Centre for Religion and Public Life

Centre for religion and public life 6

The Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL) is a hub of research, impact and public engagement activities at the intersections of religion and public life in local, national and global contexts. 

The aims of the Centre are:

  • To carry out research into the immensely important, and increasingly contentious, role of religion in public life in the world today, and to provide a forum in which contemporary research and scholarship can be debated and disseminated.
  • To work closely with non-academic partners to identify the ways in which religion is relevant to their work and to produce research that is capable of meeting their need to better understand the nature of religion and religious organisations locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Through our Community Religions Project, to support innovative research-led teaching at both undergraduate and MA level that also has a focus on students obtaining first-hand experience of putting research methods into practice as well as opportunities for work placements and other types of engagement with non-academic audiences.

These aims are met through on-going high quality scholarship, reflected in grant successes and the production of academic publications, as well as a long tradition – beginning nearly 40 years ago with the Community Religions Project - of engagement with local community members, policy makers, arts and culture bodies to carry out research that has a direct relevance to their activities.  

As the focus for an academic community at the forefront of current research into the nature and role of Christianity, Islam and African and Asian religions in society, politics and culture, the Centre brings together a group of scholars seeking to overturn the neglect or marginalisation of religious factors in many academic and popular debates about public life.

The Centre's interdisciplinary character, signalled by the sociological, anthropological, theological and historical interests of its participants, make it a unique forum for the study of contemporary religion, while its promotion of research into issues such as globalisation, violence, ethics, technology, development studies, ecology, diaspora, race and ethnicity mean it is uniquely placed to make a substantive contribution to serious consideration of some of the most pressing intellectual and practical challenges facing the world today.


Impact activity is central to the work of the Centre. Our research strengths in the study of contemporary religion in local and global contexts require us to understand impact and public engagement in various forms as an integral part of our research – for example, in our work with local religious communities within the Community Religions Project, now spanning more than 40 years. This is the case for research in theology and biblical studies as well as religious studies.

The main non-academic beneficiaries and audiences for our research are:

  • faith communities (locally and globally - for example, work within the Anglican Communion) and their members, as they seek to understand, reflect critically on and shape their place in the contemporary public sphere;
  • public and third-sector organisations (local, national and international - for example our work on religion and development) for whom understanding contemporary religion is of increasing importance; and, thirdly, the media, educators, and others who help to form the public understanding of religion in the contemporary world and for the future. Almost all our core research activity has led directly or indirectly to impact in one of these areas.

Examples include:

Displaying Religions in Diaspora: Shaping Public Understanding of a Multi-Faith Society Since with the launch of the Community Religions Project in 1976, and today continuing through the work of the Centre for Religion and Public Life, Leeds TRS has undertaken research that has affected improvements in the representation and public understanding of religion in Britain.

Advancing Global Church Conversations on Sexuality: Intercultural Understanding and New Methods for Dialogue. This research on Christianity and sexuality has changed both form and content of church discussions of sexuality, mainly but not only within the global Anglican Communion.

Religion, Culture and On-street grooming: There have recently been a number of high profile prosecutions of the perpetrators of ‘on street grooming’, a form of child sexual exploitation.  This project aims to interrogate assumptions about the links between ‘on-street grooming’ and the cultural background of perpetrators which have received significant attention in the media, yet have not been adequately evidenced.

Religion and The Big Society: What are the expectations for religious organisations? This small project explored the roles that religious organisations are expected to play in the ‘Big Society’. The project focused on the Leeds metropolitan area and explored the key themes of the ‘Big Society’ agenda, including localism, voluntary work and community empowerment through a series of interviews with religious.

Building Buddhism in England: Emma Tomalin and Caroline Starkey are currently carrying out research for English Heritage on a project about Buddhist Buildings. 


A fortnightly seminar series where speakers from inside and outside the University of Leeds presents current research on any aspect of religion that, in one way or another, intersects with public life in local, national or international contexts. The seminars are open to all with an academic interest in the study of religion and public life. For an up-to-date list of seminar speakers, please check this page.

The Centre runs two reading groups for postgraduate students and staff members.

The group Public/Religion is convened by Dr Adriaan van Klinken, and this year is reading selected chapters from the book Religion and the Global City, edited by David Garbin and Anna Strahn (London: Bloomsbury 2017). 

The group Public/Theology is convened by Dr Rachel Muers and reads selected texts at the intersections of theology and public life.

Community Religions Project

Since 1976, the Community Religions Project (CRP) has conducted empirical research on religion and religions ‘near at hand’ in the cities of Leeds and Bradford and beyond. The CRP has been one of the key hubs of research activity in the Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds for nearly 40 years, involving both academic staff and students at all levels in research and engagement with the diverse cultures and religious communities in different localities within the UK.



  • Mikel Burley, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
  • Caroline Fielder, Lecturer in Chinese Studies
  • Alistair McFadyen, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology
  • Seán McLoughlin, Professor of the Anthropology of Islam (Muslim Diasporas)
  • Philip Mellor, Professor of Religion and Social Theory
  • Rachel Muers, Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies
  • Mel Prideaux, Associate Professor of Religious Studies (Teaching and Scholarship)
  • Anastasia Philippa Scrutton, Associate Professor in Philosophy and Religion
  • Mustapha Sheikh, Lecturer in Islamic Studies; Co-Director of the Iqbal Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam
  • Jasjit Singh, Research Fellow
  • Stefan Skrimshire, Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies
  • Caroline Starkey, Teaching Fellow
  • Johanna Stiebert, Professor of Hebrew Bible
  • Emma Tomalin, Professor of Religion and Public Life
  • Adriaan van Klinken, Associate Professor of Religion and African Studies
  • Robert Vanderbeck, Professor of Human Geography and Head of School
  • Mark Wynn, Professor of Philosophy and Religion

Explore our profiles for more information about our academic team.

The Centre Director is Dr Adriaan van Klinken   Email

Telephone: +44 (0)113 343 3658