Fellowship honours the memory of ACU scholar

Dr Alda Balthrop-Lewis – a Senior Research Fellow in ACU's Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry – has been appointed this year’s Denis Edwards Visiting Fellow at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute (LSRI), Campion Hall, Oxford.

The program was established in memory of the late Monsignor Professor Denis Edwards OAM, who passed away in 2019.

A professor in theology at ACU's Adelaide Campus, the late Monsignor Edwards was a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion. He wrote 14 books on the dialogue between science and faith and was a sought-after speaker around the globe, particularly in ecological theology and Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home.

Inspired by the Pope's encyclical, the LSRI was established to conduct multidisciplinary research to drive change and address pressing environmental issues.

The Fellowship supports academic research in areas relevant to Professor Edwards’ scholarship. It is awarded annually to university-affiliated scholars living in Australia, New Zealand, or Oceania.

While at LSRI Dr Balthrop-Lewis is conducting research on the ecological and political thought of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. This work draws on Professor Edwards’s important contributions to movements within the Catholic Church for ecological conversion in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Dr Balthrop Lewis said she was honoured to be the recipient of the award.

“As a scholar of religion, my research on environmental ethics has been enriched by Edwards’ work as a Catholic theologian,” she said.

“Rather than insisting that Western society requires a new religious story to meet the present moment, Edwards showed that Christians can find a response to new challenges by going more deeply into their own traditions.

“My research aims to draw on religious thought to think through what it might mean to cultivate flourishing ecologies in modern societies.”

Executive Dean for the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Professor Dermot Nestor, said he was incredibly honoured to have established the Fellowship in honour of Professor Edwards’ distinctive and enduring scholarship, in partnership with Professor Celia Deane-Drummond of LSRI.

“That work, along with the research being conducted by Dr Balthrop-Lewis and the inaugural recipient, Dr Emmanuel Nathan, testifies to the faculty’s commitment to and leadership in the field of eco-theology, particularly as that translates in our global efforts to advance the work of the Laudato Si Action Platform,” Prof. Nestor said.Assistant Director for Research Programming at the LSRI, Dr Timothy Howles, said the Institute were excited to have Dr Balthrop-Lewis on board.

“We believe Alda’s work and research interests resonate with the spirit of the Denis Edwards Visiting Fellowship, as well as the LSRI’s research mission in the University of Oxford and beyond,” he said.

“We look forward to her contributions during her stay with us, which will include a public lecture to be held in Oxford.”

Dr Balthrop-Lewis will deliver a livestreamed public lecture in Oxford on 11 May: “What to Give Up for the Climate: Asceticism and Ecological Justice.

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