The Revd Canon Professor Richard A. Burridge MA, PGCE, PgDipTh, PhD, FKC is an internationally recognised biblical scholar, ethicist, theologian and social commentator, who has published over a dozen books and hundreds of other articles or publications. During his career, he has been a schoolmaster, parish priest, university chaplain, academic, and professor, and he served as Dean of King’s College London for over 25 years from 1993 to 2019.
After leaving King’s College London, Professor Burridge became a Research Fellow in the Department of Theology at the University of Manchester, which is now his main academic base in the UK, together with being a Visiting Professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, just outside Washington DC in the USA. Freed from university administration and direction, he now seeks to devote more time to his research and writing, as well as his public ministry in undertaking theological training study days for clergy and lay people.
During the Covid pandemic of 2020-2021, he formed and led an online eucharistic community reaching out across five Christian denominations and four continents, from Australia to the USA, from South Africa to Estonia. His research into the implications of digital technology and cyberspace for sacramental theology resulted in his most recent book, Holy Communion in Contagious Times, published by Wipf and Stock in January 2022 – which is currently provoking much debate on both sides of the Atlantic.
He is currently finishing the second volume of his major project on New Testament ethics, Money, Sex, Power, Violence and the Meaning of Life, and is also working on a new ‘literal’ translation of the gospels and an ‘Unauthorised Biography’ of Jesus.
Originally from a mining and driving family, he won a scholarship to Bristol Cathedral School, and from there an Exhibition award to University College, Oxford. At ‘Univ.’, the oldest institution of higher education in the English-speaking world, he studied Literae Humaniores, the study of classical antiquity, including Greek and Latin language, literature, philosophy, and ancient history, graduating with First Class Honours in 1977. After a year gaining distinctions in a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Nottingham, he became a schoolmaster, teaching Latin and Greek language and literature, Classics and Mathematics at Sevenoaks School, an independent international day and boarding school in Kent.
During his time at Oxford, Richard also trained as a Reader, a lay minister in the Church of England, licensed to preach, teach and lead services, serving in churches in Nottingham and in Kippington, Kent. In 1982 he was called to the ordained ministry of the Church of England, undertaking his theological training at St John’s College, Nottingham, when he also commenced his postgraduate research at the University of Nottingham which would lead to his ground-breaking doctoral thesis on the genre of the gospels compared with Graeco-Roman biography.
From 1985 to 1987, he served his title as Curate of Bromley Parish Church in West Kent on the edge of Greater London, a traditional civic church with a strong choral tradition, serving the commercial and cultural life of the town as well as a large congregation. He then became the Lazenby Chaplain at the University of Exeter, leading a multi-denominational team of chaplains across the Christian traditions and being responsible for the daily and Sunday services in the beautiful Mary Harris Chapel of the Holy Trinity with its active choir. He was also a Lecturer in the Departments of Classics and Theology, teaching the New Testament and ethics, as well as Latin and Greek language and literature.
During these years, Richard completed his PhD, which was published by Cambridge University Press in the prestigious SNTS (Society of New Testament Studies) Monograph Series in 1992 as What are the Gospels? A comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. This book overturned the previous scholarly consensus about the uniqueness of the genre of the gospels, demonstrating instead that they are actually a form of ancient biography. After the hardback edition sold out, it was reprinted as a paperback in 1995, and then updated in an expanded second edition by Eerdmans in 2004. More recently, further research on the impact and effects of his work over the last 25 years resulted in a greatly expanded third edition from Baylor University Press in 2018.
In 1993, Professor Burridge was invited to become Dean of King’s College London, a post which he took up formally on August 1st 1994 after a year as Dean-Elect. At his election in 1993, Professor Burridge was the youngest ever Dean of King’s, and in July 2016 he became the longest serving Dean, passing the record of the Very Revd Sydney Evans after 8,026 days of service. The photograph above shows him at his Licensing Service in 1994 with the Rt Revd David Hope (then Bishop of London) and Professor Arthur Lucas (then Principal of King’s) in front of the portraits of the two great post-war Deans, Eric Symes Abbott (1945-1955) and Sydney Evans (1955-1977). He stepped down from the Deanship on July 31st 2019, after 25 years’ service.
As Dean, Professor Burridge oversaw – with the help and hard work of many outstanding colleagues in his team over the years – the restoration of King’s Chapel and the refurbishment of the organ, the reestablishment of the Associateship of King’s College London (AKC) to over 2,500 students and staff enrolled, and the Chaplaincy’s expansion across all King’s campuses, including Jewish and Muslim chaplains, to serve the whole King’s community, staff and students, regardless of belief or background.
In addition to his duties as Dean, he taught in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and was appointed to a personal chair as Professor of Biblical Interpretation in 2008; he also served as Director of New Testament Studies until 2014, overseeing the biblical studies staff and courses. His book, Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics (2007), was shortlisted for the Michael Ramsay prize at the Guardian Literary Festival at Hay-on-Wye in 2009. Over his time as Dean of King’s, Richard became a regular contributor on TV and radio, appearing on a wide range of programmes from Newsnight to Sky News, commenting on public affairs and ethical issues, as well as contributing to documentaries about Jesus and the gospels.
In his service to society and the wider church, Professor Burridge represented the University of London on the General Synod for over twenty years, during which time he chaired the Church of England’s Education Validation Panel for Ordination Training for ten years, before a further decade as Deputy Chair of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group. He also served as Canon Theologian for the Bishop of Salisbury from 2014 to 2021, and was elected Visiting Professor in Ethics and Theology at Gresham College, London, in 2018-19.
Professor Burridge’s academic scholarship and his contribution to the life of the world-wide church was recognised when he was awarded the 2013 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis, the first non-Roman Catholic to receive this prestigious prize. In 2019, the Bishop of Southwark presented him with the Lancelot Andrewes Medal for Godly Service and Zeal for the Gospel in recognition of his work for the Diocese of Southwark over a quarter of a century, and he continues to hold the Bishop’s Permission to Officiate in that diocese.