Exploring the Nexus between Academic Freedom and Ecclesial Expectations

Dean Smith, Rob Fringer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review



Most denominational ministry training today is carried out in a higher education context. Such a context requires college leaders to adhere to a policy on academic freedom. Faculty and students must be able to enjoy the freedom to explore ideas even if those ideas do not align with the denomination's confessional stance. While the idea of academic freedom is mostly encouraged in theological colleges, anecdotal evidence suggests that there are points of tension where the desire to uphold academic freedom clashes with ecclesial expectations that candidates for ministry be strongly formed in a confessional ethos. In this paper, we will explore this tension from the perspective of the College Principal and Academic Dean who usually live in this space and thus face the many challenges found therein. We will also suggest that confessional formation and training need not be at odds with a policy of academic freedom. Rather, this tension, if understood , can provide a space for deeper formation and commitment to one's denominational distinctives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWondering about God Together
Subtitle of host publicationResearch-Led Learning and Teaching in Theological Education
EditorsLes Ball, Peter G. Bolt
Place of PublicationNew South Wales
PublisherSydney College of Divinity Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781925730036
ISBN (Print)9781925730029
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Theology - study and teaching
  • Theology - methodology
  • Research - methodology
  • Theology -- Methodology -- Congresses -- Australia


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