The University of Divinity promotes the highest standards of scholarship in theology, philosophy and ministry.


In keeping with its vision, the University is pleased to announce the establishment of its new Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy, which commenced in late 2016.

Formally launched on Thursday 8 December 2016 in Melbourne CBD,
the Centre actively builds collaboration with the churches and agencies..


Reverend Dr Gordon Preece BA, MA, ThL, BD, PhD


Revd Dr Gordon Preece has been appointed Director of the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy. An Anglican Priest based in Yarraville, Melbourne, Dr Preece brings an extensive background in leadership and research to the role. His wide-ranging experience has seen him hold positions such as Director of the Centre for Applied Christian Ethics (Ridley College, The University of Melbourne), Executive Director of Urban Seed Melbourne and Director of the Macquarie Christian Studies Institute (MCSI). Currently Dr Preece is Director of Ethos (Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society), Chair and Executive of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne Social Responsibilities Committee, member of the Standing Committee and Board Member of the Theology of Work Project, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Divinity.

Dr Preece is a highly regarded scholar, researcher and lecturer with numerous publications, including eleven books on theology of work and ethics to his name. He is a public commentator in media forums (with Compass, Waleed Aly, John Faine, Jon Cleary, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Herald Sun) and for articles and reviews in journals, including ABC Religion and Ethics Online, Pacifica, Equip, Interface, Theology Today, International Journal of Systematic Theology and Foreign Affairs Journal. Additionally, Dr Preece’s writing has been featured in hundreds of articles in magazines including Alive, Baptist Witness (Victoria), Southern Cross and The Melbourne Anglican (TMA).  He edits the Australasian Religious Press 2013 best publication-winning and peer-reviewed Zadok Perspectives and Papers.

About his appointment, Dr Preece said:

I'm very excited and honoured to be taking on the Director's role for the new University of Divinity (UD) Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy. The Centre is a key step forward by the University in line with one of its major aims, that of public engagement. I'm looking forward eagerly to working with UD partner institutions and members of our centre in various cross-disciplinary research projects engaging major social policy issues of our time. We aim to make our research timely and of a relatively perennial public nature.


Centre Committee Members


Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM FRACI BSc(Hons), PhD


Following postdoctoral research in Germany Professor Gabrielle McMullen joined the Department of Biochemistry at Monash University and also became Dean of its Catholic residence, Mannix College, in 1981. She was then Rector of Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) Ballarat campus from 1995-2000 and its Pro- and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) until February 2011. In July 2011 she was appointed a Trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, which was established by Sisters of Charity of Australia in 2009 to continue their health and aged care, education and social service ministries. 

Professor McMullen is a member of the Council of the University of Divinity and also of the Council of the Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea. Her other community contributions have encompassed membership of education, health, theological and social services boards. A member of the Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research, her personal research interests include Catholic identity and mission, and the history of science..

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Reverend John Bottomley BA(Hons), DipSociol, MMin

After Methodist/Uniting Church congregational ministry in Melbourne’s outer suburbs (1974-82), John and other UCA ministers established the Urban Ministry Network as a research consultancy to focus their interest on ministry at work. John was the foundation Director, working for the Network for the next 32 years, including 13 years as a part-time congregation minister in East St Kilda. Since retiring from paid employment, John has established a consultancy, Transforming Work, and is active in his congregation’s Mission to Work Committee.

John’s research interests have addressed the trauma caused by the deep-seated violence in the way work is shaped by and shapes both our free-market economy and our political system of government.  John seeks to integrate the arts and faith with a commitment to personal and social transformation for healing, justice and reconciliation.


Professor Ruth Webber TPTC, BA(Hons), B.Ed, MEd, PhD

Professor Ruth Webber has qualifications in education, psychology and sociology.  She held an academic position at ACU between 1985 and 2004. She was the director of a research centre at Australian Catholic University (ACU) for 16 years during which time she led a research team of up to 12 researchers. She is an assessor for Australian Research Council Grants program.  She has been an active researcher for many years and has conducted research projects on such areas as: prison chaplaincy, youth spirituality and citizenship. 

For the past twelve years Dr Webber has been conducting research on health and ageing among people with an intellectual disability and has published widely on this topic and spoken at number conference in Australia and at international conferences. She is a member of the Disability Services Board (Victorian Government). Since her retirement from ACU in 2014 she has conducted evaluations of many programs for not-for-profit organisations utilising qualitative and quantitative methodologies. She has published over 80 journal articles, books or book chapters. She has honorary appointments at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Australian Catholic University and the University of Divinity.

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Dr Timothy JOnes PhD

Tim Jones is a cultural historian with a particular interest in gender, sexuality and religion, and research expertise in British, Australian and American history. From 2008 he was lecturer in History and Co-Director of the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales at the University of South Wales. From 2012 to 2015 Dr Jones was an ARC DECRA fellow jointly in History and the Australian Research Center in Sex, Health and Society at LaTrobe University.

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Dr Matthew Beckmann OFM, BA, LLB, BTheol, MA, PhD

Matthew Beckmann is a Franciscan friar who teaches at Yarra Theological Union in the areas of Systematic Theology and Church History.  His interests lie in the interplay of those two disciplines, how historical events shape theology and how theology, in turn, drive history.  He is a medievalist by training but also works with the theological ideas about salvation and redemption, the theology and history of the Franciscan Order and how theological ideas are disseminated and diffused.

He has worked for many years in the area of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.


Professor John McDowell BD (Hons), PhD

Professor McDowell has overall responsibility for the development and implementation of the University of Divinity’s research agenda and strategy, including research training, competitive grant funding, research collaborations, and policy frameworks. A systematic theologian, Professor McDowell has published 3 books and in excess of 30 book chapters and journal articles with a focus on the theology of hope.

Appointed as Director of Research in 2015, he was previously Meldrum Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the University of Edinburgh from 2000 to 2008, and from 2008 to 2014 held the Morpeth Chair in Theology and Religion at the University of Newcastle, Australia.


The Very Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe FRHistS OStJ

Andreas Loewe is Dean of Melbourne and is responsible for the worship, mission and life of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Melbourne and Anglican Province of Victoria. He is passionate about people, and prays that the Cathedral may be a place where many can experience the transforming love of God.

Andreas’ academic research centres on theology, as well as ecclesiastical and music history. He enjoys thinking about the Bible and Theology and in particular the way in which Scripture can be communicated through music. He has published widely in the fields of ecclesiastical history and music, and a selection of his recent publications can be viewed here.

He is a Fellow and Lecturer at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Prior to coming to St Paul’s Cathedral, Andreas was Senior Chaplain of Trinity College, The University of Melbourne, and Gavan Senior Lecturer in Theology at Trinity College Theological School, the University of Divinity, where he taught undergraduates and graduates, and mentored students preparing for Anglican ministry.

He is a member of the Council of the Diocese of Melbourne, the Council of the University of Divinity, the Council of Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School, and a Trustee of the Melbourne Anglican Trust Corporation.

From left: Naomi Wolfe (ACU), Gordon Preece (RASP Director), Mark Brett (Whitley College), Graeme Blackman (Chancellor), Peter Sherlock (Vice-Chancellor) and Gabrielle McMullen (Committee Chair) at the launch of the new Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy.

From left: Naomi Wolfe (ACU), Gordon Preece (RASP Director), Mark Brett (Whitley College), Graeme Blackman (Chancellor), Peter Sherlock (Vice-Chancellor) and Gabrielle McMullen (Committee Chair) at the launch of the new Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy.


Indigenous Issues: Religion and Social Policy

On Thursday 8 December, Dr Graeme Blackman OAM officially launched the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy (RASP). The new Centre will provide a means of engaging with the issues of the contemporary world - by stimulating research and engagement activity across the whole institution and by building external partnerships.

The event, held at Collins Street Baptist Church, was attended by over 60 members of the University of Divinity and associated organisations and included a short series of presentations on Indigenous Issues: Religion and Social Policy by Dr Mark Brett (Whitley College), Naomi Wolfe (Australian Catholic University) and Gordon Preece (Director of RASP).

Dr Mark Brett, Professor in Old Testament at Whitley College Theological School, opened his key-note address with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people, their elders and families past and present. Professor Brett pointed to the significance of the venue fondly recalling attending an event in the church a decade ago when Aunty Marg Gardiner (Wurundjeri) and Aunty Carolyn Briggs (Boon Wurrung) led a dialogue on “Spiritual Pathways to Reconciliation.”

Read the full address here »


Update on the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy

Provided to the University of Divinity Council on 26 April 2017

The Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy (RASP) is engaging with contemporary issues through stimulating research and engagement activity across the University of Divinity and by building external partnerships.  

Subsequent to the appointment in October 2016 of an interim Director, Revd Dr Gordon Preece, the position of Director was duly advertised on 4 March 2017.  Applications closed on 31 March with shortlisting to occur prior to Easter and interviews in early May. The substantive appointment commences on 1 July 2017.

The Interim Director and the RASP committee have worked to develop a particular focus and thematic areas for RASP in its initial period. Under the overall focus of Flourishing in a Fragile World, RASP is pursuing projects related to ecology, economics and wellbeing with their context encapsulated in the Appendix.

The RASP committee has developed a process for the appointment of members of the Centre who will support its research, publication and public engagement agendas. To date, the following have been appointed members:

  • Revd Dr Stephen Ames (The University of Melbourne)
  • Revd Dr Stephen Burns (Trinity College Theological School)
  • Dr Jonathan Cornford (Whitley College)
  • Revd Dr Bruce Duncan CSsR (Yarra Theological Union)
  • Dr Anne Elvey (Trinity College Theological School)
  • Dr Scott Kirkland (Trinity College Theological School)
  • Revd Dr Andrew Sloane (Morling College)
  • Mr Barney Zwartz (Centre for Public Christianity)

The Interim Director and members of the Centre have commenced active involvement in a range of research and public engagement activities. Current and potential RASP members and the RASP committee met with the Vice-Chancellor at the Centre for Theology and Ministry on 3 April to foster RASP’s development.
Following the successful forum on Indigenous issues associated with RASP’s launch on 8 December 2016, the Centre has planned a number of seminars for 2017, including:

  • The Legacy of War at 4-6pm on 2 April at Whitley College – the seminar will explore ecological and social justice perspectives on Australia’s involvement in wars with a particular focus on Afghanistan
  • An early evening forum on euthanasia and assisted suicide on 29 June at the Collins Street Baptist Church featuring Professors Peter Singer and Margaret Somerville