Dr Claire Foster-Gilbert, Director, Westminster Abbey Institute

Dr Claire Foster-Gilbert

Director, Westminster Abbey Institute

After reading theology at Balliol College, Oxford, Claire developed expertise in medical ethics as a Research Fellow at King's College, London. She published The Manual for Research Ethics Committees (KCL, 1995) and later The Ethics of Medical Research on Humans (CUP 2001) and became a national expert in research ethics, developing and teaching an intellectual framework for the ethical scrutiny of medical research and working with the Department of Health to create a comprehensive network of ethics committees across the UK.

Claire then moved to work for the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England as policy adviser in medical ethics and also environmental issues. She led the efforts to shift the Church's thinking on environmental issues, offering a theological basis and practical guidance to change minds and hearts across the country. She published Sharing God's Planet (CHP 2005); How many lightbulbs does it take to change a Christian? (CHP 2007), and Don't stop at the lights: leading your church through a changing climate (CHP 2008). During that time Claire became a lay Canon at St Paul's Cathedral and in 2003 co-founded St Paul's Institute, where she co-edited a book of Rowan Williams' dialogues on global issues The Worlds We Live In (DLT 2005). In 2008 she left the Archbishops' Council to found a charity, The Ethics Academy, and published Hero's Journal (The Ethics Academy, 2009), a programme teaching moral strength and courage to young people and adults through the story of the 'hero's journey'. The programme was offered in schools of every kind, to NEETs, street homeless people, business people, asylum seekers and victims of torture. Claire combined the charity work with being Development Director at St Martin-in-the-Fields until she came to Westminster Abbey as founder director of its Institute in 2012. She has edited and contributed to all the Institute’s publications including The Moral Heart of Public Service (JKP 2017); the Haus Curiosities series on power and values in public life; and Letters from Lockdown (Haus 2020). 

Claire’s doctorate is on ecological consciousness and Julian of Norwich, and was awarded by King’s College, London. As Claire Gilbert she has published Miles to Go Before I Sleep: letters on hope, death and learning to live (Hodder 2021).

Claire is Visiting Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, and has been a member or chair of numerous public and advisory bodies, including the Royal Society's Science in Society Committee, the 10 Downing St coalition on climate change, Unilever’s Central Research Ethics Advisory Committee, the Banking Code Standards Board and the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee.