Charles Sturt University
PACT - Public and Contextual Theology


To provide a coherent research agenda and small groups in which our members collaborate, PACT operates three Research Streams, which are summarised below.  All PACT members join and support the activities of one of our Research Streams and there is also significant inter-Stream collaboration.

Religion and Society

  • Critically exploring the place of religion in Australia, including indigenous spirituality, the impact of European mission activity, and religious social service and education agencies
  • Examining how societies and cultures inform sacred texts, religious ethics, the practice of theology, as well as how context informs and transforms religious traditions
  • Examining the contribution of religions and their theological traditions to social justice, indigenous reconciliation, a civil society and the public good.

Religion & Society Research Stream Leader: Dr Jane Foulcher (

Interreligious Collaboration

  • Critically exploring and comparing the intellectual foundations of inter-religious relations
  • Examining theological foundations behind religiously implicated acts of bigotry, intolerance, violence and extremism
  • Contributing to debate and research within the academy and society about interreligious harmony, dialogue and social well-being.

Interreligious Research Stream Leader: A/Prof Salih Yucel (

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

  • Theological research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries
  • Theology and ethics examining humanity's threat to the environment, faith and climate change, science and religion, economics and religion
  • Scholarly and spiritual insight into what constitutes a 'good life', what it means to be human and what constitutes a civil society.

Current Research


In 2021, PaCT Research Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay is leading a major cross-disciplinary project on dementia with academics at CSU from nursing, social work, psychology, theology and gerontology.

This follows the recently completed PaCT-funded study on frailty called “Finding meaning in the lived experience of frailty”. The study explored the lived experience of frail older people in the final life journey toward dying and death to:

  • find their experiences of forgiveness, resilience and hope;
  • find their sources of self-transcendence and meaning.

The research examined the experiences of 25 frail older people with an average age of 83 years and found the following outcomes:

  • the search for meaning became more intentional for older people and quality of life can be enhanced by finding meaning
  • The spiritual tasks and process of ageing; to know one’s story, the finding of final life meanings, most often through relationship, to be able to respond to meaning, and the ability to self-transcend
  • Joy and hope are seen as outcomes of finding meaning in life, while despair may become apparent where meaning cannot be found

The report made a number of recommendations including:

  • New knowledge on frailty to inform clinical practice
  • Staff training for care of frail older people to be set up throughout the aged care industry

The report can be downloaded here. A seminar on was held in April 2021 at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

Dr Miller has just completed research into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Her book is called Child Sexual Abuse Inquiries and the Catholic Church: Reassessing the Evidence. You can download a PDF copy of her book here. Her article Child Sexual Abuse and the Roman Catholic Church in Australia Today was published in by three different media outlets including the Australian National Broadcaster, and the Italian press. It was also published in Abundant Life.

An academic version of the article was published in St Mark’s Review. Her article, “Child Sexual Abuse, Integrity Systems and the Anglican Church: Truth, Justice and Love,” co-authored with Prof. Seumas Miller, is forthcoming in the Journal of Anglican Studies (Cambridge University Press). She was a keynote speaker at the National Theological Educators Conference in Australia, speaking on child sexual abuse inquiries and integrity systems.

Virginia received her doctorate at Murdoch University in the area of Old Testament studies. She is the author of A King and a Fool? The Succession Narrative as a Satire (Brill, 2019). You can download a PDF copy of the book here. She is a co-editor of the book, Leaning into the Spirit: Ecumenical Perspectives on Discernment and Decision-making in the Church (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019). The other editors are the Most Rev’d Sir David Moxon, and the Rt Rev’d Prof Stephen Pickard. Virginia has studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.She has published numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed articles, and given many invited international presentations (including King’s College and Humboldt University, Berlin). She has been a scholar in residence at the Anglican embassy in Rome (the Anglican Centre in Rome), and has been the recipient of numerous research grants. She was a Crawford Miller visiting scholar at St Cross College, Oxford in October 2019.

Political Theology

PaCT Assistant Director Dr Jonathan Cole is currently writing a book with the working title Orthodox and Evangelical Political Theology in Conversation: A Comparative Analysis of the Political Ontologies of Christos Yannaras and Oliver O’Donovan.

The book brings the political theologies of Evangelical Anglican theologian Oliver O’Donovan and Greek Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras into critical dialogue. O’Donovan’s political theology centres on the notion of the divinely authorised political act and posits that the function of secular government within the context of salvation history is to enact judgment, defined as a moral discrimination between right and wrong. Yannaras’ political theology, in contrast, centres the notion of authentic existence in accordance to, and in communion with, the “Trinitarian prototype of existence”—the self-transcendent, self-giving communion of loving interpersonal relationship made a historical reality through the incarnation. The book will examine the ways in which O’Donovan’s and Yannaras’ Evangelical and Orthodox theological commitments respectively, along with their distinct political contexts (the UK and Greece), have shaped their differing perceptions of political ontology and the telos of politics within the divine economy.