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Department of Theology and Religion


Dr Mathew Guest, BA (Nottingham), MA, PhD (Lancaster), FRSA

Reader in the Sociology of Religion in the Department of Theology and Religion
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43944
Room number: Abbey House 105

Contact Dr Mathew Guest (email at


I have been based in Durham since 2001, researching and teaching mainly in the sociology of religion, and most particularly in the sociology of contemporary Christianity within advanced western cultures. I studied theology at the University of Nottingham and then Religious Studies followed by a PhD in Sociology at Lancaster. My doctoral work focused on the evangelical movement in the UK, challenged the widely held assumption that the forces of modernity inevitably erode the boundaries of religious community, and explored how the resources of the evangelical tradition are mobilised in negotiating the challenges that contemporary British society presents before it. I developed and updated this research in my book, Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation (Paternoster, 2007). The theoretical concerns of this project continue to be a central research interest, although my interests now centre less on localised communities and more on evangelical cultural accommodation on a global scale. This has to do with my interest in globalisation theory and how this sheds light on the construction of evangelical identities in contemporary Western cultures. In particular, I am interested in examining the relationship between evangelical parties on either side of the Atlantic and the way in which this relationship creates a pool of resources that thrive within a globalised context.

My ongoing interest in the sociological study of contemporary Christian churches has also led to several other projects, including co-editing Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context (Ashgate, 2004), and contributing chapters to Studying Local Churches: A Handbook (SCM, 2005). My involvement in the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network has led to an essay co-written with my colleague Professor Paul Murray, which develops the concept of 'collective ethnography' within the context of his ongoing research project on 'Receptive Ecumenism in the Local Church'.

My other major research interest is in religion and generational change, specifically within the context of the changing nature of Christianity in contemporary Britain. In Bishops, Wives and Children: Spiritual Capital Across the Generations (Ashgate, 2007), Douglas Davies and myself draw from original interview data in charting the ministerial careers of senior Anglican clergymen, and then exploring the extent to which their children embrace the same values within the context of their religious and professional lives. In so doing, we furnish a social history of the Church of England in the late twentieth century, and also to shed light on the significance of the clergy family as a centre for the transmission of Christian values.

More recently, I have been occupied with an analysis of the English university as a site of religious activity, and hence as a major influence on the emerging moral and religious values of young adults. This 3-year project was funded by the AHRC/ESRC’s Religion and Society Programme, and is the first empirically driven, nation-wide study of student Christianity in the UK. It has led to the publication of Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (Bloomsbury, 2013), co-authored by myself, Dr Kristin Aune of the University of Derby, Dr Sonya Sharma of the University of Kingston, and Prof Rob Warner of the University of Chester. The project is ongoing, and we will be pursuing related avenues of research and stakeholder engagement over the coming years. If you would like more information about the project, including details of further publications and events, please visit our project website:

My general interest in the sociology of religion is reflected in the postgraduate students whose research I supervise, both on the PhD and the Doctor of Theology and Ministry programmes. Current projects include topics such as conspiracy theories as a lens for religious identity, the emerging church in the USA, and the role of lay ministry in the Roman Catholic parish. All of my postgraduate research students are engaged in the empirical study of contemporary Christianity, and I would be more than happy to engage in email correspondence with further candidates who wish to pursue a project within this broad field, or one related to it.

At the undergraduate level I work alongside Professor Douglas Davies and Dr Jonathan Miles-Watson within the broad field of the study of religion. Each of us works from a social scientific perspective and emphasise the importance of studying religion as a lived phenomenon. I contribute lectures to The Study of Religion (level 1), teach Religion in Contemporary Britain (level 2), and co-teach a 3rd year module in The Sociology of Conservative Protestantism, which uses sociological methods to examine innovations in the contemporary western Christian tradition, including fundamentalism, apocalyptic Christianity and post-evangelicalism. I also offer a taught Masters level module on Religion, Modernity and Identity, which deals with the challenges that the processes of modernisation and the modern age bring to bear on issues of religious identity, covering such topics as postmodernity, globalisation, consumer culture and the rise of the World Wide Web.

My broader research activities bring me into contact with a lively international network of academics working in related areas. I am an active member of the British Sociological Association’s Religion Study Group (SocRel), and am a member of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) and the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR). I also sit on the executive committee of the Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies (AUDTRS).


Research Supervision

Laurens De Rooij

Michael Fitzsimons

Aidan Hargitt

Rob Haynes

Joanne McKenzie

Ruth Perrin

Jason Singh

Nick Toseland

Matt Ward

Daniel Wigner

Chris Wood-Archer


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article


Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Religion: Evangelical Christianity
  • Religion: Transmission of values in clergy families
  • Religion: Sociology of Religion
  • Religion: Religion among university students
  • Religious Education: Religion among university students
  • Sociology: Religion among university students

Selected Grants

  • 2015: Re/presenting Islam on Campus: Gender, Radicalisation and Interreligious Understanding in British Higher Education, AHRC/ESRC £568,727
  • 2011: Exploring Issues of Gender in the Disciplines of Theology and Religious Studies in Higher Education (£3000.00 from Higher Education Academy)
  • 2009: Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England (£248594.04 from Arts & Humanities Research Board)