Church and New Media: CFP

Note: if interested in this CFP for a piece in an edited book, you can contact Stefan Gelgren, associate professor at HUMlab (, Umeå University, Sweden,

CFP for an edited book on

Editors: Pauline Hope Cheong, Peter Fischer-Nielsen, Stefan Gelfgren and Charles Ess

Background and Rationale

This book brings together, for the first time in five years, a collection of key articles in the area of religion and the Internet, particularly as new media relates to church, mission, interfaith and ecumenical dialogue. In light of the increasing mediation of everyday life in many parts of the world, this book approaches online religion with a fresh perspective, to account for contemporary developments in media and spirituality, with implications for faith and other civic organizations.

Arguably, as institutionalized religions and movements rush to leverage the Web to improve their reach, religious communication on the Internet takes an increasingly significant role alongside more traditional venues for such discourse. It may be, however, that religious use associated with new media problematizes established faith rituals, and religious community building in both its conception and operationalization. Changes in the Church can also be conceived as intertwined with a range of other forms of social and political developments, such that new media acts as an agent and practice to challenge and transform the influence and authority of the Church. Furthermore, as “new” media is a moving target, there may be past concepts that are more able to explain the nature of church life (such as evangelical mission and systematic theology) or new concepts that are being developed that are better able to address the diversity and complexity of contemporary social and religious life (such as the ideas of social networking, viral marketing and church branding).

This edited collection aims to address and inform such issues and debates. It will draw on contributions to a major international and multidisciplinary conference, “Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium”, held in the Center of Contemporary Religion, Aarhus University (January 27-29, 2010). The conference has attracted key, internationally known, plenary, panel and paper speakers. Several contributions including a keynote address and panels devoted to “The Church in Cyberspace,” offer new empirical, theoretical, and theological insights into how religious life continues to transform and be transformed by these new communication technologies. Current contributors, together with the editors, include Knut Lundby, Heidi Campbell, Mark Johns, Jørgen Straarup and Timothy Hutchings.

We wish to collect these contributions in a new book: at the same time, we hereby invite proposals for additional chapters (particularly in the historical and theological sections as explained below) that will complement and expand upon these contributions.

Aims and Scope

In particular, we are soliciting manuscripts in the following areas that fit the four proposed sections of the book

Section I: Theoretical Approaches

This section maps the range of theoretical perspectives on religion and new media. A number of different theories, both more comprehensive (e.g., Walter Ong’s understanding of the “secondary orality” accompanying the shift to electronic media) and more focused (e.g., Stig Hjarvard’s use of remediation, Heidi Campbell’s use of Social Construction of Technology approaches, etc.), have proven useful for researchers and scholars – but new media also challenge our theoretical frameworks and categories. How far do current theories “work” in helping us research and understand the complex interactions between religious life and new media – and how far are new theoretical understandings needed? And: what might these new theoretical understandings “look like” – i.e., are new theoretical frameworks and categories available that have yet to be fully explored by scholars and researchers that can be argued to be potentially fruitful?

Section II: Historical Perspectives

This section discusses the presence and significance of historical perspectives in church and new media research. Transformations in communication media are deeply interwoven with the history and theology of Christianity. In light of this history, how do churches respond to the continued expansion of contemporary communication media? Since its inception, the church has always engaged with “new media”, beginning with the transition from the primarily oral traditions of the earliest communities to the use of written and visual texts such as letters, Gospels, illustrations etc. How we experience and communicate with God, whether we primarily hear, read or “see” the Gospel appears to have a strong, if not defining influence on individual, communal, and institutional understandings of self, community, the meanings of the Christ event and the mission of the church. Likewise, are we now witnessing a transformation of our sense of identity to more relational selves – precisely the sorts of selves best facilitated through the multiple communicative possibilities of new media?

Section III: Empirical Investigations

This section reports on the empirical research studies that investigate emerging media and social media practices related to the Church. Disciplines represented include but are not restricted to: sociology of religion, ethnography and online ethnography, linguistics, and the social sciences and humanities more broadly as represented within the field of computer-mediated communication. Contributions may focus on, but not restricted to, contemporary uses (successful and not so successful) of new media in the life of religious communities (local, national, international). Guiding questions for such research and studies include: Do the possibilities and affordances of new media lead to genuinely new and demonstrable impacts on the life of congregations? What factors appear to accompany whether or not a given community or institution embraces or resists specific media? What factors are at work in both successes and failures for faith believers and organizations to adopt and adapt to new media? How does religiously related new media use interact or affect the offline practices of established religious organizations?

Section IV: Theological Reflections

The last section of the book provides theological reflections on the Internet, to forward the development of a theology of the Internet which is a budding field of research. Although practical perspectives and guidelines for Internet use have been published, a more thorough theological analysis of new media is missing. The need for theological clarification is apparent since web-enabled applications challenge churches with difficult questions, for example, is the community of believers bound to physical presence in shared time and space, or can church in a meaningful way exist in cyberspace? Can sacraments be shared on the Internet? In addition, does the individualized and sometimes even anonymous way of using the Internet call for new Christian or interfaith ethics? Furthermore, the internet also poses challenges for the role of the pastor, as an epistemic authority of sacred texts. Finally, the Internet has been embraced as a tool for mission, but how does theology inform our understanding of e-vangelization and cyber conversions?

Submission Details

Please submit a 500-700 word abstract (including important and initial references) to the editors as an email attachment to no later than April 15, 2010. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by May 15, 2010, and will then be invited to submit a full paper to the editors. Final manuscripts should be no more than 6,500 words, including notes and references, prepared in APA style.

Important Dates:

April 15, 2010 Deadline for abstract submission

May 15, 2010 Announcement of results and full paper invitations

August 31, 2010 Submission of full papers

Inquiries should be addressed to:

Pauline Hope Cheong

Associate Professor of Communication

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

P.O. Box 871205, Stauffer Hall 462 Tempe, AZ 85287-1205

Arizona State University


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