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 was the national sub-panel chair for Theology and Religious Studies for REF2021.
Gordon has been awarded a range of externally-funded grants – including eleven awards from the Arts & Humanities Research Council – for projects exploring meaning and values in modern Western societies as well as abuse in religious settings.
He has undertaken a range of national public engagement projects, including extensive work 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.
Over the past twenty years, his 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).
Over the past ten years, his work has focused increasingly on histories of abuse of children and vulnerable adults involving religious organisations. 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. His expert witness work with Professor Stephen Constantine underpinned the recommendation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that an urgent redress scheme be established by the UK Government for former British child migrants. More than £32 million has been paid to former child migrants since the creation of this scheme in 2019. His expert witness work for the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry led to both a major research report on child migration schemes from Scotland, co-authored with Stephen Constantine and Marjory Harper, as well as a sole authored report analysing of networks of abuse in four residential institutions run by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia.
In addition to a major open access monograph on UK Government policy failures in post-war child migration programmes to Australia, published in 2021, he has also published articles on child migration work undertaken by Catholic organisations and by the Church of England, as well as the post-war policy context in which child migration programmes operated. He has also written on the nature and role of historical research, and archival analysis, for abuse Inquiries.
His on-going research focuses on the significance of organisational structures and cultures for abuse in religious settings, and the nature of moralised charged conflicts in contemporary society. Having previously won a national Learning on Screen award from the BUFVC in 2014 for a film co-produced with TrueTube and Justice for Magdalenes Research on life in Magdalene institutions, he continues to work with colleagues on histories of institutional abuse in Ireland.
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.
Over the past decade, He has supported a number of doctoral students working in the cultural study of religion, 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 by his students include work on the formation of Evangelical subjectivities in congregational and youth-work settings, 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, the lived ethics of women’s engagement with the natural birth movement, and women’s experiences of life in Magdalene institutions in post-independence Ireland.
He is interested in supervising future doctoral projects in the cultural study of religion and the sacred, including the role of moral meanings in social life, the role of religious organisations in post-war child-care, and abuse in religious settings in historical and contemporary contexts.