Portrait of Professor Gordon Lynch

Professor Gordon Lynch

Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology

About

Professor Gordon Lynch is Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology at the University of Kent. He was previously Professor in the Sociology of Religion at Birkbeck College, University of London, and has also held posts at the University of Birmingham and University of Chester. He is a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and also serves as the national sub-panel chair for Theology and Religious Studies for REF2021. 

Gordon has been awarded a range of externally-funded grants – including ten awards from the Arts & Humanities Research Council – many relating to the study of meaning and values in modern Western societies. Most recently, these have focused on histories of abuse involving religious organisations. 

His public engagement work has included serving as an expert witness for both the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry; co-curating a major exhibition with the V&A Museum of Childhood; collaborating on the national music project The Ballads of Child Migration; and co-producing educational films with the BAFTA award-winning digital channel TrueTube. 

Gordon's virtual office hour takes place on Tuesday 13.00-14.00 via Teams.

Research interests

Over the past twenty years, Gordon's research has explored the nature and role of moral meanings in modern society, focusing particularly on forms of meaning beyond traditional, institutional forms of religion. This has included exploring the nature of ‘belief’ amongst young people, ‘religious’ and moral dimensions of media and popular culture, and the significance of sacred moral meanings in shaping social life. Key publications from this work include Understanding Theology and Popular Culture (Blackwell, 2004), The New Spirituality (IB Tauris, 2007), The Sacred in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2012) and On the Sacred (Routledge, 2012). He also co-edited special journal issues on the mediatisation of religion (for Culture and Religion) and on the performance of belief amongst young people (for the Journal of Contemporary Religion). 

Since 2011, his work has focused increasingly on histories of abuse of children and vulnerable adults involving religious organisations. In 2014, a collaborative film with TrueTube on Magdalene Laundries in Ireland won a national Learning on Screen Award from the British Universities Film and Video Council. 

His underpinning research for the Museum of Childhood’s exhibition, On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants, was published as Remembering Child Migration: Faith, Nation-Building and the Wounds of Charity by Bloomsbury in 2015. For much of 2016/2017, he worked as an expert witness for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s investigation into the abuse of British child migrants, with Professor Stephen Constantine. Evidence presented by professors Lynch and Constantine to the Inquiry underpinned its recommendation that the UK Government urgently establish a redress scheme for all surviving British child migrants. The UK Government agreed to implement this recommendation in December 2018. 

Gordon is currently writing a monograph on policy failure and the post-war British child migration schemes to Australia. He is also working on the relevance of principles of transitional justice for religious organisations’ responses to their involvement in histories of abuse.

Teaching

Gordon is currently on study leave from an AHRC Leadership Fellows award. 

His teaching normally covers religion in contemporary Britain, the sociology of religion, the cultural sociology of the sacred and research methods for the social and cultural study of religion.

Supervision

Over the past decade, Gordon has supported a number of doctoral students working broadly in the cultural study of religion and often using ethnographic approaches to research. Former students have gone on to post-doctoral and permanent lecturer posts, with two having monographs based on their PhDs shortlisted for the BSA Philip Abrams prize.  

Previously completed theses include the formation of conservative Evangelical subjectivities, moral meanings enacted through conflict at British universities in relation to Palestine-Israel, visitor engagement with religious objects at the British Museum, the role of public relations in relation to media narratives about Islam, and the lived ethics of women’s engagement with the natural birth movement. 

Gordon is interested in supervising further doctoral work exploring lived uses of moral meaning as well issues relating to historic abuse involving religious organisations. 

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