David F. Ford

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David F. Ford
David Frank Ford

(1948-01-23) 23 January 1948 (age 71)
Dublin, Ireland
OccupationProfessor of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme
Co-Founder, Society for Scriptural Reasoning
Notable work
Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1999)
The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the Twentieth Century (Blackwell, 1997)
Spouse(s)Deborah Ford (née Hardy)
Theological work
Main interestsPolitical theology
Ecumenical theology
Christian theologians and theologies
Theology and poetry
Theology and universities
Interfaith theology and relations

David Frank Ford (born 23 January 1948,[1] Dublin[2]) is an academic and public theologian.[3] He has been the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge since 1991. His research interests include political theology, ecumenical theology, Christian theologians and theologies, theology and poetry, the shaping of universities and of the field of theology and religious studies within universities, hermeneutics, and inter-faith theology and relations.[4] He is the founding director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme and a co-founder of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning.

Early life and education[edit]

Ford was raised as an Anglican in the Church of Ireland in Dublin. His father died when he was 12 years old[3][5] and he was raised by his mother, Phyllis Mary Elizabeth Ford.[6]

For his undergraduate education, he studied at Trinity College Dublin,[4] where he was active in politics, debate and journalism. He was elected a Scholar in classics in 1968. After completing his degree,[7] he interviewed for jobs at British Steel Corporation and Rolls-Royce, but then was offered a scholarship to St John's College at the University of Cambridge and decided to study theology for a few years before going into business.[3] He earned his bachelor's degree in theology[7] at Cambridge and went on to earn his Master of Sacred Theology degree at Yale Divinity School; he also did graduate work at the University of Tübingen. He gained his doctorate at Cambridge,[1][5] writing his dissertation on Karl Barth and biblical narrative[3] under the direction of Donald MacKinnon[8] and Stephen Sykes. The result was the book Barth and God's Story (1981). Ford later received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Birmingham.[1]


From 1976–1991 Ford was a lecturer (later senior lecturer) at the University of Birmingham.[4] Living in the inner city, his theology was shaped by a multi-faith experience, and he also became involved in a local Anglican church in the evangelical tradition. As his housemate was involved in renovating derelict houses, he lived in some of those houses and became a house manager for one of them.[3] In the university's theology department, he became close to theologian Daniel W. Hardy and went on to marry Hardy's daughter.[5]

In 1991 he moved to Cambridge to become the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.[4] He is the first professor in this post who is not in the Anglican ministry.[9] He helped found and chairs the management committee of the Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies at Cambridge. He is a member of St John's College, a fellow of Selwyn College, and a foundation member of Trinity College.[4]

He is highly regarded for his scholarship, is a sought-after lecturer and preacher, and serves as an advisor to the bishops of the Anglican Communion.[3] His books have met with wide appeal; his The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the Twentieth Century (Blackwell, 1997), now in its third printing, is the leading textbook on modern Christian theology in the English-speaking world, China and Korea.[7] His Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1999), part of the Very Short Introductions series, has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Romanian, and Kurdish.[7]

Multi-faith and inter-faith work[edit]

When Ford came to Cambridge in 1991, the theology department focused almost exclusively on Christianity. Ford assisted in the realisation of a development plan which included a new building, a new Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies, new endowed research posts, and the development of the Cambridge Theological Federation (the university's consortium of Anglican, Methodist, and United Reformed seminaries). The university went on to add two new posts in Islamic studies, a new post in New Testament, and a new endowed post in theology and natural science. A Roman Catholic institute and institute for Orthodox Christian theology were added to the consortium of seminaries.[3] The Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations was established in 1998,[10] followed by the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in 2006.

Ford was introduced to interfaith dialogue in the early 1990s[11] while on sabbatical at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton, where his father-in-law, Hardy, director of the centre, introduced him to Jewish theologian Peter Ochs. Hardy and Ford participated in meetings of the early "textual reasoning" group founded by Ochs at the American Academy of Religion, reading the Tanakh, Bible, and Quran together with Christian and Muslim scholars.[5] In 1996 Ford, Hardy and Ochs founded the Society for Scriptural Reasoning;[11][12] Ford has been an active promoter of scriptural reasoning in subsequent papers and lectures.

In 2002 Ford became the founding director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme.[13] Among his activities are lectures at international conferences on Muslim-Christian relations.[14][15] In October 2007 he helped launch a letter by 138 Muslim scholars to 25 Christian leaders, including the Pope, the Orthodox Patriarchs, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the heads of the world alliances of the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist and Reformed churches, calling for peace and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims for the survival of the world.[16] The following month, he was one of the signatories on a Christian response seeking Muslim forgiveness.[17]

In 2008 the Sternberg Foundation awarded Ford its Gold Medal for Inter-Faith Relations.[7]

In November 2012 he was awarded the Coventry International Prize for Peace and Reconciliation (http://coventrypeaceprize.org.uk/)


Ford is active both within the university and in public life. He has been a trustee for the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton since 2007 and a member of the board of advisors for the John Templeton Foundation since 2008. Other professional memberships include the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.[4]

He is an editorial board member of Modern Theology, the Scottish Journal of Theology, Teaching Theology and Religion, the Irish Theological Quarterly, and the Journal of Anglican Studies. He is an editorial advisory board member for the Current Issues in Theology series published by Cambridge University Press.[4]

From 2003 to 2008 Ford was an academic member of the World Economic Forum Council of 100 Leaders for West-Islamic World Dialogue. He is an external advisor for the Centre for Christian Studies in Hong Kong (since 2006), a trustee for the Golden Web Foundation, a developer of a global multimedia publishing system with a focus on pre-modern world history, heritage and culture (since 2006), and a consultant for L'Arche Communities, a federation of over 100 communities for people with severe mental disabilities (since 1993).[4]

In 2011 he was one of 1,750 signatories to a letter to US President Barack Obama urging US intervention in the Libyan civil war.[18]


He is married to Rev. Deborah Ford, daughter of the late Daniel W. Hardy. She is an assistant chaplain at Addenbrooke's Hospital, part of the Cambridge University Hospital system.[9] They have three children,[13][19] Rebecca, Rachel and Daniel.[6]


Books, monographs[edit]

Book chapters[edit]

  • "Tragedy and Atonement" in Christ, Ethics, and Tragedy: Essays in honour of Donald MacKinnon, Kenneth Surin, ed. Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-521-34137-0.
  • "Third Epoch: The Future of Discourse In Jewish-Christian Relations" (with Peter Ochs), in Challenges in Jewish-Christian Relations, James K. Aitken and Edward Kessler, eds. New York: Paulist Press, 2006, pp. 153–170.
  • "Developing Scriptural Reasoning Further", in Scripture, Reason, and the Contemporary Islam-West Encounter: Studying the ‘Other’, Understanding the ‘Self’, Basit Bilal Koshul and Steven Kepnes, eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 201–219.
  • "God and Our Public Life: A scriptural wisdom", in Liberating Texts? Sacred Scriptures in Public Life, Sebastian C. H. Kim and Jonathan Draper, eds. London: SPCK, 2008, pp. 29–56.
  • "Theology" in The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religions (2nd edition, 2009), John Hinnells, ed. Routledge, ISBN 0-415-47327-6.
  • "Theology and Religious Studies for a Multifaith and Secular Society", in Theology and Religious Studies in Higher Education: Global Perspectives, Darlene L. Bird and Simon G. Smith, eds. London: Continuum, 2009, pp. 31–43.
  • "Paul Ricoeur: A Biblical Philosopher on Jesus", in Jesus and Philosophy: New Essays, Paul K. Moser, ed. Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 169–193.
  • "Foreword" to New Perspectives for Evangelical Theology: Engaging God, Scripture, and the World. Routledge, 2009.
  • "Foreword" in New Perspectives for Evangelical Theology: Engaging with God, Scripture, and the World, Tom Greggs, ed. Routledge, 2010. ISBN 978-0-415-47732-1.

Selected articles, papers[edit]

Selected lectures[edit]


  • "At the heart of healthy inter-faith engagement is a triple dynamic: going deeper into your own faith, deeper into each other's, and deeper into action for the common good of humanity".[20]
  • " Few things are likely to be more important for the twenty-first century than wise faith among the world's religious communities. That calls for fuller understanding, better education, and a commitment to the flourishing of our whole planet".[21]


  1. ^ a b c "Faculty Members: Professor David Ford". University of Cambridge. 2011. Archived from the original on 24 August 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  2. ^ "The Irish School of Ecumenics (1970–2007): 'Like wheat that springs up green' – Foreword". Catholic Ireland. 2010. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cunningham, David S. (3 May 2003). "The Practical Theology of David F. Ford". The Christian Century: 30–37. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "David Ford Profile". University of Cambridge. 2010. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Ford, David (2 April 2011). "A Journey into Interfaith Engagement". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  6. ^ a b Acknowledgements (in Christian Wisdom: Desiring God and Learning in Love) (PDF). Cambridge University Press. 2007. p. xiv. ISBN 978-0-521-87545-5.
  7. ^ a b c d e "David Ford" (PDF). The John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  8. ^ Ford, David (5 April 2000). "Theological Wisdom, British Style". The Christian Century: 388–391. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  9. ^ a b "The Annual Bishop's Clergy / Lay Employee / Spouse Conference: May 4–6, 2009". Diocese of Virginia. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  10. ^ "History". Woolf Institute. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  11. ^ a b Bailey, Dr. Jeffrey R. "New Models for Religion in Public: Inter-Faith Friendship and the Politics of Scriptural Reasoning". The Christian Century. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Participating Societies". Society for Scriptural Reasoning. 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Contributors: David F. Ford". Greenbelt. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Archbishop's Christian-Muslim initiative continues in Sarajevo – further details". Archbishop of Canterbury. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  15. ^ "List of Invitees of World Conference for Dialogue, Madrid" (PDF). Muslim World League. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  16. ^ "Muslims tell Christians: 'Make peace with us or survival of world is at stake'". Daily Mail. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Christian leaders ask for Muslim forgiveness". Khaleej Times. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Letter to President Obama about Libya". Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  19. ^ "The Revd. Debbie Ford". Addenbrookes Hospital. 3 August 2007. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Oman gift endows CIP Academic Directorship". Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme. 2011. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Quote". The Cambridge Inter-Faith Program. 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2011.

External links[edit]