Institute of Buddhist Studies Wins Major Grant from Henry Luce Foundation to Support Program Addressing Technologies’ Impacts on Human Relationships

Steven Barrie-Anthony  |  January 9, 2018

The Institute of Buddhist Studies is pleased to announce that it has received a grant of $475,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation to support Public Theologies of Technology and Presence, a three-year program addressing technologies’ impacts on human relationships. The program will gather a grantee cohort of 16 scholars of religion, theologians, and journalists for research projects, popular and scholarly writings, close engagements with Silicon Valley technologists, course offerings, and public talks.

The program will be led by Principal Investigator and IBS Research Fellow Steven Barrie-Anthony. “Technologies are radically reshaping human relationships, the ways in which people are, or are not, present with each other,” Barrie-Anthony says. “Scholars of religion, theologians, and their institutions are ideally situated to provide insight, direction, and training on this issue of great public concern—and yet few are doing so. Our program seeks to fill this vacuum, marshaling public theology, broadly construed, as a key framework through which to address and shape technology and presence. We are grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for supporting this work.”

Grantee applications will be welcomed from scholars who study religion from within all academic disciplines, theologians across all religious traditions including traditions such as Buddhism that are underrepresented in theological study, and journalists. The cohort will be diversely oriented as to what “theology” and “public theology” mean and entail, including moving beyond traditional definitions. Grantees will gather yearly at IBS to share and hone their research and its applications, explore collaboration and co-authorship, and actively engage Silicon Valley and media relationships and resources.

“IBS is thrilled to be hosting this innovative and important program,” says Scott Mitchell, IBS Dean of Students and Faculty Affairs. “Its research and critical dialogues will enrich IBS, our Graduate Theological Union and UC Berkeley colleagues, institutions of theological education and university departments of religion broadly, technologists, and the public.”

David Matsumoto, IBS President, says, “This exciting program has the potential to offer new perspectives on fundamental ideas in theology and the academic study of religion that could be highly significant in the current technological, societal, and religious landscape.”

IBS, established in 1949 and located in Berkeley, California, is one of the few Buddhist seminaries and graduate schools in North America. An affiliate member of the Graduate Theological Union, IBS offers graduate-level degree and certificate programs across the full breadth of the Buddhist tradition. The Public Theologies of Technology and Presence program extends IBS’s cornerstone interest in applying theological insight to innovative work in the contemporary world as well as its joint academic and theological foci and its dedication to collaboration across traditions.

IBS was among nine institutions to receive 2017 grant support from the Luce Fund for Theological Education.

Public Theologies of Technology and Presence will begin in fall 2018. The call for grantee applications will be distributed in February 2018. More information is available on the IBS website or through contacting Dr. Barrie-Anthony (