Canon Professor Elaine Graham

Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology

As a practical theologian, I am interested in the relationship between beliefs and actions, and whether religious commitment really makes a difference in today’s world.  In my teaching and research, I try to encourage people to connect the values of faith to a critical engagement with the dilemmas of everyday life.


Telephone 01244 511465


BSc (Soc Sci), MA (Theol), PhD, FRSA, FHEA


My first degree was in social science, but my interest in theology (and especially its practical relevance) really sprang from my membership of the Student Christian Movement. My master’s dissertation explored how perceptions of the pastoral needs of women during the twentieth century tended to stereotype them as wives and mothers. For my PhD, I studied the impact of gender theory on the discipline of pastoral studies within the Western Christian tradition.

From there, via an interest in religion and the body, I started to think about the ways in which popular culture and scientific discourses provide the Western cultural imagination with all sorts of depictions of what it means to be human in a digital, biotechnological and cybernetic age. That interest continues in my work on media, culture and religion.

I have also contributed to the field of practical theology through my work with Heather Walton and Frances Ward on theological reflection. This work continues to be a central part of my research, writing and supervision and I am currently collaborating with Heather, and Stephen Pattison and Zoe Bennett, on a jointly-authored work on advanced research methods in Practical Theology, to be published by Ashgate in 2017.

I’m also interested in the political and public dimensions of religion at a time when faith and spirituality is both more prominent and more contested.  Whilst many of the assumptions about the eventual disappearance of religion from our lives have had to be re-assessed, there is still widespread scepticism as to the legitimacy of religious voices in public life. I’ve used the concept of the ‘post-secular’ to explore this question, and in 2013 published Between a Rock and a Hard Place (SCM Press).

I continue to think about how the Church can better communicate its contribution to society in a world both fascinated and troubled by religion. My solution? To rethink public theology as a form of Christian apologetics.  I’m currently working on a monograph on this topic, to be published by Wipf and Stock in 2017.

In addition to my University commitments, I currently hold the honorary post of Canon Theologian at Chester Cathedral. Amongst other things, this involves me in helping to organize meetings of the Chester Theological Society and giving an annual lecture.



  • Introduction to the Study of Theology, Media and Communication
  • Independent Practice-Based Research Project
  • Writing for Publication
  • Media Ethics
  • Reflective Practice
  • Advanced Research in Practical Theology


Research Interests

Theology and Practice

Religion and public life, especially ‘post-secular’ public theology

Religion, culture and gender

Technology and the ‘posthuman’ condition

Media, culture and religion


PhD and DProf Supervision

I welcome enquiries for research at doctoral level in any of my research areas listed above,  especially for students interested in pursuing research towards the degree of DProf; and  from students wishing to explore other areas within Contextual, Practical and Public Theologies.


External Funding

January-July 2009: Faith, Secularism and Public Policy seminar series, Economic and Social Research Council (£14,000).

Oct 2007-July 2009:  Promoting Greater Human Well­being: In­ter­act­ing the Happ­i­­ness Hy­­po­thesis and Religion Coll­ab­orative Research Network, AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme (£23,400).

2007-2010: Collaborative Doc­toral Stu­dentship (joint­ly with British Sign Language Bib­lical Trans­lation Project), Arts & Humanities Research Council (£36, 000).

2004-05: Communities in Transition, project on faith-based org­anizations’ re­sponses to local econ­om­ic and demo­­graph­ic change, Church Urban Fund (£20,000).

Elsewhere on the Web:

Links to many of my publications since 2009 can be found on my page in the University of Chester Repository

Canon Theologian of Chester Cathedral

Chester Theological Society

Published work

Monographs and jointly-authored works

2013       Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Public Theology in a Post-Secular Age. London: SCM Press.
2009 with Stephen R. Lowe, What Makes a Good City? Public Theology and the Urban Church. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.
2005 with Heather Walton and Frances Ward, Theological Reflection: Methods, London: SCM Press.
2002 Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture.  Studies in Religion, Culture and Gender, Manchester University Press and Rutgers University Press.
Transforming Practice: Pastoral Theology in an Age of Uncertainty. London: Mowbray, 1996; reprinted 2002.
1995 Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood and Theology. London: Mowbray and Minneapolis: Fortress.

Edited books

2010 (with J.R. Atherton and I. Steedman), The Practices of Happiness: Political Economy, Religion and Wellbeing. Routledge.
2009 (ed.) Grace Jantzen: Redeeming the Present. London: Ashgate.
2009 (with P.M. Scott and C.R. Baker) Remoralizing Britain? Political, Ethical and Theological perspectives on New Labour. London and New York: Continuum.
2007 (with H. Walton and F. Ward) Theological Reflection: Sources. London: SCM Press.
1993       (with Margaret Halsey) Life-Cycles: Women and Pastoral Care. London: SPCK.

 Other Selected Publications since 2008

In edited collections:

2015 The Final Frontier? Religion and Posthumanism in Film and TV. In M. Hauskeller, T.D. Philbeck and C. Carbonell, eds. Palgrave Macmillan Handbook of Posthumanism in Film and TV (361-370), London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
2013 ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Public Theology in the United Kingdom’ in H. Bedford-Strohm, F. Höhne and T. Reitmeier, eds. Contextuality and Intercontextuality in Public Theology  (121-135), Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2013.
2011 ‘Religious Literacy and Public Service Broadcasting: Introducing a Research Agenda’, in ed. G. Lynch and J. Mitchell, Religion, Media and  Culture:  a Reader  (228-235), London: Routledge, 2011.
2011       ‘Feminist Theory’, in ed. B.M. Miller-McLemore, Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Practical Theology (204-213), Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 2011.
2011   ‘Theology, Place and Human Flourishing’ in ed. M. Higton, Theology and Human Flourishing: Essays in Honour of Timothy Gorringe (265-279), Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011.
2011 ‘Establishment, Multiculturalism and Social Cohesion’, in eds. M. Chapman, J. Maltby and W. Whyte, The Established Church: Past, Present and Future (124-140), Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2011.
2011 (with Andrew Davey), ‘Inhabiting the Good City: the Politics of Hate and the Urbanisms of Hope’, in eds. C. Baker and J. Beaumont, Post-Secular Cities (120-134), London: Continuum, 2011.
2010  ‘The Virtuous Circle: religion and the practices of happiness’ in eds. J.R. Atherton, E.L. Graham and I. Steedman, The Practices of Happiness: Political Economy, Religion and Wellbeing (224-234), London: Routledge, 2010.

 Journal articles:

2015 The Medium and the Message? Notes on Pope Francis’ “Theology of Communi­ca­tion”. Crucible: the Journal of Christian Social Ethics: 20-30.
2015 The Unquiet Frontier: Tracing the Boundaries of Philosophy and Public Theology. Political Theology 16.1: 33-46.
2013 Is Practical Theology a form of 'Action Research’, International Journal of Practical Theology, 17.1: 1-31.
2012 The Archbishop Speaks, But Who Is Listening? The Di­lemmas of Public Theo­logy Today, Ecclesio­logy 8 (2012), 200–222.
2012       From Where Does the Red Tory Speak? Phillip Blond, Theology and Public Discourse, Political Theology 13.3, (2012), 292-307.
2012 What’s Missing? Gender, Reason and the Post-Secular, Political Theology 13.2, 2012: 233-45.

In Preparation :

  • Apologetics without Apology: Rethinking Christian Witness in a Post-Secular World. (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017)
  • (with Zoe Bennett, Stephen Pattison and Heather Walton) Advanced Research in Practical Theology (Ashgate).