Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society
Professor Gordon Lynch
(020)7 631 6658
Gordon Lynch is Professor in the Sociology of Religion in the Faculty of Lifelong Learning at Birkbeck College. He joined Birkbeck from the University of Birmingham in May 2007, where he had been Senior Lecturer in Religion and Culture.
Professor Lynch's work focuses on the relationship between religion and culture, and contemporary religious movements, in the West. He was employed as a consultant to help to draw up the research priorities for the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society research programme, the largest research programme on religion to have been commissioned in the UK, and continues to serve on the steering group for that programme. He is also a member of the ESRC's Virtual College, representing work in the field of the sociology of religion.
Professor Lynch is the chair of the British Sociological Association's Sociology of Religion study group. He is has also been the co-founder and lead convenor of the UK research network for Theology, Religion and Popular Culture, and is co-chair of the Religion, Media and Culture Group within the American Academy of Religion. In addition to his academic work, Professor Lynch also writes and speaks on issues of religion and contemporary society in various media, and is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops exploring issues of contemporary spirituality.
Professor Lynch's original doctoral study explored the relationship between belief, values and psychotherapy, and he subsequently trained as a psychodynamic counsellor. His early writing discussed theoretical and ethical issues in counselling and psychotherapy, and he edited Clinical Counselling in Pastoral Settings (Routledge, 1999).
On starting his academic appointment at Birmingham in 1999, his interests moved more towards sociological and cultural approaches to studying significant sources of meaning and value for people living in an increasingly de-Christianised Western society. This led him to write After Religion: Generation X and the Search for Meaning (DLT, 2002), a critical examination of an emerging literature on the spirituality of young adults, alienated from institutional religion. In turn, this project led to more detailed research on significant values and meanings amongst participants in the mainstream techno and hard-house club scene, as well as a subsequent book exploring theological and religious studies approaches to researching media and popular culture (Understanding Theology and Popular Culture, Blackwell, 2005). He has has developed an international profile in the field of religion, media and culture, and recently edited of collection of leading essays exploring key issues for the future of this field (Between Sacred and Profane: Researching Religion and Popular Culture, IB Tauris, 2007).
His interest in sources of meaning and value in contemporary Western society also led him to explore a growing literature suggesting that there is a significant spiritual movement taking place outside the conventional spaces and boundaries of institutional religion. This project, published as The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-First Century (IB Tauris, 2007) led Lynch to conclude that this 'spirituality' did not at present involve substantial numbers of people, nor was it confined to a world of alternative spiritualities beyond institutional religion, but that it was an ideological movement that cut across and beyond a range of religious traditions and represented a contemporary extension of a more established movement of religious liberalism in the West. At a time in which popular and media discourse about religion often presents the polarised alternatives of conservative/fundamentalist religion or atheism/secularism, Professor Lynch has been keen to argue that this alternative movement of the religious Left should not be ignored as a possible source of ideas and practices for the future.
Professor Lynch's established interest in sources of meaning and value in the West have led him to develop a new book project, being written for Oxford University Press, on the nature and significance of the sacred in contemporary society. This book will explore different concepts of the nature and cultural significance of the sacred, examine how forms of the sacred are mediated through contemporary cultural life, and consider the implications of life in a pluralist society in which there are many competing visions and experiences of the sacred.
He remains interested in the relationship between religion, media and popular culture, and is currently developing a research project examining the cultural mediation of sacred presence through visual and material objects, as well as a longer-term project on understanding the cultural turn in the contemporary study of religion. He is also increasingly interested in the ways in which religion and the sacred are, and are not, implicated in contemporary social conflicts, and is working on projects particularly examining the relationship between religion and conflict amongst students in British higher education.
Following his work for The New Spirituality, he remains interested in the ways in which religious and cultural progressives are making use of the 'universe story' (a contemporary creation myth grounded in new scientific knowledge about the nature and origins of the universe) as a basis for various forms of cultural, political and environmental activism. He would also like to do more work on understanding emerging forms of Evangelicalism in the UK.
Professor Lynch welcomes informal enquiries from potential doctoral students who have ideas about projects relating to these research areas.
- (2007), The New Spirituality: Progressive Faith in the Twenty-First Century. London: IB Tauris.
- (ed.) (2007), Between Sacred and Profane: Researching Religion and Popular Culture, London: IB Tauris.
- (2005) Understanding Theology and Popular Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.
- (2003) Losing My Religion? Moving on From Evangelical Faith. London: DLT.
- (2002) After Religion: ‘Generation X’ and the Search for Meaning. London: DLT.
- (2002) Pastoral Care and Counselling. London: Sage.
- (ed.), (1999) Clinical Counselling in Pastoral Settings. London: Routledge.
- (1998) with David Willows, Telling Tales: The Narrative Dimension of Pastoral Care and Counselling, Contact Pastoral Monograph no.8, Edinburgh: Contact Pastoral Trust.
- (in press) 'Religion, media and cultures of everyday life', in (ed.) J. Hinnells, The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, London: Routledge.
- (in press) 'Object theory: towards a mediated, dynamic and intersubjective theory of religion', in (ed.) D. Morgan, The Matter of Belief, London: Routledge.
- (2009) 'Cultural theory and cultural studies', in (ed.) J. Lyden, The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, London: Routledge, pp.275-91.
- (2008) ‘Religious experience and popular culture: developing a critical frame of enquiry’, in (ed.) H. Zock, At the Crossroads of Art and Religion. Leuven: Peeters, pp.71-84.
- (2008) ‘The dreams of the autonomous and reflexive self: exploring the religious significance of contemporary lifestyle media’, in (eds.) B. Spalek & A. Imtoual, Religion, Spirituality and Social Science Research: Challenging Marginalization, Bristol: Policy Press, pp.63-76.
- (2007) ‘What is this “religion” in the study of religion and popular culture?’, in (ed.) G. Lynch, Between Sacred and Profane, London: IB Tauris, pp.125-42.
- (2007), ‘Film and the subjective turn: how the sociology of religion can contribute to theological readings of film’ in (ed.) R. Johnston, Reviewing Theology and Film, Grand Rapids: Baker, pp.109-25.
- (2006), ‘Beyond conversion: exploring the process of moving away from Evangelical Christianity’, in (eds.) C. Partridge & H. Reid, Finding and Losing Faith: Studies in Conversion, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, pp.23-38.
- (2005) with Stephen Pattison, 'Pastoral and Practical Theology' in (ed.) David Ford, The Modern Theologians, 3rd edition, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.408-26.
- (2005) 'Theologie sakularer Kultur', Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (4th edition), p.2325.
- (2000) ‘The relationship between pastoral counselling and pastoral theology’, in (eds.) S. Pattison & J. Woodward, The Blackwell Reader of Practical and Pastoral Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.223-232.
- (1999) ‘Dual relationships in pastoral counselling’, in Clinical Counselling in Pastoral Settings, London: Routledge, pp.79-93.
- (1999) with Alan Boyd, ‘Establishing the therapeutic frame in pastoral settings’, in Clinical Counselling in Pastoral Settings, London: Routledge, pp.64-78.
- (1999) ‘A pragmatic approach to clinical counselling in context’, in (ed.) John Lees, Clinical Counselling in Context: An Introduction, London: Routledge, pp.20-33.
Special journal issues/articles in refereed journals:
- (in press) with Giles Beck, ' "We are all one: we are all gods": negotiating spirituality in the conscious partying movement', Journal of Contemporary Religion.
- (in press) with Heidi Campbell and Pete Ward, ‘ “Can you hear the army?” Exploring discourse in Evangelical youth-prayer meetings’, Journal of Contemporary Religion.
- (2006) ‘The role of popular music in the construction of alternative spiritual identities and ideologies’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45(4), pp.481-8.
- (2006) with Emily Badger, ‘The mainstream post-rave club scene as a secondary institution: a British perspective’, Culture and Religion, 7(1), pp.27-40.
- (2006) ‘Exploring the research agenda for religion and popular culture: a report of a panel discussion at the American Academy of Religion, November 2005’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, http://www.usask.ca/relst/jrpc/reports12.html
- (2005) 'Holding the forgotten in mind: a tribute to John Foskett', Contact, 148, pp.22-4.
- (2005) with Stephen Pattison, ‘Exploring positive learning experiences in the context of practical theological education’, Teaching Theology and Religion, vol.8, no.3, pp.144-54
- (2005) ‘Looking to the future for religion and spirituality’, Journal of Innovative Teaching, no.3, pp.4-5.
- (2003) ‘Developing post-religious practical theology’, Contact: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Pastoral Studies, 142, pp.22-7.
- (2001) edited with John Foskett, ‘Key Issues in Pastoral Counselling’, symposium for the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 29(4).
- (2000) with John McLeod, ‘ “This is our life”: strong evaluation in psychotherapy narrative’, European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health, vol.3, no.3, pp.389-406.
- (1999) ‘Exploring the client’s view: an agenda for empirical research in pastoral care and counselling’, Contact: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Pastoral Studies, vol.128, pp.22-8.
- (1999) with Anne Le Surf, ‘Exploring young people’s perceptions relevant to counselling: a qualitative study’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, vol.27(2), pp.231-44.
- (November) Plenary respondent for panel session as part of study day on 'Belief and Identity in Late Modernity: Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries' organised by the University of Sussex in conjunction with the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion study group.
- (October) 'Locating mediatization in the study of religion and the sacred in the West', key-note address at the concluding conference of the Nordic Research Network on Mediatization and Religion.
- (August) 'Exploring the sacred in a mediatized world', symposium organised by the International Study Commission for Media, Religion and Culture, Sao Paulo.
- (May) ‘Making sense of the spirituality revolution: a view of the contemporary religious landscape’, key-note address at the conference of the Retreat Association, Swanwick.
- (May) ‘The Universe Story: science as a source of new forms of the sacred?’, Birkbeck College public lunch-time lecture in series on religion and science.
- (February) ‘The preacher as cultural critic’, annual conference of the College of Preachers, Swanwick.
- (January) Plenary respondent to international symposium on ‘Religion, media processes and the transformation of the public sphere’, London, organised by the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Economic Change’.
- (January) ‘Issues in studying media, religion and culture’, one day research workshop for postgraduate students at King’s College, London.
- (December) ‘Researching religion, young people and everyday life: some questions and uncertainties’, plenary talk at conference on ‘Religion, Media and Young People’, Sigtuna Foundation, Stockholm, organised by the Nordic research network for the Mediatization of Religion and Culture.
- (September) ‘Studying religious and moral dimensions of electronic dance music: some lessons from previous research’, plenary lecture for day conference on ‘Party Formations’, University of Amsterdam.
- (May) ‘Exploring the shape of progressive religion in the West’, seminar presentation, Heythrop College, London.
- (February) 'The changing face of the sacred: future challenges for the sociology of religion in the UK', key-note address to the postgraduate conference of the British Sociological Association's Sociology of Religion study group, University of Bristol.
- (January) ‘The new spirituality: emerging forms of progressive religion in the West’, presentation for seminar in the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Durham.
- (November) invited to chair panel session on ‘Wrestling with method: case studies in religion, media and culture, for Religion, Media and Culture consultation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Washington, DC.
- (September) invited seminar paper on progressive spirituality for international conference on religion and modernization at University of Wuhan, China.
- (July) invited seminar paper on religious experience and popular culture for symposium on culture and religious experience, University of Groningen, Holland
- (February) ‘Visions of happiness: exploring visions of the good life in film’, Centre for Christianity and Culture, Regent’s Park College, Oxford.
- (November) invited member of panel discussion of Clive Marsh’s ‘Cinema and Sentiment, Religion and Film program unit, annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Philadelphia.
- (November) ‘Sexuality and religious views of the good life’, national conference for ‘A’ Level Religious Studies students, Friend’s Meeting House, London.
- (August) ‘Losing My Religion?’, key-note speaker week of seminars/workshops for Scargill House community, Yorkshire.
- (November) key-note lecture on ‘Exploring students’ experiences of practical theological education’ for the annual conference of the North-East Institute for Theological Education, St Chad’s College, Durham.
- (August) key-note speaker on ‘In search of authenticity’, for the national conference of the Bridge Pastoral Foundation, Swanwick.
- (November) ‘Should theologians dream of electric sheep: towards a research agenda for religion and popular culture’, Contextual Theology seminar, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester.
- (July) ‘Deconstructing Generation X religion’, annual meeting of The Centre for Progressive Christianity, San Francisco.
- (April) ‘Contemporary ecstasies: the religious significance of contemporary club culture’, Department research seminar, Department of Religious Studies, University of Lancaster.
- (February) ‘Concepts of well-being in the discourses of contemporary British club culture’, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Cardiff University.
Conference panels/papers presented:
- (November) Panellist with Sarah McFarland Taylor for 'Author meets critics' panel discussion of 'The New Spirituality' (Lynch) and 'Greensisters' (Taylor), American Academy of Religion, Chicago.
- (November) 'Contesting youth spiritualities: some reflections on performed and tacit dimensions of belief', Religion and Social Sciences Section, American Academy of Religion, Chicago
- (June) 'Living with two cultural turns: the case of the study of religion', symposium on 'Social research after the cultural turn' organised by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research.
- (April) ‘Exploring the construction of the self in progressive spirituality’, annual meeting of the British Sociological Association Study of Religion group, University of Manchester.
- (November) convened and chaired panel on ‘Exploring the research agenda for religion and popular culture’, Religion and Popular Culture program unit, annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Philadelphia.
- (May) convened day conference on ‘Studying Religion and Popular Music’, held in Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham.
- (November) ‘An episteme of discourses of the self in contemporary religion and spirituality’, joint session of the Religion and Social Sciences section and the Person, Religion, Culture program unit, annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, Texas.
- (September) ‘The dreams of the autonomous and reflexive self: exploring the religious significance of lifestyle media’, International Conference for Religion, Media and Culture, Louisvillle, Kentucky.
- (April) ‘Exploring discourses of the self in contemporary spirituality’, annual meeting of the British Sociological Association Study of Religion group, University of Bristol.
- (November) ‘Contemporary ecstasies: the religious significance of contemporary club culture’, joint session of the Religion and Popular Culture and Anthropology of Religion program units, annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta.
- (July) with Stephen Pattison, ‘Positive learning experiences in practical theological education’, annual conference of the British and Irish Association, Cardiff University.
- (April) ‘Exploring values and beliefs in the British club scene’, conference of the International Academy for Practical Theology, University of Manchester.
- (July) with Stephen Pattison, ‘Counselling goes to church: pastoral theology and narrative-social constructionist approaches to therapy’, annual conference of the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology, Durham University.
- (April) ‘Deconstructing “Generation X”’. annual meeting of the British Sociological Association Study of Religion group, University of Birmingham.
- (2008) awarded AHRC research network grant, £30,566, for a two-year network project on ‘Religion, the sacred and changing cultures of everyday life’
- (2008) awarded Higher Education Academy grant for £2000 from the subject centre for Philosophy and Religious Studies to seed fund an advanced doctoral research methods training network for the study of religion in London and the South-East
- (2008) awarded collaborative doctoral studentship funded by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme on ‘Negotiating religion and the secular in British higher education’
- (2007) awarded British Academy conference grant, £1994, for conference on ‘Religion and the sacred in a media age’, organised in conjunction with the British Sociological Association, Sociology of Religion study group and the UK research network for Theology, Religion and Popular Culture.
- (2006) consultant for the AHRC in revising the programme specification for the £8.3 million collaborative AHRC/ESRC research programme on ‘Religion and Society’
- (2005) consultant on project on self-harm amongst young people in the Church, £5000 funded by the Anglican diocese of Guildford and King’s College, London
- (2004) lead applicant for £2000 feasibility study of developing a national UK professional doctorate in practical theology, awarded by Philosophy and Religious Studies Subject Centre for the UK Higher Education Academy
- (2004) consultant on project on studying faith development in Turkey, £18,000 funded by the EU Leonardo da Vinci community fund project
- (2003) lead applicant for £6000 qualitative research study of students’ learning experiences in practical theological education, awarded by Learning & Teaching Support Network for Philosophy and Religious Studies
- Have also obtained British Academy travel grants to present papers at international conferences in 2004 and 2006.
- Undertake peer review of grant proposals for the AHRC and ESRC.
Printed from: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/crcs/people/director
Date printed: 19/06/2013