Dr Al McFadyen


Brought up in Bristol, I studied as both under- and post-graduate at the University of Birmingham, where I was supervised by the late Revd Prof. Dan W. Hardy.

Following part-time posts briefly at the Universities of Birmingham and Gloucester, I came to Leeds as a lecturer in 1988. Having brought up family here, I am now very much an adopted Leodensian, committed to this vibrant, diverse city and its communities (many of them defined by faith), as to its university.

An Anglican with a definite vocation to be both theologian and a lay-person, I am married, with four adult children and step-children. 

As a theologian, it has always been important to me that I ground my academic work in the life of a church, including being a (very) ordinary member of a local church community, as well as church institutions at various levels. (I have also previously served as a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Urban Theology Group; the [Church of England] Bishops' Advisory Group on Urban Priority Areas and the [again, C of E] Doctrine Commission.) But it is equally important to me that my academic work is rooted in the secular and non-academic world; in other communities of practice. My formal theology has always been nurtured by immersive, sustained commitments and involvements that are outside both university and ecclesiastical institutions. I am grateful that the University, not only understands, but can facilitate and encourage this. I have previously nursed in a psychiatric hospital; worked as a Samaritan suicide counsellor and trainer; currently, I work part-time as a police officer (unpaid).

In my research and writing, I operate within these interfaces of church-secular world and academy-world, constructing a triangulation between Christian doctrine, secular theories and concrete situations of professional practice and human experience.

I am especially drawn towards those often complex and ambiguous situations where humanity is threatened, vulnerable, at risk or somehow in question and so drawn therefore also to institutionalised practices that attempt to human beings in difficulty, often equally ambiguous and complex. In this triangulation, I am hoping to find mutually enriched understanding and wisdom about what it means to be human in situations where humanity itself is at some risk. To put that theologically, I am trying to work out what it means to speak of Christian faith, of sin and salvation, of good news, of sin in situations such as these.

When four young men with connections to Leeds brought bombs manufactured here to London on 7/7/2005, I was Head of Department of Theology & Religious Studies. Since then, I have been more open about my other life and more explicit in making public connections between the worlds of policing, church and academy.

In 2014, I was awarded an MBE for services to policing and the community.

I am a licensed lay assistant.


  • Deputy Director for Recruitment
  • Academic Integrity Lead

Research interests

I write mainly on the theme of humanity, trying to understand theologically what it means to be human – in practice as well as in theory. In my research and writing, I operate within these interfaces of church-secular world and academy-world, constructing a triangulation between Christian doctrine, secular theories and concrete situations of professional practice and human experience, especially where humanity is threatened, vulnerable or otherwise in question. I have developed this approach writing theologically on child sexual abuse, the holocaust, inner-city policing, torture, terrorism, domestic violence and on personhood.

Although my interests are practical, I work within the frame of Christian doctrine and understand my work as a perhaps atypical example of systematic theology, rather than belonging to the sub-disciplines of practical theology, theological ethics or public theology, though I am influenced and nurtured by all three. The human situations I am drawn to think through theologically require me also to engage secular theory and practice. They are often situations of the kind where the most wisdom is to be found in feminist discourses, both theological and secular, so feminist thought is a frequent companion.

I am currently working theologically on the themes more directly related to my policing experience – including a theological reflection on policing: loving enemies, loving the neighbourhood; a theological understanding of coercive control in domestic abuse and violence; terrorism and torture. A longer-term project is the completion of a book on the purpose and orientation of theological anthropology (Christian talk of humanity) called Seeking Humanity: Theological Anthropology in Interrogative Mood.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA (hons)
  • Ph.D.

Professional memberships

  • Society for the Study of Theology
  • Center of Theological Inquiry

Student education

At undergraduate level, I teach modules at all levels on Christian theology and Christian doctrine, modern theology, sin and theological anthropology. 

At Masters level, I teach in the field of theology and public life.

I am deputy director of recruitment in PRHS. I also manage the school's academic integrity assurance and education work and deliver the induction programme and study skills inputs.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>