Dr Myra Blyth

 

Myra Blyth

myra.blyth@regents.ox.ac.uk

The Revd Dr Myra Blyth

Chaplain; Tutorial Fellow in Worship and Pastoral Studies

Myra was an undergraduate at Regent’s Park College, where she took an MA in Theology and trained for ministry in the Baptist Church.  Since then, she has worked with the church in Great Britain and internationally in a number of roles: Director of Programmes for the Churches’ Response to Humanitarian Disasters and Refugee Concerns (World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1988-99); Deputy General Secretary (Baptist Union of Great Britain, 1999-2004); Lecturer in Liturgy and Ecumenical Studies (Regent’s Park College, Oxford, 2004-07); Chaplain and Tutorial Fellow in Liturgy and Ecumenical Studies (Regent’s Park College, Oxford, 2007-present).


In 2012, Myra obtained a PhD from the University of Birmingham, with a thesis entitled: ‘Towards a Restorative Hermeneutic: Churches Responding to Crime and Wrongdoing’.  This thesis brought the principles of Restorative Justice and some of the key tenets of Christian atonement theology into a mutual critical dialogue, in the belief that each had something to offer the other.  In June 2014, she convened a symposium on the place of forgiveness in Restorative Justice theory, policy and practice, which included contributions from Myra herself and a range of internationally acclaimed academics.


The Restoring Lives Programme


Myra is now embarking upon a major research project, which seeks to advance her research into the relationship between forgiveness and Restorative Justice, whilst also drawing colleagues from other disciplines (historical and moral theology) into dialogue on the theme of human restoration more generally.  A strand of work at the heart of the wider programme, Myra’s research into forgiveness is being generously sponsored by the Westhill Endowment Trust and it includes an exciting partnership with a local project specialising in Restorative Justice: The Mint House.


Myra has written:


“Restorative Justice is being used increasingly as a means of dealing with crime and the aftermath of conflict, but the place and role of forgiveness in Restorative Justice processes is highly contested.  While some consider that forgiveness needs to be integral to Restorative Justice for the outcomes to be fully restorative, others reject any suggestion that Restorative Justice should be associated with forgiveness, seeing this as an attempt – often with a faith motivation – to impose external and illegitimate expectations on a process that rightly belongs to its participants.


Exploration of this issue with those on both sides of the debate has highlighted the dearth of empirical research and the fact that, in order to move forward, we need to know much more about how participants experience Restorative Justice.  Specifically, action research is needed to examine what participants in Restorative Justice processes understand forgiveness to mean; how (if at all) they experience this in Restorative Justice settings; and what (if any) difference this makes to the outcomes produced.  By addressing these questions we aim to bring greater understanding, and definitional consensus, on the place of forgiveness in Restorative Justice, in turn influencing Restorative Justice practice and sparking wider debate about where forgiveness sits within the criminal justice system.”


The research team, which Myra is coordinating, is based across two sites: Oxford University, where Myra and Professor Michael Taylor are researching the question with victims and offenders in the Sussex Pathway Partnership; and, in Belfast, where Dr Tim Chapman and Ms Alice Chapman, OBE, are researching the question within the Northern Ireland criminal justice system.  The research team also includes Professor Joanna Shapland (Sheffield University), Dr Rosie Chadwick, and Mr Matthew Mills.


Blyth_Project Logos


Teaching and Research Interests


Liturgy; Twentieth-century Ecumenical Studies/Ecumenical Movement; Restorative Justice; Forgiveness; Peace Studies.


Publications


‘Re-imagining Restorative Justice: The Value of Forgiveness’, Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 5.1 (2016), pp. 66-78


‘The Meaning and Function of “Dynamic Equivalence” in ecumenical dialogues’, in For the Sake of the Church, ed. by Anthony Clarke (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2014)


‘Ecumenism’, in The Study of Liturgy and Worship, ed. by Juliette Day and Benjamin Gordon-Taylor (London: SPCK, 2013), pp. 223-233


‘The Word of God in the Life of the Church: A Review Article’, Baptist Quarterly, 45 (October 2013), pp. 248-53