- About ICC
- Learning Zones
- Grogan Library
- Studying at ICC
- BA / BA (Hons) Theology
- BA / BA (Hons) Youth & Community Work with Applied Theology
- Post-Graduate Studies
- CertHE Pioneer Ministry
- Distance Learning (Certificate of Christian Studies)
- Summer Schools
- Saturday Classes
- Monday Classes
- In-service Training & Individual Courses
- Dates 2012-2013
- Dates 2013-2014
- Funding Your Studies
- Fees & Costs
- Before you Apply
- The Application Process
- Application Forms
- Help ICC
- Contact Us
- Job Title
- Postgraduate Research Programme Leader; Lecturer in Practical Theology & Buddhism; Placement Tutor
Rory spent seven years in the Merchant Navy where he qualified as a navigating officer. Much of this time was spent sailing around SE Asia but he also had interesting times on a small bulk carrier ‘tramping’ round UK and European ports as well as working on ferries between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Towards the end of his time at sea he worked on the MV Logos where he met Rosalyn (ship’s nurse/midwife). They got married, studied at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, joined the Overseas Missionary Fellowship and went out to Thailand as church planters. Twelve years and three daughters later they returned to the UK. Rory studied at the Free Church of Scotland College in Edinburgh before completing a MTh at New College, University of Edinburgh.
Areas of Research Interest / Supervision
Rory welcomes enquiries from prospective students who wish to explore any aspect of the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity. He is also interested in New Buddhist Movements in general and, at Master’s level, New Religious Movements, aspects of Christian spirituality and non-Christian Spiritualities such as Neo-shamanism and aspects of New Age.
Rory's doctoral work was undertaken part time (1998-2005) while teaching at International Christian College. It was supervised by Professor Peter Harvey of the University of Sunderland. The thesis was published by Routledge in 1997 under the title of New Buddhist Movements in Thailand: Towards an Understanding of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Santi Asoke. These two vastly different movements emerged in the 1970’s and developed during a time of political uncertainty, social change and increasing dissatisfaction with ‘mainstream’ Thai Buddhism and its leadership. In his research Rory has sought an insider’s (emic) understanding of the two movements. Members of both movements view their respective leaders as having qualities of power, influence and moral stature. Wat Phra Dhammakaya views itself as a large, modern movement structured for growth, convenience and efficiency. Indeed, Rory identifies six striking similarities between Wat Phra Dhammakaya and the Japanese Soka Gakkai movement. Santi Asoke members see the communities in which they live as places where they experience justice and support for living morally upright lives. This is in contrast to their experience in mainstream Thai society. They view their communities as a locus for their liberation from suffering. Rory offers an outsider’s (etic) perspective on both movements. While being successful and modern, Wat Phra Dhammakaya is also a fundamentalist movement. In addition Rory suggests it is a millenarian movement (in the sense of being delivered by a powerful figure from perceived crisis) as members look to the spiritual power of Phra Dhammachayo (the movement’s leader) to secure financial success for them in times of economic uncertainty. Some members believe in future conflict between malevolent and benevolent powers but have confidence that they will be delivered by their leader.
Despite their strict, ‘peasant’ image, Santi Asoke are considerably less of a fundamentalist
movement than Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Asoke members view their leader as a highly skilful teacher but not a saviour, thus they cannot be considered millenarian. Rory highlights similarities between Santi Asoke and the Catholic ‘base community’ movement, as well as the Thai ‘community culture’ school of thought. Despite some similarities in these areas, he suggests that Santi Asoke may best be described as a retro-utopian movement which is both ascetic and prophetic and with strong legalistic tendencies.
The thesis suggests that the continuing ‘success’ of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Santi Asoke indicate both disenchantment with traditional expressions of mainstream Thai Buddhism, and a desire for Buddhist solutions for contemporary living. While Buddhism continues to inform the Thai psyche, mainstream Buddhism no longer has the credibility and status which it once enjoyed. It will not, therefore, be the ‘legitimising’ tool in the hands of the Thai government that it traditionally has been.
Presently Rory is working on a book entitled Tree of Enlightenment: Cross of Shame, an examination of Christian ideas through a Buddhist lens.
Publications & Papers
Forthcoming: "Buddhism & Christianity and Buddhism" in the New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP)
2012: "Lessons from the Life of Karl Reichelt (1877 – 1952)" A paper delivered at the 2012 Asian Mission Consultation, High Wycombe
2008: “Millenarianism and a New Thai Buddhist Movement” in The Mahachulalongkorn Journal of Buddhist Studies (Inaugural edition)
2007: New Buddhist Movements in Thailand: Towards an Understanding of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Santi Asoke (London: Routledge)
2003: articles in Lion Encyclopaedia of New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities (Oxford: Lion)
2001: "Back to the Basics of Buddhism: The Santi Asoke Movement", in Fundamentalisms, ed. by Chris Partridge (Carlisle: Paternoster Press)
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
UK Association for Buddhist Studies
- View recent blog entries