Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen has developed a unique perspective which brings together practical theology and combines it creatively with moral theology and Christian social ethics in a way that is academically rigorous and practically transformative. We believe that theology should make a difference to church, society and the academy.
Click the tabs below for more information on what Aberdeen has to offer by way of research expertise and doctoral supervision, how to apply, and what students can expect when studying with us.
- Practical Theology in Aberdeen
Our discipline begins and ends with inquiries focused on practices. The ground for this focus on practise is an understanding of faith as a lived entity. Our task is to think through faith not as ‘mere belief’ but as lived, purposeful and transformative. Thus the primary reference of our theologising is the lived life in all its contemporary forms. Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen is creatively and rigorously interdisciplinary and deeply theological. All postgraduate students in Practical Theology are members of a flourishing research community which provides an opportunity for students to interact with one another and with highly regarded scholars from across the theological disciplines.
We are interested in hearing from students wishing to undertake postgraduate level work in Practical Theology at the doctoral level. Please contact one of the supervisors below if you are thinking about applying for a PhD in their subject area.
Dr Brian Brock: Supervision is offered in the following areas: Christian ethics (including technological developments, scripture in Christian ethics, modern German theological ethics, Christian social ethics, religion, church and complex ethical issues); political theology (including secularism and political theology, the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, globalisation and political terrorism, religion as a social and political phenomenon, and the impact of political life on the internal dynamics of Christian communities); and disability theology (including disability in the Christian tradition, theological anthropology and disability, mental health and illness, theology and dementia, and the theology of cognitive and intellectual disabilities).
Dr Ken Jeffrey: Supervision is offered in the following areas: ministry studies (including leadership, practices, preaching, spiritual formation, Anglican theological studies, as well as chaplaincy related areas); Christian mission; and pastoral issues (including pastoral care, spirituality and mental health, Christian healing, spirituality and healthcare, and ministry with marginalised people).
Professor John Swinton: Supervision is offered in the following areas: ministry studies (including leadership, practices, preaching, spiritual formation, Anglican theological studies, as well as chaplaincy related areas); theodicy (subjects ranging from theology and disaster studies, religion after ground zero, practical theodicy, the pastoral implications of theodicy and lament, to theology and post traumatic growth); Christian mission; qualitative research (including congregational studies, ecclesiology and ethnography, practical theology and qualitative research methods, and methodological issues in practical theology); disability theology; and pastoral issues (including pastoral care, spirituality and mental health, Christian healing, spirituality and healthcare, and ministry with marginalised people).
Dr Léon van Ommen: Supervision is offered in the following areas: liturgical studies (including liturgical theology, worship, prayer, worship songs, liturgy and pastoral care, sacramental theology, ritual, Anglican liturgy,); suffering and healing (including lament, theodicy, disaster, trauma, healing worship services); autism; disability theology (including the spirituality and theology of Jean Vanier and L’Arche; practical theology and qualitative research methods (including narrative methods, ecclesiology and ethnography); pastoral issues (including liturgy and mental health, ministry with marginalised people); theology of joy; and justice, peace and reconciliation.
In addition to the above supervisory team, the Department of Divinity is also delighted to have the Christ’s College Research Fellow in Practical Theology. The current postholder is:
Dr Katie Cross whose research interests include, broadly, theology and disaster, responses to tragic events, trauma theology, secularity and unbelief, and feminist theology. Cross is also interested in qualitative research, particularly ethnography and IPA (Interpretive phenomenological analysis).
- PGR Students
Some current (and graduated) students and their projects from the University of Aberdeen include:
- Sheila Akomiah, Church Growth in an Age of Decline? New Churches in Glasgow 2000 – 2015
- Allen Calhoun, A History of Taxation in Christian Theological Thought
- Haley French, A Practical Pneumatology of Counselling: Pentecostal & Charismatic Perspectives on the Holy Spirit's Role in Therapy
- Michael Langston, Exploring the Practical Significance of Evangelical Theology on Evangelical Military Chaplains Praxis of Chaplaincy: A Grounded Theory Approach
- Alan Macgregor, Word for Today: Preaching in a Hypertext World
- Stuart Sheehan, The Changing Theological Function of Worship Among Southern Baptists: What It Was and What It became
- Cynthia Tam, Finding Meaning in Silences: The Experience of People with Autism and Limited Speech-Language Abilities
The following are some selected publications relating to Practical Theology by staff at the University of Aberdeen:
Dr Brian Brock
"Bonhoeffer and the Bible in Christian Ethics: Psalm 119, the Mandates, and Ethics as a 'Way'" Studies in Christian Ethics, vol. 18:3 December, 2005, pp. 7-29.
Captive to Christ, Open to the World On Doing Christian Ethics in Public, Cascade Books, 2014.
Christian Ethics in a Technological Age, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
The Freedom of a Christian Ethicist: The Future of a Reformation Legacy, Brian Brock and Michael Mawson, T & T Clark, 2016.
Dr Katie Cross
- 2020 (forthcoming): The Sunday Assembly and Theologies of Suffering (Routledge, Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology).
- 2020 (forthcoming): Karen O’Donnell and Katie Cross, Feminism and Trauma Theology: Body, Scripture and Church in Critical Perspective (SCM Press).
- 2020: ‘I Have the Power in My Body to Make People Sin’: The Trauma of Purity Culture and the Concept of ‘Body Theodicy’ in Karen O’Donnell and Katie Cross (eds), Feminism and Trauma Theology: Body, Scripture and Church in Critical Perspective (SCM Press).
- 2017: ‘The Sunday Assembly in Scotland: Vestiges of religious memory and practise in a secular congregation,’ Practical Theology Vol. 10 (3), pp.249-262.
Dr Ken Jeffrey
- 'Making sense of the 1859 Revival in the North-East of Scotland', in A Walker & K Aune (eds), On Revival: A Critical Examination. Paternoster Press, Carlisle.
- 'Physical Phenomena in the 1859 Ulster Revival'. The Rutherford Journal.
- When the Lord walked the land: The 1858-62 Revival in the North East of Scotland. Studies in Evangelical History and Thought, Paternoster Press, Carlisle.
- 'Work, Leisure and Revival: The integration of the 1859 Revival into the working and social lives of the townsfolk, fermfolk and fisherfolk of Aberdeenshire' in RN Swanson (ed.), The Use and Abuse of Time in Christian History. Studies in Church History, vol. 37, The Boydell Press, Suffolk.
Professor John Swinton
- Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship. Baylor University Press, Waco, Texas.
- Dementia: Living in the Memories of God. Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids.
- 'From Inclusion to Belonging: A Practical Theology of Community, Disability and Humanness'. Journal of religion, disability & health, vol 16, no. 2, pp. 172-190.
- 'The Unforeseen Relationship Between Spirituality and Psychiatric Medication: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study', Vanderpot, LE., Swinton, J. & Bedford, H., Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, pp. 1-13.
- 'What's in a name?: Why people with dementia might be better off without the language of personhood'. International Journal of Practical Theology, vol 18, no. 2, pp. 234-247.
Dr Léon van Ommen
- Van Ommen, AL 2019, Remembering for Healing: Liturgical Communities of Reconciliation Provide Space for Trauma. in RR Ganzevoort & S Sremac (eds), Trauma and Lived Religion: Transcending the Ordinary. Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges , Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 203-223.[ONLINE] DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1007/978-3-319-91872-3_10
- Van Ommen, AL 2019, 'Taboo and Stigma in Praying for Mental Health: An Empirical-Theological Investigation into the Practice of Public Intercession', Ecclesial Practices, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 83-101.[ONLINE] DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1163/22144471-00601005
- Van Ommen, AL 2018, 'The sacramental nature of peacemaking rituals: a case for a sacramental spirituality of reconciliation', International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 16-30.[ONLINE] DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1080/1474225X.2018.1463490
- Van Ommen, AL 2017, Suffering in Worship: Anglican Liturgy in Relation to Stories of Suffering People. Liturgy, Worship and Society Series, Routledge, London.
- Van Ommen, AL 2016, 'Liturgy and Pastoral Care: Pastoral Worship and Priestly Counselling', Studia Liturgica, vol. 46, no. 1-2, pp. 208-221.
Some helpful links for further information and resources in Practical Theology include: