Original Research - Special Collection: Yolanda Dreyer Festschrift

On becoming a practical theologian: Past, present and future tenses

Elaine L. Graham
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 4 | a4634 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i4.4634 | © 2017 Elaine L. Graham | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 May 2017 | Published: 31 August 2017

About the author(s)

Elaine L. Graham, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester, United Kingdom and Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


This article takes an autobiographical approach to the development of practical theology as a discipline over the past 30 years, with particular attention to my own context of the United Kingdom (UK). The unfolding of my own intellectual story in relation to key issues within the wider academic discourse provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the predominant themes and trends: past, present and future. Changing nomenclature, from ‘pastoral studies’ to ‘practical theology’, indicates how the discipline has moved from regarding itself as the application of theory into practice, into a more performative and inductive epistemology. This emphasis continues to the present day and foregrounds the significance of the human context and the realities of lived experience, including narrative and autobiography. Whilst the methodological conundrums of relating experience to tradition and theory to practice continue, further challenges are beckoning, including religious pluralism, and so the article closes by surveying the prospects for a multicultural practical theology.


Practical Theology; narrative; autobiography; academic discipline; inductive epistemology; methodology


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Crossref Citations

1. Searching for the missing theology in the Nordic discussion of practice
Auli Vähäkangas
Studia Theologica - Nordic Journal of Theology  vol: 75  issue: 1  first page: 52  year: 2021  
doi: 10.1080/0039338X.2021.1914918