Dr Fran Porter

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Job Title Research Fellow
Email porterf@queens.ac.uk
Telephone 0121 452 2663
Room no. Room 32, New Building


I was delighted to join the staff at Queen’s in April 2015 as Research Fellow (half-time post), having previously been involved with the Foundation in an honorary capacity. I have a background in research and writing, and have conducted or contributed to projects for the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland (CCCI), Queen’s University Belfast, the Irish Peace Centres, and Coventry University. Much of this work has been interdisciplinary in nature, exploring faith in the contexts of gender power relations, social diversity and sectarian conflict. My earlier postgraduate studies within an empirically oriented university department shaped my own socially engaged theology, which was also formed in the context of 27 years studying and working in Northern Ireland. In engaging with the church’s mission and relationship to wider society, I am keen to understand the various dynamics at work in particular contexts (whether of gender, conflict or social diversity), drawing on analytical tools through which we can question our working assumptions and practices. I bring this experience to my role supporting and developing research work at Queen’s, working alongside colleagues similarly engaged in work that serves the life of the church.

Qualifications
2000 PhD in Women’s Studies University of Ulster          
1994 MSc in Women’s Studies University of Ulster
1981 BA in Theology London School of Theology
Roles at Queen's

I work with Queen’s Director of Research, Nicola Slee, and our VU Amsterdam liaison Professor, Dirk-Martin Grube, to co-ordinate the doctoral programme. I supervise students at master’s and doctoral level and provide training for research students in aspects of research methodology.

External roles and responsibilities

My post at Queen’s is a half-time appointment and I continue to have a freelance portfolio in which, as an adult educator, I fulfil speaking engagements and work with church groups (both members and leaders), particularly on the theme of understanding gender (including theological, biblical and historical perspectives, contemporary Christian practices, and social commentary).

I am a regular participant at the Anabaptist Theology Forum and a member of the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology and of the Society for the Study of Theology.

Research interests

My research interests are in socially engaged theology, exploring Christian faith, feminism, gender, equality, social diversity and reconciliation.

I have a particular interest in feminist engagement with women’s Christian experience. My doctoral thesis was a feminist engagement with the Christian faith of Catholic and Protestant women in Northern Ireland (published as IT Will Not Be Taken Away From Her, 2004). I then conducted a two year project, ‘Between Culture and Theology’, (for CCCI, published as Changing Women, Changing Worlds, 2002) exploring the church, community and political participation of Evangelical Protestant Women in Northern Ireland.  In both projects I used qualitative methods (a total of 135 in-depth participant interviews) and I continue this interest through the Faith Lives of Women and Girls Qualitative Research Symposium, convened by my colleague, Nicola Slee. Along with Nicola and with Anne Phillips, I was co-editor of and contributor to a collection of papers from the Symposium (The Faith Lives of Women and Girls, 2013). Our second volume focusing on qualitative methodology (Researching Female Faith, 2018) is now available, and in this I have a chapter on the use of structured interviews as an appropriate tool for feminist research. Away from qualitative enquiry, I have published Women and Men After Christendom (2015), which explores gender relationships from an Anabaptist perspective, as part of the Paternoster After Christendom series (edited by Stuart Murray). 

For the duration of much of my work, the context of sectarian conflict has been an integral part not only of my own location, but also of my research. It has featured in my explorations of women’s faith, as gendered experience intersects in, and is embedded within, conflict situations (‘The “In-the-Middle” God: Women, Community Conflict and Power in Northern Ireland’, 2013). I am interested in the resources within Christian faith that offer hope and resilience in conflict situations, and in the understanding of reconciliation as practice (‘Review Essay: Studying Faith, Practising Peace’, 2010).

Contested narratives do not only exist in conflict situations. Contemporary social diversity is the site of disputed claims about identity and belonging. In 2007, I began a 15 months research project (for CCCI, published as Faith in a Plural Society, 2008) that explored the values, attitudes and practices of churches in Northern Ireland to minority populations of (world) religion, ethnicity and sexuality. This research combined quantitative (a whole population survey of church leaders in Northern Ireland) and qualitative (50 individual interviews) methods to investigate Protestant and Catholic churches adjusting to rapid social change. Against a background of conservative stances to diversity that had been reinforced in a sectarian context, the innovation of this research was in focusing on the behaviours of the churches as majority populations (rather than as variously situated vulnerable minorities) and changing the conversation on diversity away from focusing on particular identity groups and toward, rather, the conduct of majority Christian populations to the fact of social diversity. Here I continue to dialogue with discourses of equality and rights and how these relate to theological visions of human personhood and dignity (‘Thinking About Ourselves: Christian Theology and Rights Discourse in Northern Ireland’, 2010).

Supervision

I supervise at master’s and doctoral level, in dissertations with themes of practical theology, women/gender and faith, and reconciliation. 

Publications

'"Sometimes you need a question": Structure and Flexibility in Feminist Interviewing' in Researching Female Faith: Qualitative Research Methods (2018) Abingdon: Routledge, edited with Nicola Slee and Anne Phillips, pp. 83-97.

Researching Female Faith: Qualitative Research Methods (2018) Abingdon: Routledge, edited with Nicola Slee and Anne Phillips.

'Gender Relations in the New Testament: A Feminist Anabaptist Reading' (2017) in Baptistic Theologies, 9 no. 1: 33-48.

Review (2016) of 'Embodied Peacebuilding: Reconciliation as Practical Theology', by Leah E Robinson, in Practical Theology, 9 no. 2:158-159.

Women and Men after Christendom: The Dis-Ordering of Gender Relationships (2015) Milton Keynes: Paternoster.

The Faith Lives of Women and Girls: Qualitative Research Perspectives (2013) Farnham: Ashgate, edited with Nicola Slee and Anne Phillips.

‘The “In-the-Middle” God: Women, Community Conflict and Power in Northern Ireland’ (2013) in Nicola Slee, Anne Phillips and Fran Porter (eds) The Faith Lives of Women and Girls: Qualitative Research Perspectives, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 91–101.

‘Restoring Original Settings: Other as Christian Norm?’ (2011) in Being the Other: Transactions from a Theological Conference, Experiential Learning Paper No. 6, Belfast: Irish Peace Centres, pp. 32–40.

‘Thinking About Ourselves: Christian Theology and Rights Discourse in Northern Ireland’ (2010) in David Tombs (ed) Rights and Righteousness: Perspectives on Religious Pluralism and Human Rights, Belfast: NIHRC, pp. 55–60.

Building Better Neighbourhoods: The Contribution of Faith Communities to Oxfordshire Life with David Jarvis, Hannah Lambie, Kevin Broughton and Richard Farnell (2010) Oxford: OSCA.

‘Review Essay: Studying Faith, Practising Peace’ (2010) in Faith and Positive Relations: Studying Faith, Practising Peace, Experiential Learning Paper No. 4, Belfast: Irish Peace Centres, pp. 84–91.

‘Reconciliation’ Bible Study Notes (2009) in Words for Today 2010 edited by Nicola Slee, Birmingham: IBRA, pp. 294–300.

‘Women’s dignity and the church’s tainted love’ in Thinking for a Change (15 October 2009, Issue 57), http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/10403.

Churches in Action: Where Churches are Making a Difference with Geraldine Brady, Geraldine Brown, David Jarvis and Hannah Lambie (2009) London: Church Urban Fund.

‘From Divided to Diverse Society: Reflections on Sectarianism and Social Diversity from the Churches Sector’ (2009) in Shared Space No 7: 5–19.

Faith in a Plural Society: The Values, Attitudes and Practices of Churches in Protecting Minority Participation (2008) Belfast: Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland.

Visualising Equality: Personal Reflections on Equality in Northern Ireland (2005) Belfast: Equality and Social Inclusion in Ireland Project, edited with Eithne McLaughlin.

It Will Not Be Taken Away From Her: A Feminist Engagement with Women’s Christian Experience (2004) London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

‘Just Relating: Building Christian Community’ in Double Image (Winter 2002/03).

Changing Women, Changing Worlds: Evangelical Women in Church, Community and Politics (2002) Belfast: Blackstaff.

‘Understanding Scripture: What about Gender?’ in Lion and Lamb (Winter 1998/9)