The second of four children of Madge (nee Hutley), a schoolteacher, and Jack, a Methodist minister, Hull was born in 1935, in Corryong in the state of Victoria, Australia. Following a first degree at Melbourne University and an early career in teaching, he studied theology in Cambridge, UK, where he remained, working as a teacher, religious educator and theologian.
In 1989, Hull became professor of religious education at Birmingham University, the first full professorship in the subject at a UK university. Following his retirement in 2002 he taught at the Queens Foundation where the emphasis of his teaching and research moved from religious education in mainstream secular contexts to the training of ordinands for Christian ministry.
As a religious educator Hull was influenced by extensive study in the complimentary disciplines of psychology, anthropology, sociology and politics. He presented an inclusive and pluralistic religious education as a critically open study which he believed should be seen primarily as a ‘gift’ to students’ personal and intellectual development.
Hull contributed internationally to the development of religious and values education. He travelled and lectured widely and, most significantly perhaps, in 1978, with John Peatling, founded the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values. This biannual conference of international scholars continues to grow and thrive. Hull is one of only thirteen international scholars to have received the William Rainey Harper award from the Religious Education Association of the US and Canada, presented to “outstanding leaders whose work in other fields has had a profound impact upon religious education”, joining such previous recipients as Marshall McLuhan, Margaret Mead and Paolo Freire.
Following his retirement from the University of Birmingham, Hull became an honorary professor in practical theology at the Queen’s Foundation for theological education in Birmingham. Here he continued to teach and write in the field of practical theology. He was an advocate of Christian participation in action for justice, passionately arguing for what he saw as the church’s prophetic role in society, especially in opposing the money culture and nuclear weapons.
In 1980, Hull lost his sight and for the last 35 years of his life was totally blind. He wrote extensively about the experience, including reflections on how blindness had changed and deepened his faith. His book, ‘Touching the Rock’ was the basis for an award-winning film, ‘Notes on Blindness’, which came out after his death.
He died in 2015, survived by his second wife, Marilyn, and the five children from his two marriages.