Social Policy Connections and the Yarra Institute are delighted to welcome the establishment of the new Centre for Research in Religion & Social Policy by the University of Divinity. It has always been our hope that the Melbourne College of Divinity (MCD), now the University of Divinity, would found such a centre to promote engagement by the Colleges with the wide concerns of social and public policy.
Origins of the Yarra Institute
After SPC began in March 2005 as an ecumenical advocacy network exploring social justice and public policy concerns, our members soon saw the need for a professional research organisation on social issues, drawing on the academic resources within the Melbourne College of Divinity.
After conversations with the MCD staff, and with their support and encouragement, in April 2009 Professor Brian Howe, the patron of the Institute, launched the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy as an independent ecumenical organisation, within the umbrella of the MCD, but not formally part of it. Both SPC and Yarra Institute were generously hosted at Yarra Theological Union at Box Hill.
Initial members of the Board included Rev Dr Stephen Ames (chair), Dr Wes Campbell, Dr Rowan Ireland, Dr Robyn Reynolds OLSH, and Dr Paul Rule. I was appointed Director. Later, members of the Board of Directors included Dr Matthew Beckmann OFM, Dr John Bottomley, Professor Therese D’Orsa, Dr Jim D’Orsa, Dr Anne Elvey, Major Brad Halse, Dr John D’Arcy May, Professor John McDowell, Dr Peter Price and Capt Genevieve Peterson.
Among the activities of the Yarra Institute are the following publications:
- Young People, Faith, & Social Justice by Dr Joan Daw (2012)
- A World United or a World Exploited? Christian Perspectives on Globalisation (Interface issue) (2013)
- Social Justice: Fuller Life in a Fairer World Bruce Duncan (2013)
- Social Justice & the Churches: Challenges & Responsibilities (2014)
- Working with Disaster: Clergy & Bushfires Lisa Jacobson (April 2015), in collaboration with John Bottomley at Creative Ministries Network.
Two others are about to be published:
- ‘Bonded through Tragedy: United by Hope. The Catholic Church & East Timor’s Quest for Nationhood. A Personal Account’. Memoirs of Bishop Hilton Deakin & East Timor, by Dr Jim D’Orsa and Professor Therese D’Orsa (Garratt Publishing)
- ‘Ecological Aspects of War: Engaging with Biblical Texts’, Anne Elvey (ed), Bloomsbury UK.
Another two projects are in train for publication in 2017.
The new Centre for Research in Religion & Social Policy
The University of Divinity realised the need formally to establish and own such a research organisation, and, in conversation with the Yarra Institute, in late 2016 established the Centre for Research in Religion & Social Policy, with Dr Gordon Preece as its Interim Director. His initial role is to set up the institutional framework for the Centre, and in mid-2017 a research director will be appointed. The new Centre will be hosted in the Study Centre at Yarra Theological Union.
Gordon is an Anglican minister at Spotswood, with a long involvement in editing and writing for Zadok Perspectives, and has numbers of publications. He has been Director of the Centre for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) at Ridley College, and of the Macquarie Christian Studies Institute, and is currently Director of Ethos, the Evangelical Alliance’s Centre for Christianity & Society at Box Hill. He also heads the Social Responsibility Committee for the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
The Committee of the new Centre consists of Prof Gabrielle McMullen (chair), Professor John McDowell, Dr Matthew Beckmann OFM, Revd John Bottomley, and Dr Timothy Jones from Latrobe University.
Winding up the Yarra Institute
In October 2016, the Board of the Yarra Institute dissolved itself and appointed myself and Dr Stephen Ames as an executive committee to finalise the various research projects commissioned by the Yarra Institute, and then formally to close the organisation late in 2017.
The members of the Yarra Institute are well pleased to see the University of Divinity formally commissioning the new Centre, and will endeavour to support and participate in its research work and activities.
The Yarra Institute will have a public finale to celebrate the baton change to the new Centre for Research on Wednesday 16 November 5:30-7pm at the Study Centre of Yarra Theological Union. This will be catered, so we would ask you to rsvp us if you wish to attend, after we send out the invitations very shortly. This event will allow us to thank and acknowledge the many people who have contributed to the Yarra Institute during the last eight years. There will be a formal opening of the new Centre at a later date.
Our Yarra Institute contact details at YTU remain the same : PO Box 505 Box Hill Victoria 3128 | 03 9899 4777 | 0409 897 971 | firstname.lastname@example.org .