Case Four: James Holt

An education lecturer, who became an expert in a number of religions while carrying out his day job at a high profile church institution, is set to graduate at Chester Cathedral this Friday.

James Holt, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education with the University of Chester’s Faculty of Education and Children’s Services, will receive a PhD in Theology from the institution this Friday after six intensive years of study.

James, from Manchester, juggled family life, a busy teaching schedule, alongside church responsibilities while researching and writing his thesis which explores a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) theology of religions and discusses the implications this raises for inter-faith dialogue.

James, who has been a minister in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explained: “I explored areas of Mormon theology to examine how other religions are viewed especially with regard to salvation. It concluded with suggestions as to what Latter-day Saints could do to be involved in inter-faith dialogue. These conclusions included a need to focus on both areas of commonality and distinctiveness.”

A former secondary Religious Education teacher, James has written extensively about religion and has produced several textbooks on GCSE Buddhism, and one to support the study of an International GCSE with specific reference to Islam and Christianity.

He is also a Principal Examiner for a Buddhism GCSE offered by one of the major awarding bodies, and for the International GCSE covering aspects of the six major religions.

And while he has been lecturing at Chester since 2009, he has a long connection to the University, having studied for a BA in History with Religious Studies and a Masters in Military History at the institution.

He said: “I was approached to become a research student by one of my old lecturers from my undergraduate days. Teacher training has always been something I have been involved with, and when the opportunity at Chester came up, my positive experiences as a student made it a place I wanted to work.

“I’m particularly proud of managing to balance work as a lecturer, my busy family life, responsibilities as a minister with the demands of researching and writing a PhD. I am also pleased that I was able to receive funding to attend a symposium in Provo, Utah, where I could discuss the progress of my thesis and some of the major arguments that were coming out of it.”

His wife Ruth, mother Lesleyanne, and mother and father-in- law, Dorothy and Ralph Wilkinson, will be watching proudly as he graduates on Friday after which he will return home for a celebratory meal with his wife and their four children Eleanor, Abigail, Gideon and Martha.