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Visiting researchers

Revd Dr Samuel Wells

Photograph of Revd Dr Samuel WellsVisiting Professor

July 2012 - July 2017

Emailsam.wells@smitf.org
Address: Department of Theology & Religious Studies
King's College London
Virginia Woolf Building,
22 Kingsway
LONDON, WC2B 6LE

Biography

Sam Wells has been Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, since 2012. He is a widely-known preacher, pastor, writer, broadcaster, and theologian.

He was ordained in 1991, and served curacies in Newcastle and Cambridge. He was a vicar in Norwich from 1997 to 2003, and Cambridge from 2003 to 2005. From 2005 to 2012 Sam served in North Carolina as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University and Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School.

Sam holds an M.A. in Modern History from Merton College, Oxford, a BD in Systematic Theology from the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from the University of Durham, where his dissertation was entitled How the Church Performs Jesus’ Story. He is Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College, London.

He has published 25 books, including studies in ethics, including four monographs – Transforming Fate into Destiny, Improvisation, God’s Companions and A Nazareth Manifesto. Other works include the textbook Introducing Christian Ethics (with Ben Quash), Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, and a commentary on the book of Esther. He has publishedcollections of sermons, including Speaking the Truth, Be Not Afraid, and Learning to Dream Again, devotional works, such as Power and Passion, which was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2007, and books to build up lay faith and ministry, including Living Without Enemies, What Anglicans Believe, and Crafting Prayers for Public Worship. He has also written a collection of Eucharistic Prayers for every Sunday of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary cycle, published as Joining the Angels’ Song. His most recent book is How Then Shall We Live (Canterbury 2016).

Sam has always understood being with the poor as a significant dimension of his vocation. He has spent 11 years living and working in urban priority areas. In Norwich he helped to found and lead the first development trust in the East of England.

Research interests
  • How worship forms character
  • Good and less good words of engaging poverty
  • Preaching
  • Drama and theological ethics
  • The ethical significance of Jesus’ life

My main project at present is called A Nazareth Manifesto. It develops the thesis initially set out in my 2011 book Living Without Enemies. There I argue that the most important word in theology is ‘with.’ In ch 1 of Living Without Enemies I set out four modes of social engagement: working with (the conventional professional mode), working with (community organizing, conscientization), being for (blogging, fasting), and being with (L’Arche communities, New Monasticism, incarnational ministry). I consider how Jesus spent a week in Jerusalem working for us, 3 years in Galilee working with us, and 30 years in Nazareth being with us; and suggest that maybe these percentages are significant.

In A Nazareth Manifesto I explore the Trinitarian dimensions of being with, its Christological manifestations, and its outworking in mission and ministry. I then consider its theological, ethical, sociological, missiological and historical dimensions, before reviewing the most common criticisms.

I am also working on a smaller book called Interceding with the Saints which aims to advance good practice in the leading of intercessions (sometimes known as prayers of the people) in public worship.

Most of my published work has arisen out of contexts in which I have ministered and the challenges I have faced. My dissertation arose from seeking, as a newly-ordained priest, to find out what a holy life looked like for a layperson. God’s Companions emerged in response to the transformation in my thinking about poverty after being involved in establishing a development trust. Introducing Christian Ethics was a response to teaching masters students who were discovering how ethics and theology were really the same thing. My three books of sermons all began as responses to the context of being in an elite American research university. A Nazareth Manifesto comes out of trying to lead influential institutions in ways that bring about empowering and dignifying relationships with people experiencing social disadvantage.

Writing and studying is, for me, a form of prayer and of renewing reflection. People often ask me how I find the time; the answer is always, writing is part of what it means for me to flourish – and to breathe.

Selected publications

Books

  • Be Not Afraid (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2011)
  • What Anglicans Believe: An Introduction (Norwich: SCM/Canterbury Press, 2011)
  • What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction (Harrisburg, PA: Church Publishing Inc., 2011)
  • Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence (with Marcia Owen; Downers Grove: IVP, 2011)
  • Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
  • Introducing Christian Ethics (with Ben Quash; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
  • Liturgy Comes to Life (Durham, NC: Duke Chapel, 2010)
  • Living Out Loud (with Stanley Hauerwas; edited by Luke Bretherton, et. al.; London: Paternoster, 2010)
  • Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture (edited with Sarah Coakley; London and New York: Continuum, 2008)
  • Speaking the Truth: Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008)
  • Power and Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection (The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2007; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007)
  • God’s Companions: Reimagining Christian Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)
  • The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (edited with Stanley Hauerwas; Oxford, UK; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 2004; Second Edition, Revised and Expanded, 2011)
  • Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos; London: SPCK, 2004)
  • Community-Led Estate Regeneration and the Local Church (Cambridge: Grove Booklets, 2003)
  • Faithfulness and Fortitude: In Conversation with the Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas (edited with Mark Thiessen Nation; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000)
  • Transforming Fate into Destiny: The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998; reissued Eugene, Oregon: Cascade, 2004)

Books Completed and in Production

  • Esther: A Commentary (with Daniel: A Commentary by George Sumner, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2013)
  • Learning to Dream Again (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, projected 2013)
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