New book by MLitt alumnus

Cover of The Law of FreedomDaniel Rentfro jr (MLitt, 2016) has published The Law of Freedom: Justice and Mercy in the Practice of Law. 

Daniel examines the legal and theological roots of the concept of equity, and the implications that the diminishment of equity as a legal concept has for the moral dilemmas faced by the practicing lawyer. Meditating on the book of Micah, the book argues that the Christian duty asks for both strict justice and gracious mercy, with the prophet’s third value—humility—essential for both the individual lawyer and the legal system as a whole to balance strict justice and mercy.

Daniel Rentfro jr is a practicing lawyer in South Texas and, in his role as an honorary research assistant in the School of Divinity, University of St Andrews, he is the managing Editor of our online journal, Bible and the Contemporary World.

We congratulate Daniel on developing his MLitt dissertation into this monograph. Eric Stoddart, programme director, has written a foreword to the book. You can read his foreword and other extracts of the book online via the ‘look inside’ option on the publisher’s website.

Applications open for January 2020 start – update

You can apply for just a single module or for the whole two-year part-time distance learning degree programme.

Applications close 30 November 2019 for a start on Monday 20 January 2020. [Note: extended closing date.]

Thinking about it…

Open-access special issue of Surveillance & Society edited by Eric Stoddart (director of Bible and the Contemporary World programme) and Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson (Sweden).

Stoddart book on surveillance, cover

By the course director and a text that has featured in the programme.

For recent critical thinking about the world (in which the Bible is read).


Online journal launched

authors and editors at journal launch

l. to r. Constanze Schummer, Eric Stoddart, Daniel Rentfro, Graham Deans.

We took the occasion of the 2019 reunion of distance learning alumni to launch our new open-access online journal that will provide programme graduates with a publication option for their dissertations and module papers.

Titled “Bible and the Contemporary World,” the journal is the official publication of the MLitt “Bible and the Contemporary World” programme at the University of St. Andrews.

Pictured above are two of the contributors to the first issue: Constanze Schummer and Graham Deans. With them are the General Editor, Eric Stoddart and the Managing Editor, Daniel Rentfro. At this launch ceremony Eric observed that,

‘this journal addresses important aspects of our contemporary world and about which various Christian traditions have something to say. I am delighted to see the hard work of Daniel Rentfro and the editorial team result in this inaugural issue. It is a valuable contribution to the wider work of the School of Divinity.’

St Mary's College at duskIn the first issue:

A call to alumni of this programme for papers for the next issue will be coming soon (to be published in March 2020).

Reunion 2019 – distance learners

Friday 30 August 2019 – Sunday 1 September 2019.

Following a highly successful reunion in 2014 we are planning a similar event this year.

Provisional Programme

Friday evening 30 August 2019

Meal together at a local restaurant followed by socialising in one of the town’s hostelries.

Saturday 31 August 2019

‘How I have used my learning since graduating.’ A series of short talks by alumni. A lecture from Eric Stoddart, ‘The Bible and My Contemporary World.’
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshments at the College. Lunch in a local venue. Dinner either at the College or together in a local restaurant.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Morning at local churches of our choice.
Lunchtime departure together to Dundee for outing to the new V&A Museum.
Dinner and refreshments together in Dundee before returning to St Andrews.

Monday 2 September 2019

Opportunity to attend opening lecture of the Study Week for distance learning students.


Alumni make their own accommodation arrangements in town.


Lunches and dinners will be at local restaurants, each of us paying our own way.
Refreshment breaks on Saturday will be provided at no charge.
Depending on numbers it may be possible to arrange for an outside caterer for the Saturday evening dinner.  Cost for this will be in the region of £25-£30.
Travel to Dundee will be at our own expense.  The main part of the V&A is free but there is an admission charge for special exhibitions. Those wishing to add this exhibition to their visit will pay their own ticket.


Please book a place at the Reunion by emailing Eric Stoddart by 31 May 2019.

Honorary Research Assistant Scheme

The School has commenced a scheme of Honorary Research Assistants (HRAs) appointed to engage in research in biblical studies and theology, in relation to other disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences, towards the pursuit of defined projects relevant to the mission of the Bible and the Contemporary World programme. This mission is currently described in the programme specification as “how culture shapes, and has been shaped by, Christian belief, practice and theology.”

The HRAs, all of whom will be alumni of the Bible and the Contemporary World MLitt programme, will have numerous personal and professional responsibilities beyond their role with St Mary’s so the expectations of outputs is indicative and limited. There is no financial numeration attached to these honorary appointments.

Application Process

[update: now closed]

Applicants are invited to apply in writing to Eric Stoddart by Friday 8 March 2019 indicating the intellectual contribution they anticipate making. This need not be in the formal style of a research proposal but, in not more than 1000 words, applicants should explain their research interests and anticipated outputs.  (This scheme is available only for alumni of the MLitt Bible and the Contemporary World programme.)

Further Details 

Four HRAs were appointed in 2018, with a further two appointments available to be made in 2019. You can read about the work of the current HRAs by following these links:

The activities of HRAs include the conduct of research either independently, or, where appropriate, as a member of a team but without academic supervision by School of Divinity staff. Outputs may be in the form of, for example, articles in peer-reviewed journals or blog entries to reputable non-peer-reviewed outlets. Access to library electronic resources will be available but no study or other office space will be allocated. It is anticipated that in almost all cases HRAs will conduct research and associated work at their own locations around the world. There is no expectation of visits to St Andrews.

There is scope for HRAs to assist in the development of a limited amount of research-related material for teaching or other purposes with appropriate guidance from the School. Occasional contributions to teaching, or presentations, in relation to her/his research project(s) may also be possible. Occasional online colloquia (distinct from the regular learning activities of the MLitt programme and the School’s research seminar programme) may be held via Skype. The creation of a ‘Bible and the Contemporary World’ blog – to which HRAs, and others, contribute is also under consideration.

Given the very different personal circumstances of potential HRAs, individually tailored agreements on the quantity or nature of outputs will be agreed in conjunction with the Director of the Bible and the Contemporary World programme. Such initial agreements will be finalized in writing and reviewed every year. HRAs will be managed by the Director of the Bible and the Contemporary World programme.

Honorary Research Assistants will normally be appointed for periods of three years at a time, renewable by mutual agreement. HRAs shall be bound by all relevant University Policies pertaining to research and intellectual property. All honorary appointments require to be approved by the Principal’s Office and it is anticipated that the second cohort of HRAs will commence their role in late summer 2019.

Entry in January 2020 available


Closing date for applications for entry in January 2020 is 1 November 2019.  We process applications as promptly as possible upon receipt of all paperwork. If you are offered a place this lets you plan ahead in good time.

If you would like to have conversation with the Course Director prior to making an application you are welcome to contact him at to arrange a Skype, FaceTime or phone call.

Reading Exodus 1–3 with Indian migrant workers in Singapore

Congratulations to one of our former students, Winston Chin, who has had an article published in the journal Practical Theology. Winston, who lives in Singapore, has developed work he originally undertook for his dissertation on our distance learning programme.  ‘Reading Exodus 1–3 with Indian migrant workers in Singapore: a dialogic approach‘ is now available online and will be in the next print issue. The study investigated how Indian Christian low-wage migrant workers in Singapore responded to the text of Exodus 1–3 in light of their real-life experiences, through a dialogic methodology of contextual bible reading based on Gerald West’s approach of ‘reading with’ marginalized groups.