Professor John Swinton

Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies

BD, PhD (Aberdeen), RMN (Registered Mental Nurse),
RNMD (Registered Nurse for People with Learning Disabilities)

Professor John Swinton

Contact Details

Telephone: +44 (0)1224 273224
Email: j.swinton@abdn.ac.uk
Address: School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, King's College, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen. AB24 3UB
hCard

Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/centre-for-spirituality-health-and-disability-182.php 

Aberdeen University Centre for Ministry Studies: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/centreministrystudies.php

The Kairos Forum For People With Cognitive Or Intellectual Disabiltes: http://thekairosforum.com/

 

 

 

Research Interests

Psalm 147 The foundation for much of my research and teaching has emerged from my background in nursing, ministry and healthcare chaplaincy. I worked as a nurse for sixteen years initially within the field of mental health and latterly within the area of learning disabilities. I also worked for a number of years as a hospital chaplain, latterly as a community mental health chaplain. It was whilst working in these fields that I began to gain a passion for developing modes of care that are genuinely person centred and which take seriously the significance of theology, spirituality and religion within the processes of healing, healing and community building.

I am an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland with a strong commitment to supporting the work of the church. I am member of Aberdeen Presbytery and currently secretary of Christ's College, which is responsible for the welfare and education of candidates for the ministry of the Church of Scotland.

I have a particular interest in multidisciplinary education and research. At present I teach cross-college courses in the schools of nursing and medicine at the University of Aberdeen. For a number of years I have taught an interdisciplinary course on spirituality and health that involves nursing students, medical students and students from the Arts and Theology. To my knowledge there is no other course like this in the UK. I also teach on spirituality and healthcare to nurses and occupational therapists at Robert Gordon's University in Aberdeen.

I also engage in cross-college interdisciplinary research. An example of this would be our ongoing collaborative research with Professor Steve Heys who heads up the Breast Cancer Unit at Forresterhill Hospital in Aberdeen. We are working on a number of projects exploring the relationship between spirituality and women's experiences of breast cancer.

My research profile is similarly multidisciplinary in its emphasis, and I have published extensively within the area of practical theology, pastoral care, mental health studies, disability theology and nursing.

I am honorary professor of nursing in the Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing at the University of Aberdeen ( http://www.abdn.ac.uk/nursing/) where I teach the role of the humanities and healthcare, nursing ethics and qualitative research. I supervise PhD students in nursing studies within a variety of areas. I continue to research and publish in the areas of nursing and medicine.

Disability Theology

I have a strong interest in disability issues and in particular the theology of disability. We are currently working on a variety of important projects. We have just completed an Arts and Humanities Research Council fudned project to develop an approach to accessing the spiritual lives of people with advanced dementia. This project is now completed and the materials are beign produced within The Purple Bicycle Project. This is a unique project that will fill a vital gap in our practical and theological knowledge. We are currently working on various projects within the area of disability studies exploring areas such as: dementia, theology and mental health, genetics and disability, the spirituality of people with profound and complex needs, religion and autism.

I have a new book out on dementia: Dementia: Living in the Memories of God and myself and my colleague Dr. Brian Brock have a new reader in disability which came out in 2012: Disability in the Christian Tradition: A reader (Eerdmans 2012). I've also just finished a littel book on mental health in the Parish which I wrote with Jean Vanier: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mental-Health-Inclusive-Church-Resource/dp/0232530661 

 

Pastoral Care

I have a particular interest in the pastoral ministry of the church. This interest emerges from my position as a minister in the Church of Scotland as well as my background in nursing and hospital chaplaincy. I teach courses at postgraduate and undergraduate levels focusing on various aspects of pastoral care and counselling and have a number of publications which explore various dimensions of this area of ministry. I am particularly interested in mental health issues both as they relate to the spiritual dimensions of care offered by religious communities as well as the spiritual care offered by established "secular" mental health services. I also have an interest in the role of the church as a community in the care of marginalised people. I direct the department's MTh program in Practical Theology which provides a unique blend of pastoral, ethical and missional studies designed to enable students to develop vital insights and skills within this area.

 

Current Research

The School of Practical Theology in Aberdeen has developed a unique prespective which brings together practical theology and combines it creatively with moral theology in a way that is academically rigorous and practically transformative. Our discipline begins and ends with inquiries focused on practices. The ground for this focus is an understanding of faith as a lived entity. Our task is to think through faith not as "belief" but as lived. Thus the primary reference of our theologizing is the lived life in all its contemporary forms. This contrasts with biblical studies focus on texts, systematics focus on doctrines, church history's focus on the history of the community of faith, but relies on these forms of inquiry in understanding what it means for faith to be lived.

Collaborations

The Kairos Forum for people with Intellectual or Cognitive Disabilities

(KFICD) seeks to highlight and respond to the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities. Our aim is to facilitate the crafting and empowerment of ‘community of belonging’, both within religious and secular settings. Our expertise will provide specialist services and resources which will enable and empower people with disabilities to experience dignity, respect, care, access and authentic participation within well formed and empathic communities

 

European Society for Theology and Disability

The European Society for the Study of Theology and Disability seeks to stimulate and support theological reflection on the lives of people with disabilities and their families. It confesses that the Christian Church and its theology often have not used their valuable sources to support such people. It therefore seeks to include people with disabilities in its own activities. It believes that rigorous theological thinking has much to contribute positively to the understanding of social and cultural processes that currently shape their lives. It is particularly concerned with tendencies that target "disability" as a problem to be solved, and that approach it within the framework of liberal individualism and its obsession with consumer choice. The Society brings together people who are committed to support the increasing participation of people with disabilities in Christian communities and in society at large through their research and writing.

 

Centre for Minsitry Studies

I recently formed teh Aberdeen University Centre for Minsitry Studies. (CMS) The Centre endeavours to be a centre of excellence that seeks to facilitate world class education and training for people involved in Christian ministry at home and internationally. Through developing and nurturing creative and innovative working relationships between the academy and the church, the Centre strives to produce scholarly work and practical training initiatives designed to enable people to think and to practice well.

 

Teaching Responsibilities

I teach courses within a variety of areas including:

  • Pastoral care and counselling
  • The theology of disability
  • Theology, spirituality and mental health
  • spirituality, health and healing
  • The church in a post-modern context
  • Healthcare ethics
  • Qualitative research methods.

I teach and supervise students at postgraduate and undergraduate levels within the full range of practical theology.

External Responsibilities

I am a former member of the AHRC panel review committee, the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology, the International Academy of Practical Theology and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Scottish Association of Healthcare Chaplains and a registered member of the NMC. (Nursing and Midwifery Council) I  sit on the National Board of Social Responsibility within the national Church of Scotland and the local boards of mission and ministry.

I am curretly one of the editors of the Journal of Health and Social Care Chaplaincy. I am a former editor of Contact: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Pastoral Studies (Contact (Now re-titled Practical Theology) is the leading journal of practical theology within the United Kingdom).I was the founding editor of the Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplains. I sit on the editorial board of various other leading pastoral journals in Britain and the United States including: The Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, Contact, The Scottish Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, The Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy.

Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability (CSHAD)

In 2004 I founded the Centre for the Study of Spirituality, Health and Disability (CSHAD) http://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/centre-for-spirituality-health-and-disability-182.php  The Centre aims to enable academics, researchers, practitioners and educators to work together to develop innovative and creative research projects and teaching initiatives within the areas of spirituality and health and the theology of disability. It seeks to enable a transformation within current health and social care practices and policies that will move caring services, including religious communities, towards a more compassionate, health oriented and genuinely person centred approach to the practice of caring. The centre houses a number of unique research projects and innovative educational initiatives aimed at pastoral carers and health and social care professionals.

Keynote Presentations

October 17thHarvard Divinity School, Boston, "Still Waters Run Deep: Re-imagining dementia and humanness."

October 17th Harvard Divinity School, Boston, "Attending to God in Suffering."

October 12th - 13th James A. Gray Lectures, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina. "Every-Body Has a Place: The body of Jesus as a place of belonging;" "Passing Time Back Through The Heart: Dementia, belonging and the memory of our bodies."

June 4th 2015. Lochmann Lectures Rhein, Switzerland. Using our Bodies Faithfully: Christian friendship, disability and the life of worship.

April 22nd 2015. The HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, Orlando.  Finding Room for God: A Practical Theology For Spiritual Care In Healthcare

April 2015. St Andrews University-The Templeton Lecture. L’Arche: a Road to Peace
through Disability.

Jan 24th 2015.Azuza Pacific University, Los Angeles, Friends of time: Time, disability and humanness.

Jan. 23rd 2015. Fuller Seminary, Pasaden. Who is the God we Worship: A theology of disability

Jan 21st 2015. Biola University, Los Angeles, Disability, Theology and human bodies.

Jan 17th 2015. Joni and Friends Conference, Los Angeles Unseen Disabilities: Theology and depression

October 2014. J. J. Thiessen Lectures, Canadian Mennonite University, WinnipegA Graceful Embrace:  What might a theology of mental health and illness look like?

September 2014, Word & World Lecture, Luther Seminary, Minneapolis, "Time, Hospitality, and Belonging: Towards a Practical Theology of Mental Health and Illness"

June 2014. Hammond Care Conference, Sydney, Australia.'Who is the person in person centred care?: Why living with dementia can bea risky business.'

June 2014. Broken Bay Institute, Sydney, Australia. 'Reimaging Life Together: Building Spiritual Communities of Belonging.'

May 2014. European Network for Healthcare Chaplains, Salzburg, Austria. 'Chaplaincy as the soul of healthcare.'

May 2014. The School'of'Missionand Theology, Stavanger, Norway. 'Theology and mental health care: Re-thinking the "ordinary."

May. 2014. European Conference on Religion, Spirituality nd Health, University fo Malta, Malta. 'Re-imagining mental health.'

February 2014. Walking Together: Christian Communities and faithful Responses to Mental Illnes, Houston, USA. 'Reimagining Life Together: Creating Communities That Care.'

February. 2014. NLA University College, Bergen, Norway.'What kind of knowledge is theology?: Re-thinking practical theology and correlational methods.'

January 2014.The University of Zurich, Switzerland. 'Interiority and Christian Spirituality: Why our inner lives are not quite as inner as we might like to think.'

January 2014. The University of Malmö, Sweden. 'A practical spiritualiy of dementia.'

September 2013. Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference, University of Durham.'Ethnography is for Jesus!: why the name of Jesus seems to annoy ethnographers.

May 2013. University of Chicago, Chicago. ‘What does it mean for Christian’s to care?’

May 2013. Aged care and Community Services Western Australia annual conference, Perth, Australia. ‘Advanced dementia and the significance of the present moment.’

May 2013. University of Zurich, Switzerland. ‘What makes a Parish Inclusive?

March 2013. Society for the Study of Theology, University of Leeds. ‘On being a disciple when you’ve forgotten who God is: Dementia as time for learning.’

July 2012. Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, Toronto. ‘Disability, Hospitality and Friendship: Some Jewells for the journey.’

July 2012. The 5th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality, Edinburgh. ‘Dementia, spiritual formation and the art of practicing what we preach.’

June 2012. Laidlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand. ‘Every-Body Has A Place: Towards a Practical Theology of Disability, Hospitality and Belonging.’

February 2012. Master Class Maudsley Hospital, London: Beyond Kindness: The role of compassion in forensic mental health care.

November 2012. American Academy of Religion, Chicago. 'Why Ethnography needs Jesus.'

September 2012. Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia: 'Living well with dementia.'

May 2012. University of Hull. Debate with John Paley: 'Contemporary definitions of spirituality embrace everything and mean nothing.'

March 2012. Rampton Hospital, England. 'Compassion towards mentally disordered offenders?

March 2012. Uniting Church, Adelaide, Australia. Lecture series on mental health and disability.

January 2012. Palmer Lecture, Seattle Pacific University. 'From Believing to Belonging: Why including people with disabilties is not enough.'

November 2011. American Academy of Religion Conference, San Francisco. 'A Christian ethnography?'

November 2011. Johannelund Theological Seminary, Sweden. 'Dementia, theology and care.'

November 2011. Orebro Theological Seminary, Sweden. 'The spiritual lives of people with severe intellectual disabilties.'

July 2011. British and Irish Association for Practical Theology annual conference. 'Autism and love: What does love look like?' London School of Theology.

March 2011. Royal College of Nursing Spirituality and Health Care Conference, London. 'Spirituality and people with learning disabilities'.

June 2011. European Society for the Study of Disability Theology annual conference. 'Autistic Love.' Schoorl, Holland.

May 2011. Annual Malcolm Goldsmith Lecture. Who will hold my soul?: Dementia, friendship and
spirituality of caring communities.' University of Edinburgh.

September 2010, Theology, dementia and resurrection identities. University of Durham, UK.

May 2010 Looking at and Living in: Remembering the personal in religion and health research. 2nd European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health, Berne, Switzerland.

February 2010 Raging with Compassion: Pastoral responses to the problem of evil. Ambrose Theological Seminary, Calgary, Canada.

September 2009 Spirituality in healthcare Catholic University, Seoul, Korea.

September 2009 Spirituality and dementia care. The Better Practice Conference, Melbourne, Australia.

September 2009 Positioning, holding, and loving. The spiritual heart of dementia care. International conference on Ageing. University of Auckland, New Zealand.

March 2007 Learning From The Disabled: An interdisciplinary symposium sponsored by the Templeton Foundation L'Arche, Le Ferm, Trosley-Breuil, France.

March 2007. King's College London 'Practical Theology and Qualitative Research.'

December 2007 Health in the midst of mental illness. Duke Medical school, North Carolina.

October 2007 Theology and learning disabilities Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia.

October 2006 Houston Baptist University. 'Spirituality and healthcare: Why nursing needs spirituality.'

October 2006: Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies, Canberra, Australia. 'Alzheimer's and successful ageing?: A theology of dementia care.'

August 2006 The Role of Christian Practices in End of Life Issues: Medical and theological foundations: An interdisciplinary symposium in collaboration with Duke Divinity School, North Carolina.

June 2006 College of Healthcare Chaplains-Durham 'Why healthcare needs chaplains:'http://www.wwwbeeson.co.uk/healthcarechaplains/conference06/conf06day2.htm

May 2005 Lecture Series: 'Theology, Mental Health and depression.' Princeton Theological
Seminary
, Princeton, New Jersey.

May 2005 ACPE Annual conference, Tuscarora, Pennsylvania 'Lecture series:
'Spiritual care as hermeneutics.'

June 2005 Royal College of Psychiatrists AGM, Edinburgh Why Psychiatry Needs
Spirituality.

November 2004 American Academy of Religion Conference, San Antonio Beyond the social
model of disability: theological responses to reflections on disability, deafness and mental ill health
.

November 2004 University of Newcastle What are people for? Why it might not be such a good
idea to kill disabled babies.

October 2004 Ashworth Hospital, Liverpool Spirituality and Forensic Health Care.

August 2004 Tayside NHS Trust conference on Spirituality and Human Well-Being More to life than Science: The importance of spirituality as meaningful knowledge.

June 2004 Glasgow Caledonian University Theological foundations for nursing.

April 2004 University of Kampen, Holland. Spirituality and the care of the elderly.

February 2004 University of Glasgow. Spirituality in Contemporary Scotland: A healthcare perspective.

January 2004 University of Aberdeen international, multidisciplinary conference: Integrating
Spirituality into Healthcare Practices: Remembering the "Forgotten Dimension." Spirituality and mental health care.

January 2004 University of Cambridge Symposium on the
Spiritual Dimensions of Healing (chaired by Sarah Coakley). Spiritual Healing as Hermeneutics: A practical theological exploration of Jesus' healing miracles.

August 2003 Joint Institute of Theology Lectures 2003, University of St Andrews. Pastoral
Response to Evil - transforming lives of victims and perpetrators of evil.

April 2003 University of Manchester. International Association for Practical Theology Annual
Meeting. The body of Christ has Down's Syndrome: Theological reflections on L'Arche, disability and Graceful communities.

November 2003 Prague, Czech Republic. Overcoming Violence: A challenge for the European
Churches. Suicide amongst young men in Scotland. November 2002. King's College Conference Centre, University of Aberdeen Symposium on Palliative Care. Spirituality in Palliative Care.

September 2002 Royal Society of Medicine, London Creativity and learning disability: recognition, nurture and celebration.

January 2002 Royal College of Psychiatrists Special Interest Group on Spirituality in Psychiatry. Does evil have to exist to be real? The social construction of evil and the practice of mental health care.

December 2001 Harvard Medical School, Boston. Spirituality & Healing in Medicine: Practical Usage in Contemporary Healthcare.

December 2005. Stead Centre Lecture: 'Why it might not be such a good idea to kill disabled babies.' Garret Theological Seminary, Chicago.

May 2005 Lecture series: 'Theology, Mental Health and Depression.' Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey.

May 2005 ACPE Annual conference, Tuscarora, Pennsylvania 'Lecture series: 'Spiritual care as hermeneutics.'

November 2004 American Academy of Religion conference, San Antonio.? 'Why disability matters.'

October 2004 Spirituality and Mental Health Conference, Ashworth Hospital, Liverpool . 'Why science struggles with
religion and spirituality.'

February 2004 Spirituality in Contemporary Scotland Conference-University of Glasgow. 'Spirituality in healthcare.'

January 2004 Integrating Spirituality into Healthcare Practices? Remembering
the
"Forgotten Dimension
University of Aberdeen international, multidisciplinary conference. 'Spirituality and mental health care.'

January 2004 Symposium on the Spiritual Dimensions of Healing (chaired by Sarah Coakley) University of Cambridge. 'Spiritual Healing as Hermeneutics: A practical theological exploration of Jesus' healing miracles.

September 2003 College of Healthcare Chaplains Annual Meeting. Leeds 'Listening, hearing and understanding.'

April 2003 International Association for Practical Theology Annual Meeting. University of Manchester. 'The body of Christ has Down's Syndrome: Theological reflections on L'Arche, disability and Graceful communities.'

March 2003 'Chaplaincy Tomorrow Conference, Crieff. 'Can chaplains be healthcare professionals?'

January 2003 Tayside Health Board Conference on Spirituality and Healthcare, Dundee. 'Why bother with spirituality?'

November 2003 Overcoming Violence: A challenge for the European Churches. Prague, Czech Republic. 'Suicide amongst young men in Scotland.'

November 2002. Symposium on Palliative Care. 'Spirituality in Palliative Care.' King's College
Conference Centre, Aberdeen.

September 2002 Creativity and learning disability: recognition, nurture and celebration ? Royal Society
of Medicine, London

June 2002 'Spirituality in dementia care.' 1st Global Conference Making Sense of: Health, Illness and Disease St Hilda's College, Oxford.

January 2002 Royal College of Psychiatrists Special Interest Group on Spirituality in Psychiatry. 'Does
evil have to exist to be real? The social construction of evil and the practice of mental health care.

December 2001 Harvard Medical School, Boston. 'Spirituality & Healing in Medicine: Practical Usage in Contemporary Healthcare.'

March 2001 ? New College, University of Edinburgh ? Special lecture: 'Resurrecting the Person: Liberation theology and people with severe mental health problems.'

June 2001 ? Wayne Oates Institute, Louisville, Kentucky
(Annual Conference) 'Spirituality and Mental Health.'

2000 St John's College Lecture, University of Durham: 'Liberation Theology and Schizophrenia.'

September 1999 - 4th National Symposium on Multidisciplinary Care in Forensic Psychiatric Services
at Aberdeen Exhibition Centre. 'Spirituality and Forensic Nursing.'

April 1999 - The 8th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference, Wheaton College, Illinois.? 'Spirituality in Mental Healthcare Practices'





The Kairos Forum For People With Intellectual Or Cognitive Disabilites

The Kairos Forum for people with Intellectual or Cognitive Disabilities (KFICD) seeks to highlight and respond to the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities. Our aim is to facilitate the crafting and empowerment of ‘community of belonging’, both within religious and secular settings. Our expertise will provide specialist services and resources which will enable and empower people with disabilities to experience dignity, respect, care, access and authentic participation within well formed and empathic communities

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