Freedom of Religion and Belief in the UK during the pandemic
Freedom Declared Foundation was set up to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief within the United Kingdom in a way which is not biased to any one faith or belief. We believe that throughout Government departments across the United Kingdom, the importance of religion or belief in individual lives is not truly understood, resulting in lower awareness about the implementation of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the United Kingdom.
James was invited to chair the first episode of our webinar series which aims to highlight this lack of genuine understanding within the context of the Covid pandemic. With Governments around the UK closing places of worship, Freedom Declared Foundation wants to understand more deeply the interaction between Governments and different faith groups. Some questions we would like to ask are:
Did all faiths and beliefs have representatives on the Government’s taskforce?
Were the right people invited to these task forces?
Were all faiths and beliefs given an equal voice during the task force meetings, or did some faiths/beliefs get prioritised over others?
Did the task forces actually have an influence over Government policies?
What lessons can be learned from these task forces to promote religious literacy, and greater inter faith and belief dialogue?
Joining James for this conversation was Bishop John Keenan, Catholic Bishop of Paisley; Jagtar Singh Gill, trustee and founding member of the Sikh Assembly; and, Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs at Humanists UK.
Freedom Declared Foundation
James is excited to have been appointed to the Board of Trustees of Freedom Declared Foundation. Freedom Declared Foundation (FDF) champions the right of everyone to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. They provide research, information, educational and training resources and are the only UK charity on Freedom of Religion or Belief founded and governed by people of various faiths or those who hold no faith.
One of the distinctive areas of FDF’s work is to explore issues surrounding Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in both the United and Kingdom and abroad.
The Messiness of Religion Extended Edition
Here is the video from the Education All lecture hosted by Cambourne Village College. It’s longer and different from the Kitchen Session below
The Messiness of Religion
James has been invited to give a public lecture as part of an Education All series of lectures. Joining details are on the poster. For those who have listened to him speak about this topic before, it will have new thoughts. In contrast to the 20 minute lecture as part of the Kitchen Sessions, this lecture will be 40 minutes with a 20 minute Q&A.
Kitchen Sessions now available to view
James’ lecture about Beyond the Chocolate Box: The Messiness of Religion is now viewable online. It is a 20 minute lecture followed by 40 minutes Q&A.
Kitchen Sessions: Beyond the Chocolate Box: The Messiness of Religion
The University of Chester is running a series of 20 minute sessions. On Wednesday 10th February at 4pm, James will be presenting a session about the messiness of religion. You can book here
When we talk about religion and religions we have particular views of what constitutes a religion, and what a religious person looks like and believes. In his talk, Dr James Holt, Associate Professor of Religious Education, argues that there is a need to break out of this ‘chocolate box’ view of religion, where all people of a religion believe and practice the same things. We should constantly emphasise that the lived experience of religion is messy and full of diversity. There are many reasons for this, not least the attempt to systematise the beliefs and practices of groups and practices into a particular structure. This talk will suggest a way forward in understanding and recognising this diversity.
Gospel Lessons from my Heroes
This FABULOUS new book by James D. Holt is a wonderful new view on the Gospel Lessons that we can learn from some of the worlds most famous ‘Heroes’, perfect for youth and YSA as well as anyone who has a little inner geek! It is available from Latter-day Bookstore and More
“In this booklet I talk about what I have learned from some of my heroes in the world of fantasy. Some may not be your heroes, but their stories and what you can learn from them are for you to discover. Please remember that my responses to these stories and the things that I learn from them are probably not what the author intended but that doesn’t matter. They have helped me understand some Gospel principles and that is what I am going to share. The heroes we will learn from are Superman, the Black Panther (and Shuri), Elphaba, and Samwise Gamgee.”
“Sitting as a Latter-day Saint at the Interfaith table: a personal and theological reflection”
James was invited by the Altrincham Interfaith Group to deliver a lecture. The lecture was entitled “Sitting as a Latter-day Saint at the Interfaith table: a personal and theological reflection”. In this he explored aspects of the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also how this has impacted his work in inter-faith using some examples from the past thirty years.
James has published his first devotional book(let). It is a 40 page reflection on how we can hear the Lord in the busyness of our lives.
“If we seek the Lord first in our lives, then all of our activities will be strengthened because we are Hearing Him first, so we will always know of His will and guidance in our lives.
In our busy lives we need to find time for Him. We need to “be still” and seek His Hands in our lives. It is impossible unless we actively seek Him.”
It is available through the Latter-day Bookstore in the UK here.
University of Chester Reunion 2020
James’ association with the University of Chester began in 1993 when he began his undergraduate studies. A BA Honours, MA and PhD later he has been a member of staff at the University for eleven years. As a result of this he was asked to speak at this year’s virtual reunion. He explores his time at Chester as well as ‘Beyond the Big Six Religions’
James has decided to bite the bullet and self publish a book based on his PhD thesis. It explores issues surrounding a theology of religions and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a theological discussion of the value of other religions in the plan of salvation and Latter-day Saint theology. It is available in Kindle and Print versions- click the picture above.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and education
During the lockdown James’ ability to deliver lectures at different places has been physically curtailed but he has been very busy with other activities.
In the latest issue of RE Today James co-authored an article about vision in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His co-author is his daughter Abi.
As a free supplement with RE Today James was also the author an Guide for Educators about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click the image below for a free download.
One of the initiatives James has launched during lockdown is online CPD sessions for teachers and beginning teachers.
For more information and recordings/slides please click below:
James is the author of
Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews (University of Chester Press, 2019)
Both are available for purchase:
Getting around in 2020
The first couple of months of 2020 sees James speaking at a variety of places. He is delivering lectures at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Bishop Grosseteste University, the University of Cumbria, and University College London. In addition to these he is speaking at the British Islam 2020 Conference, along with the conferences of Global Mormon Studies, and Mormon Scholars in the Humanities. Please get in touch if any of these sound of interest.
A busy November of free public and keynote lectures
During November James is speaking in Manchester, Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, and Shrewsbury.
- 7th November 2019 “Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews Beyond the Big Six Religions.” at Edgehill University, Religion Now! series of lectures
- 19th November 2019 “Religion and Education” Keynote address at Sex and Relationship Education– Addressing Faith Communities Concerns Conference at Faith Network for Manchester
- 27th November 2019 “Beyond the Chocolate Box: Religion and WorldViews in a Post-Truth World” Public Lecture at University Centre Shrewsbury
Click on the images below to book a place.
Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews
James’ new book is available to order from the University of Chester Press.
Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews is a timely addition to the literature surrounding Religious Education teaching in schools. The book explores the desirability and possibility of expanding the breadth of religious and non-religious worldviews within the classroom. Written by an expert in Religious Education and minority religions, this book articulates the importance of the inclusion of minority voices within the classroom, and in wider society.
The case for expanding the boundaries of what we mean by the ‘big six’ is developed using the examples of Christianity and Islam and moving beyond the views and teachings that predominate in today’s world. The place of religions and worldviews outside the ‘big six’ is then explored with introductions to the central concepts, beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Shi’a Islam, Ahmadiyya Islam, Bahá’í, Humanism, Jainism, Paganism and Rastafari, together with practical advice on how they can be taught in the classroom. This book provides the balance between developing the understanding of the reader, and its immediate applicability to the classroom.
Understanding Subject Knowledge for Primary Teaching
In October a new volume is due to be published “Understanding Subject Knowledge for Primary Teaching” edited by Deborah Pope.
It’s blurb outlines the approach it takes:
How can trainee teachers begin their careers with a clear understanding of all the curriculum subjects? This book addresses the nature of subject knowledge in all foundation curriculum subjects. It deconstructs the elements of each subject through an exploration of the nature of the subject, a coverage of the ‘skills’ a study of this subject develops and through detailed analysis of case studies from practice. At a time when concerns about the lack of breadth in the primary curriculum are being voiced, this book supports busy trainee teachers to truly understand and be ready to teach all curriculum areas.
James has a chapter that focuses around Religious Education that is well worth a read. It is published by Sage and will soon be available from booksellers.
Associate Professor of Religious Education
Effective 1st August 2019 James has been appointed Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester. This is a great honour and is the result of so many people supporting and helping James along the way. Family, friends, colleagues and students have all supported and inspired him so much. This appointment is a celebration of the importance of relationships- without them it wouldn’t have been possible.
Coincidentally the Knowledge and Research Transfer Office at the University have published James’ ‘Meet the Researcher’ poster.
Minority Voices available to watch online
Minority Voices in Religion
On 16th April James delivered the inaugural lecture of the “Lunchtime Lecture Series” at Storyhouse in Chester as part of the University of Chester’s Research Festival. His lecture focussed on his research surrounding the representation and importance of the minority religions in society and education. The research is to be published this autumn by the University of Chester Press. Responses from those in attendance included:
Thank you for such a brilliant lecture, very inspiring. Teachers need to be inspired and you did it!! 😊
Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology
On Saturday 16th March 2019 James is presenting a paper at the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s conference: “More Nations Than One: Theology, Culture, and Pluralism”. It will be at the University of Utah. His topic will focus on constructing a Latter-day Saint theology of religions. He will present virtually at 11am MST http://www.smpt.org/conferences_2019.html
Email a Believer
RE:Online has a section of its website dedicated to Email a Believer- here people are able to send questions about faith to followers of different faiths. They have just added The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to this endeavour, and James has been asked to be the ‘believer’. In this he will answer questions that are sent in, and will also write a blog once a month about aspects of his faith. Please give it a visit by clicking here.
Religious Education: Time for a rethink?
On 26th September James joined a panel on TRT’s Rountable programme about the place of RE in the curriculum and responses to the Commission on RE’s report
Research and RE
Culham St Gabriels Trust have established a hub of research in RE. This is a place where teachers and researchers can explore various aspects of current research in RE. This is a free resource and may be of interest.
The research around James’ current book project “Beyond the Big Six” (University of Chester Press, 2019) can be found on the site. http://researchforre.reonline.org.uk/research_report/do-new-religious-movements-have-a-place-in-the-secondary-r-e-classroom/?show_me=&about=&taxes=
You may have to register for free to view the various projects
What really matters about teacher education at Cathedrals Group universities published
James was part of the NICER project, What really matters about teacher education at Cathedrals Group universities, which sought to understand better how teacher education staff, partnership schools and student teachers perceived their teacher education institutions and programmes including specific reference to the Institution’s Christian foundation.
The data was collected between November 2016 and January 2018.
- To investigate why ITE trainees choose Christian foundation university teacher training programmes
- To investigate why schools choose Christian foundation universities as training programme partners
- To investigate what Christian foundation universities claim is particular to their Christian foundation, what is particularly or deeply Christian about their ITE provision
- To investigate what Christian foundation universities, ITE trainees and partnership schools claim about ITE trainees at the point of qualification, that is particular to the institutions’ Christian foundation.
The National Institute of Christian Education Research at Canterbury Christ Church University led the research project. The project took place over two years with a pilot and qualitative phase and a quantitative phase.
The research reports can be found here. Volume 2 includes the Case Study about the University of Chester written by James.
Beyond the Big Six: Expanding the boundaries of the RE Classroom
James is very excited to have been contracted by the University of Chester Press to write ‘Beyond the Big Six: Expanding the boundaries of the RE classroom’. This will outline the arguments to include religions and worldviews outside of the main six, but also to extend what we may include within the big six. Some chapters will also be introductions to religions and worldviews including Baha’i, Humanism, Ravidassia, Wicca, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ahmadiyya, Sufism.
New book chapter to be published
This August Iron Man vs Captain America and Philosophy will be published by Open Court. The blurb highlights a chapter by James: “James Holt looks into the nature of God within Captain America’s world and how much this draws on the “previous life” of Captain Steve Rogers. Holt’s inquiry focuses on the God of Moses in the burning bush, as contrasted with David Hume’s understanding of religion.”
‘Big Ideas in Religious Education’ led by Barbara Wintersgill from the University of Exeter was published in November 2017. The aim of the project is to address issues concerning curriculum content selection, curriculum coherence and subject relevance in Religious Education (RE) in the 21st century by applying the theory of ‘Big Ideas’. The project, to which James was part of, identified of Principles and Big Ideas for RE, which can then be used as criteria for selecting and sequencing subject content.
Book Chapter Published
Learning to Teach Religious Education in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience (Learning to Teach Subjects in the Secondary School Series) 3rd Edition (Routledge, 2017) edited by L. Philip Barnes was published on 4 Sep 2017. This volume includes a brand new chapter not in the two previous editions about ‘Inclusion’ written by James. This explores issues of SEND in the RE classroom as well as representations of minority faiths.
The International Journal of Christianity and Education recently published a review of Religious Education in the Secondary School and a couple of excerpts can be found below:
Christianity, Education and Contemporary Culture:
International Conference – Canterbury Christ Church University, Friday 7 July – Sunday 9 July 2017
James will be delivering a paper on the Friday evening entitled: “Teaching ‘as one having authority’: Implications for a Christian Educator”
AML Award Winner
Julie Smith editor of Iron Sharpens Iron was awarded the 2016 AML award for Religious non-fiction. The AML congratulates Julie M Smith, Kofford Books, and all of the contributors [including James] for bringing new light, insight, and ideas to Mormon studies.
Religion and Nationhood
James has contributed to a new volume, edited by Brian Gates. This has recently been published – Religion and Nationhood: Insider and Outsider Perspectives on Religious Education in England. “This has the potential to make a valuable contribution to ongoing debates in RE.”
We are excited to be part the 2016 Association for Mormon Letters awards finalists in the Creative Non-fiction and Religious Non-fiction categories. The book is by Julie M. Smith, editor. As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture. Greg Kofford Books. Contributors: Julie M Smith, Michael Austin, Mark T. Decker, Nicholas J. Frederick, Heather Hardy, Ronan James Head, James D. Holt, Jason A. Kerr, Jared Ludlow, Steven L. Peck, Joseph M. Spencer, Walter E. A. van Beek, Miranda Wilcox, Walker Wright, Benjamin Peters, and John Durham Peters.
In this unique volume, fictionalised dialogues between the various voices of scripture illustrate how these differences and disagreements are not flaws of the texts but are rather essential features of the canon. These creative dialogues include Abraham and Job debating the utility of suffering and our submission to God, Alma and Abinidi disagreeing on the place of justice in the Atonement, and the authors Mark and Luke discussing the role of women in Jesus’s ministry. It is by examining and embracing the different perspectives within the canon that readers are able to discover just how rich and invigorating the scriptures can be. The dialogues within this volume show how just as “iron sharpeneth iron,” so can we sharpen our own thoughts and beliefs as we engage not just the various voices in the scriptures but also the various voices within our community (Proverbs 27:17).
Church Universities’ Certificate in Anglican Church Schools Studies
From September the University of Chester will be running the Church Universities’ Certificate in Anglican Church Schools Studies. There is a level 7 postgraduate option for serving teachers and those who already have a degree. The level 7 Certificate will give someone 60 Master’s Credits that can be transferred into the Master’s Degree at the end.
The webpage is live now:
It will be 3 Saturdays for one year of study, or one Saturday per year for 3 years (and some outisde of University study).
Awards Evening at the Macclesfield Academy
On 20th July 2015 James was asked to present the prizes and speak at the Macclesfield Academy awards evening. James presented the inaugural James Holt Award for Spirituality. One of the high schools James attended was Henbury High School- a forerunner of the Macclesfield Academy. James spoke fondly of his time there and especially of his inspirational RE teacher; Ted Banks.
Meet the Mormons
On Tuesday 28th April James is a special invited guest panellist following a special screening of a 78 minute cinema movie called ‘Meet The Mormons’ followed by a short Q&A panel session. This event is for education and faith leaders in the York area. The cinematic film ‘Meet the Mormons’ reached the top 10 in the USA box office and examines the very diverse lives of six people – the humanitarian, coach, fighter, bishop, mum and candy bomber. The trailer can be viewed at www.meetthemormons.com It takes viewers on a journey into the day-to-day realities of individuals living in the U.S., Costa Rica, Nepal and beyond. From their individual passions to their daily struggles, each story paints a picture as rich and unique as the next while challenging the stereotypes.
The news is coming thick and fast this week!
James has been invited to speak at the forthcoming Education Week in July at the University of Oxford.
Education Weekend 2015: Oxford invites any who wish to experience the rich learning atmosphere of Oxford, England to immerse themselves in three days of information, discovery, and conversation. It invites any who wish to think about the world as it is, how it has been, and how it might be. It welcomes big ideas. It welcomes varieties of faith. It welcomes the Tradition of Enquiry.
Please join us for this interdisciplinary and interfaith conference that aims to exchange ideas on the theme “The Tradition of Enquiry: A Forum in Pursuit of Scholarly and Spiritual Learning.” A wide array of talks, seminar discussions, and small tutorials after the Oxford style of learning will be given by Oxford faculty and affiliate scholars of various disciplines and faiths.
Please visit traditionofenquiry.com for more details.
A book launch event hosted by the Faculty of Education at the University of Chester
Announcing the publication of Religious Education in the Secondary School. Now available at all good bookshops including Amazon. Don’t forget to leave a review