In 1999, shortly before this institution became the University of Gloucestershire, a successful approach was made to the Kirby Laing Foundation to endow the Portland Chair in New Testament Studies that would enhance the already flourishing work in biblical studies. This endowment was also to be the catalyst for launching an International Centre for Biblical Interpretation and with its help the Centre was able to get under way in 2000, to appoint a Research Assistant and to fund an annual lecture. Since then, though the numbers and personnel involved in the Centre have changed, its aims and ethos have remained substantially the same.
Professor Andrew Lincoln was the first Portland Chair and Director of the centre. He was succeeded in these roles by Professor Philip Esler in September 2013, but remains actively involved with the centre.
In its focus on biblical interpretation, the Centre aims to be:
- International in its interests, sensitive to issues of contextualization, globalization and post-colonialism in biblical studies and both promoting and learning from biblical scholarship in the two-thirds world
- Inclusive in its coverage of the discipline and its pursuit of excellence, combining an emphasis on thorough grounding in the biblical languages and rigorous examination of the biblical texts in their historical, literary and theological dimensions with expertise in the variety of more recent interpretative methods and reading strategies
- Interdisciplinary in its approach, transcending traditional boundaries and encouraging cooperative projects between Christian biblical scholars and those from other fields, such as theologians, philosophers, ethicists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, literary theorists, educationalists and political theorists.
- Evangelical and ecumenical in its scope, exploring the implications of the Christian gospel for biblical scholarship and encouraging the participation of those from a variety of Christian and other traditions
- including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions.
- Integrative yet open-ended in its goals, seeking a coherent framework for relating faith and biblical scholarship while welcoming experiment and diversity as part of this search