Introducing Dr Joe Forde
Joe Forde is our latest student to be awarded his PhD. Here is a little about him
Can you say a little about yourself?
When I am not studying I like walking our pug, gardening, listening to the radio, internet blogging, and visiting cafés with my wife, Carole.
What brought you to the Urban Theology Union?
I took early retirement in 2014 and had time on my hands. I wanted to explore more deeply my Catholic faith and reengage with academic study, as, in my youth, I had enjoyed my time as a student. A friend of mine mentioned UTU to me and I took things from there.
What would you say is distinctive about the UTU way of learning?
UTU is flexible and varied in the range of areas it can provide supervision for PhDs. It values group activity as well as one-to-one learning and is ecumenical in its ethos.
Can you tell us a little about your PhD?
Anglican Socialism and Welfare
What approach should the Church of England take to welfare after the financial crash of 2008? My PhD answers that question by examining it through the lens of the Anglican Socialist tradition, with specific reference to the Blue Socialist thinking of John Milbank. It examines the influence Milbank’s thinking has had on the Church of England’s approach to welfare since 2008; in particular, its handling of the ‘Big Society’ project following advice it received in a General Synod paper in 2010 (GS1804) from Malcolm Brown, its Director of Mission and Public Affairs, and it analyses the influences that shaped that advice. It is critical of the way GS1804 sought to align the Church’s positioning on welfare, with the Blue Labour/Red Tory political phenomenon that Milbank’s Christendom theology partly underpinned. In significant part, it attributes the favourable response the Church gave to the ‘Big Society’ project in 2010, 2011 and early 2012 to this. It argues that that response was a theo-political misjudgement, which compromised its ability to hold the Coalition Government to account for the failings of the ‘Big Society’ project during its first two years. It partly attributes this misjudgement to an inadequacy in its current thinking on the theology of the state, and invites clarification on this from the Church as part of a wider review of how it should engage with the state in the future. It concludes that the Church should learn lessons from its handling of the ‘Big Society’ project and the influence Milbank’s thinking had on it, and return to shaping its approach to welfare around a defence of William Temple’s Welfare Statist legacy, but remaining open to the need for ongoing modernisation of it. It should therefore be sceptical of the broad thrust of Milbank’s Blue Socialist vision for determining the Church’s role in the provision of welfare.
So, what now Dr Forde?
I am continuing with UTU working with Ian Duffield as I move towards publishing my thesis.