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Staff Profile

Professor Richard Bourne

Pro Vice Chancellor: Education

Professor Richard Bourne profile image

I joined York St John in 2015, and served as Head of Department and then as Head of School of Humanities, before taking on my current role. I lead the University’s approach to Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, ensuring that these are inspirational and meet students’ needs. I lead on university commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion. In addition to overseeing taught academic provision, I direct the work of the Learning and Teaching Enhancement team.

A theologian and ethicist, I teach and supervise across a wide range of areas of theology, political philosophy and ethics. My research is primarily in pedagogy and theological ethics, often in dialogue with contemporary political theory. My research projects include work on political theology through the arts, and the ethics of criminal punishment. I serve on the committee of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics.

I am a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a member of AdvanceHE’s strategic advisory panel on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and a member of the steering group for the international review of the Professional Standards Framework. I am also a trustee of York City of Sanctuary.


I teach across a variety of areas including many modules in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Christian Doctrine (patristic, medieval and contemporary), Christian Ethics, Christian Political Theology, the Ethics of War and Peace, Introduction to Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Contemporary Society, Religion and the Media, and Religious Ethics.  

I have supervised numerous undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations in areas including:

  • The Theology of Nonviolence
  • Theology and Human Rights
  • The Ethics of War
  • Theological Bioethics
  • Ethics at the Beginning and End of Life
  • Theology, Sexuality and Gender
  • Christian Doctrine
  • Christian Political Thought

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise across the range of Christian theology, ethics and political thought. I currently specialise in supervising research in:

  • Political theology
  • Public theology
  • Theological and ethical accounts of criminal punishment
  • Theological and ethical accounts of war and nonviolence
  • Contemporary Christian thought
  • Religion and Continental Political Thought
  • Theology, sexuality and gender
  • Theological bioethics


My current research includes two broad themes:

  • A Theology of Criminal Justice and Punishment - in critical engagement with both the well-established philosophical literature on the nature and justification of punishment; and with contemporary criminological accounts of the complex nature of desire and character in criminal offending. This theology draws in particular on Christian accounts of sanctification, penance, atonement, and the education of desire.
  • Consumerism, Biopolitics and Urban Discipleship - in critical dialogue with major continental thinkers deploying theological arguments in their analyses of consumerism, biopolitics and radical political action (Agamben, Esposito, Žižek and others).



  • A New Introduction to Theology: Embodiment, Experience and Encounter (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2020) with Imogen Adkins.
  • Seek the Peace of the City: Christian Political Criticism as Public, Realist and Transformative Eugene, OR: Cascade (2009)

Books in preparation 

  • Punishment, Subjectivity and the Politics of Sanctification 

Articles and chapters

  • (2020) “Mercy Triumphs over Judgment: Intrusive or Enabling Mercy” in A. Millie (ed) Public Theology and Criminology: On Hope, Mercy and Forgiveness within Criminal Justice, invited contribution (Bristol University Press).
  • (2016) “Vertigo in the City: Urban Crime, Consumerism and the Theopolitical Act” International Journal of Public Theology
  • (2014) “Communication, Punishment and Virtue: The Theological Limitation of (Post)Secular Penance” Journal of Religious Ethics 42:1 March 2014, pp.78-107.
  • (2009) "Governmentality, Witness and the State: Christian Social Criticism with and beyond Yoder and Foucault" in Jeremy Bergen & Anthony Siegrist (eds) Power and Practices Scottdale: Herald Press.
  • (2007) “Witness, Democracy and Civil Society: Reflections on John Howard Yoder’s Exilic Ecclesiology” Ecclesiology 3.2 195–213.

In preparation 

  • “Imagination and the Arts in the Political Theology” in I. Adkins & S. M. Garrett T&T Clark Companion to Theology and the Arts 2022. Under contract, Invited Contribution. (Forthcoming).
  • “Christ Playing with the Law: Reading the Johannine Trial Narrative with and Beyond Agamben”. In preparation. 


  • J. Alexander Sider To See History Doxologically: History and Holiness in John Howard Yoder’s Ecclesiology (Eerdmans, 2011) Ecclesiology 9:1 (2013) pp.148-150.
  • Margaret D. Kamitsuka (ed) The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianity (Fortress Press, 2010) in Theology and Sexuality 18:3 (2012) pp.273-275.
  • Stanley Hauerwas Learning to Speak Christian (SCM, 2011) in Modern Believing 53:4 (2012) pp.470-472.
  • Stephen R. L. Clark Understanding Faith: Religious Belief and Its Place in Society (Imprint Academic, 2009) in Theology 114:6 (2011) pp.455-6.
  • Malcolm Brown, Tensions in Christian Ethics: An Introduction (SPCK, 2010) in Theology 114:1 (2011) pp.72-3.
  • Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, Bonds of Imperfection: Christian Politics, Past and Present (Eerdmans 2004) in Ecclesiology 1:2 (2005) pp.116-118.

Invited papers

  • April 2018 – “Mercy as Radical Political Act: The Formation of Desire beyond Consumerism, Urban Crime and Penal Vindictiveness” Criminology and Public Theology conference on Justice, Mercy and Forgiveness, Edge Hill University, 26th April 2018. Invited Speaker
  • September 2017 – “Hope Amid Catastrophe: Two Rival Versions of Apocalyptic Political Ontology” Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, Westcott House, University of Cambridge, 8-10 September 2017.
  • May 2007 – "Governmentality, Witness and the State: Christian Social Criticism with and beyond Yoder and Foucault." Full plenary paper with respondent - symposium on "Inheriting John Howard Yoder: A New Generation Examines his Thought." University of Toronto. Invited Speaker
  • May 2017 – “Apocalyptic and the Politics of Hope” Speculative Futures: Utopias, Dystopias, and Apocalypses York St John University, 22nd May 2017. [Also conference co-ordinator]December
  • 2012 – “Urban Crime, Penal Vindictiveness and the Fragile Possibility of Messianic Political Ascesis” – Invited paper, The Anabaptist Theology Forum, Offa House, Leamington Spa.
    December 2012 – “Yoderian Themes After The Politics of Jesus” Invited workshop paper, The Anabaptist Theology Forum, Offa House, Leamington Spa.
  • October 2012 – Invited response to Nigel Biggar’s “‘Why the Establishment of the Church of England is Good for a Liberal Society’” British Early Career Association for Theologians, St George’s House, Windsor.
  • May 2012 - “Vertigo in the City: Theological Reflections on Desire, Fear and Punishment”– Theology, Faith and the City Research Network, University of Birmingham, 2nd May 2012.
  • September 2009 - "Public Theology and the Politics of Forgiveness" invited paper to seminar on Religion, Conflict and Reconciliation, Queens University Belfast, 4th September 2009. Part of the AHRC-ESRC seminar series on Religion, Justice and Wellbeing.
  • June 2009 - "Issues of Life and Death" Four invited workshops on the Just War Tradition and Christian Nonviolence. Lancashire and Cumbria Theological Partnership, 5th - 7th June 2009.

Professional activities

I am a member of the following: 

  • Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (elected committee member) 
  • Society for the Study of Theology
  • Peer Review for Journals and Publishers
  • External Examiner  - BEd Religious Studies - Stranmillis University College and Queen’s University Belfast - 2015-2018
  • External Examiner – DMin – Spurgeon’s College, London and University of Chester – 2011-2014
  • External Examiner – MA in Theology – Kings Evangelical Divinity School and University of Chester – 2011-2014
  • External Examiner – BA in Theology – Kings Evangelical Divinity School and University of Chester – 2011-2014
  • External Examiner – Diploma in Theology for Ministry – Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church and York St John University – 2008-2012
  • External Adviser – Validation of Certificates in Christian Studies – York St John University – February 2009
  • External Adviser – Validation of Foundation Degree in Evangelism – York St John University – March 2009