University of Aberdeen, webinars etc: see Research Projects and Calendar of Events
Created on 20 Mar 2022
Updated on 30 Mar 2022
Approved by Moderator 30 Mar 2022
Autism is now recognized to be common, and most Christian communities or families will include autistic people. It is easy to assume that autism can be considered in isolation from our faith commitments, and that those who have a diagnosis of autism can process it without reference to faith. Communities and persons of faith, however, always process and understand their experiences in ways that are shaped by that faith, which is itself formed by their traditions and sacred texts. Where those texts and traditions shape their lives in healthy ways, their response to the opportunities and challenges constituted by conditions such as autism will be enriched, and may facilitate a kind of care from which our society more widely may learn and may derive blessing. Where the texts and traditions are used in less healthy ways, however, the effects can be destructive and distressing. The nature and reality of autism will always be interpreted and understood through the prism of shared and embodied faith, and this must be recognized.
The Centre intends to host research that will help to foster positive Christian understandings of autism, drawing on Scripture and theological traditions, and sometimes challenging the misuse of these. In the first instance, this is intended to help churches to respond well to the lived reality of autism. Beyond this, however, the Centre intends to facilitate the sharing of research into the experience of autistic Christians with other communities of faith, associated with other religions and traditions, and with the medical world itself, as its own engagement with persons of faith develops. Thus the Centre has a triple focus: 1) it engages in rigorous theological research, informed and often led by autistic researchers; 2) it seeks to serve and work with autistic people and Christian communities; and 3) it interacts with other faith communities and academic disciplines.
The Centre for Autism and Theology is embedded in the School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History and is closely linked to three other works in the University of Aberdeen: The Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability, The Centre for Ministry Studies, and the Friendship House Initiative.