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) (Hons), Economic & Social History and Sociology, University of Bristol

MA (Theol), Social and Pastoral Theology, University of Manchester

PhD, University of Manchester

Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA)


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.

I’m also interested in the political and public dimensions of religion: my work in urban theology has tried to bring traditions of Christian social thought to bear on the question, What Makes a Good City? More recently, I’ve been thinking about how the Church can better communicate its contribution to society at a time when there is renewed interest in religion as a global cultural force but an enduring scepticism as to the legitimacy of religious voices in public. My solution? To rethink public theology as a form of Christian apologetics

As Canon Theologian at Chester Cathedral, I am President of Chester Theological Society, an ecumenical collaboration between the University of and Chester cathedral. For details of its programme, go it its events page.


Master’s Modules

  • Introduction to the Study of Faith and Public Policy
  • Public Theology
  • Introduction to the Study of Theology, Media and Communication
  • Mediating the Sacred: Religious Communication in Text and Context
  • Media Ethics
  • Independent Practice-Based Research


Professional Doctorate Modules

  • Reflective Practice
  • Thesis Proposal


Plus undergraduate, master’s, PhD and DProf dissertation supervision.


Research Interests

Contextual, Practical and Public Theologies

Theological Reflection

Media, culture and religion

Theology and Practice

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

Religion, culture and gender

Technology and the ‘posthuman’ condition

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).


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, September 2013. 
2009 with Stephen R. Lowe, What Makes a Good City? Public Theology and the Urban Church. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2009.
2005 with Heather Walton and Frances Ward, Theological Reflection: Methods, London: SCM Press, 2005.
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, 2002.
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, 1995.

Edited books

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

 Other Selected Publications since 2008

In edited collections:

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.
2009 ‘Redeeming the Present’ in ed. E.L. Graham, Grace Jantzen: Redeeming the Present (1-11), London: Ashgate, 2009.
2009 ‘Doing God? Public Theology under Blair’ in eds. Peter M. Scott, Chris R. Baker and Elaine L. Graham, Remoralizing Britain?  (1-18), Continuum, 2009.

 Journal articles:

2013 ‘Things can only get better: Practical Theology as Action Research’, International Journal of Practical Theology (Berlin: de Gruyter), 17.1, 2013.
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  ‘A Remembrance of Things (Best) Forgotten: the ‘allegorical past’ and the feminist imagination’, Feminist Theology, 21(1), 2012, 58–70.
2012 ‘What’s Missing? Gender, Reason and the Post-Secular’, Political Theology 13.2, 2012: 233-45.
2011 ‘Frailty and Flourishing: Response to Alister McGrath’, Practical Theology 4.3, 2011, 333-338.
2009 ‘A Window on the Soul: Four Politicians on Politics and Religion’ International Journal of Public Theology 3 (2), 2009, 141-160.
2009 ‘Being, making and imagining: toward a practical theology of technology’, Culture and Religion 10 (2), 2009, 221-236.
2009  ‘Health, Wealth or Wisdom? Religion and the Paradox of Prosperity’, International Journal of Public Theology 3 (1), 2009, 5-23.
2008 ‘Why Practical Theology Must Go Public’, Practical Theology 1.1, 2008, 11-14.
2008 ‘Rethinking the Common Good: Theology and the Future of Welfare’ Colloquium 40 (2), 2008, 133-156.
2008 ‘What Makes a Good City? Reflections on Urban Life and Faith’ International Journal of Public Theology 2 (1), 2008, 7-26.