the supervision of Professor Stephen Pattison at the University of Birmingham in 2014. Between her masters and PhD, Jo briefly worked for the NHS and took up an internship at Theos think tank, during which she assisted with the data collection for a national project on chaplaincy across all sectors.

Jo first became interested in chaplaincy during a summer research scholarship project during her undergraduate degree, which investigated the use of a multi-faith centre in a local hospital. During this research, she worked closely with the hospital chaplaincy team and became aware of the lack of academic research in the field. This led to a much broader interest in the way in which religion is required to negotiate its position in a secular context, the relationship between the established church and minority religious groups, and the contested status of sacred space.


Colin Butler


An Examination of the Military Covenant in the light of the Theory of Justice by John Rawls.
This work is broader than the title suggests as it has become a project that examines the enduring role of Christian theological thinking in contemporary Britain. Rawls is presented as a key representative proponent of a secular approach that explicitly removes religion from public debate. After showing his influence and offering a set of criticisms, the second aspect of the work will seek to illustrate how theologically informed thinking is able to offer legitimate insights to help underpin contemporary affairs.

Further Information
Colin Butler is an Army Chaplain who, after completing the MTh in Chaplaincy Studies, decided he would like to continue some directed academic work. Using funding available to service personnel, he has undertaken a project that should lead to a PhD. He is examining the Military Covenant in the light of some contemporary social philosophy theories.

As a member of the armed forces Colin, who is an Anglican clergyman, finds the combination of daily life with work and advanced study challenging but worthwhile. He finds it rewarding finding out about new ways of looking at the complexity that surrounds moral thinking in today’s world. He is often surprised at the direction he finds his studying takes him.

Married with adult children, Colin is now serving in the north-west of England.

Alan Steele


Military Virtue and the British Soldier in the Contemporary Operating Environment.
The British Army, which historically has had a Christian-based ethos, first formally articulated its moral values and standards in 2001 due to the perception that British youths no longer held ‘traditional’ values. The widespread questioning of the Christian moral framework in British society occurred in the same era that the British Army was increasingly committed to asymmetric conflicts that were morally complex and ambiguous, i.e. from the mid-twentieth Century to the present. Legalistic deontological and punitive consequentialist approaches to military ethics have proven inadequate in giving soldiers of the British Army a practicable moral foundation in these asymmetric conflicts. The understanding of virtue articulated by Thomas Aquinas, can provide just such a practicable moral foundation which, moreover, also has utility in the application of Just War Doctrine to asymmetric conflicts.

Alan Steele grew up in Zimbabwe and was trained and ordained as an Anglican clergyman there. He worked as a school chaplain in Zimbabwe, and was also involved in environmental education, running wilderness education camps. He moved with his wife and two children to the UK in late 1998 to join the British Army as a Chaplain. He has an MA in Classical Studies and an MPhil in African Wildlife Management, neither of which is particularly relevant to his ministry with British soldiers! He is currently a fulltime MPhil student at Cardiff, jointly supervised by Rev’d Dr Andrew Todd and Dr Peter Sedgwick, researching the applicability of Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of virtue to moral education in the contemporary British Army. In January 2017, after completing the MPhil, he will become the Army’s ethics subject matter expert, a task, the thought of which, he finds both daunting and exciting at the same time. Apart from browsing in secondhand bookshops, Alan’s other passion is his Klepper folding kayak – the queen of small craft! – and he is contemplating a camping trip along the Wye in the late summer, where he can combine both passions in one trip by stopping in Hay on Wye.