Practical Theology


Instructors: Dr. Ruben Arjona and Dr. Katherine Turpin
Office Hours: by appointment

Course Description

This course explores models of practical theological reflection and methods of reflective professional practice as frameworks for religious leadership in the variety of contexts in which students will work. Students will be introduced to disciplined modes of embodying the integration of theory and praxis that allow them to place their coursework across the curriculum into regular conversation with their practice as religious leaders and ministry professionals in a variety of institutional and cultural contexts.

Course Overview

Practical theology represents an integrative form of disciplined reflection that begins in real life situations with description and analysis of what is going on (often using cognate disciplines such as psychology, cultural theory, sociology, and history), moves to dialogic interaction with historic and contemporary forms of religious wisdom, and results in constructive proposals of intentional, strategic, and faithful practice. The discipline of practical theology assumes that this movement is not linear but cyclical and continuous, reflecting a way of being in the world that integrates analysis, discernment, and praxis on an ongoing basis.   Being a practical theologian is not reserved for professional academics, but rather is a habitual practice of anyone interested in being a critical and reflective practitioner. Therefore, this course will make pedagogical use of case studies, reflection on current events and situations utilizing practical theological method, and other approaches that encourage the integrative and constructive reflection on practice germane to the learning goals of professional degree students.


This course strives to help you to begin to create connective tissue between your academic studies at Iliff and the communities of people, institutions, and contextual situations in which you will engage your vocation. Although this course requires integrative thinking across theological disciplines that you may not have yet had coursework in, we are engaging these skills early in your degree program in the hopes that you see the benefit of rigorous work in these particular areas as you move throughout your degree program. This form of reflective practice undergirds work in ministry and other forms of public leadership.


Course Objectives

Students participating in the course and engaging in its practices will be able to:

  1. Describe at least one method for theological reflection grounded in human experience and practices that emerges from and leads to praxis and explore the variations within this method in dialogue with literature in the field.
  2. Utilize this method to explore a practical theological question or concern of a community that matters deeply to them, drawing on the historical and contemporary resources of a religious tradition that is authoritative to them, in order to propose future faithful/ethical practice in relationship to that question or concern.
  3. Write about matters of practical theological concern in current events to public audiences in accessible genres.
  4. Cultivate and consult with a community of diverse colleagues also engaged in practical theological reflection.

Required Texts

Most of the readings for this class will be articles and chapters from books posted on Canvas in the module in which we will be working with them. Students will also be called upon to identify through library research several chapters/articles at various points during the quarter to read that relate to their particular final project. A bibliography of these course readings for citing in papers can be found here.

Required Text for all students:

Elaine Graham, Heather Walton, and Frances Ward. Theological Reflection: Methods (second edition). SCM Press, 2018. ISBN-10: 033405611X ISBN-13: 978-0334056119

Students will also choose one of the following twelve book-length practical theology texts that they will read throughout the quarter and analyze. Before you choose your book, you might look at descriptions/reviews of the book to identify the religious and academic background of the author and the topic of the book. You can decide if you want this book to stretch you into new contexts and ideas or if you want to explore something you already care deeply about.  It won't be the end of the world if you don't like your book, but you will be happier if you do:

Jennifer Ayres. Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology. Baylor University Press, 2013.

Kristin Leslie. When Violence is No Stranger: Pastoral Counseling with Survivors of Acquaintance Rape. Minneapolis: Augsberg Fortress Press, 2003.

Christine Longaker. Facing Death and Finding Hope. MainStreet Books, 1998.

Joyce Ann Mercer.  Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood. Chalice Press, 2005.

Christine Pohl. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Eerdmans, 1999.

Reyes, Patrick B. Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood. Saint Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2016.
Reynolds, Thomas E. Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality. 1 edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press, 2008.

Miroslav Volf.  A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good. Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press, 2011.

Walker-Barnes, Chanequa. Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014.

Wall, Benjamin S., and John Swinton. Welcome as a Way of Life: A Practical Theology of Jean Vanier. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2016.

Norman Wirzba. Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Almeda Wright. The Spiritual Lives of Young African-Americans.  Oxford University Press, 2017.


Google Hangouts on Current Events/Case Studies: Once during the quarter each students will lead a discussion on a case study from a living community of practice or a current event from the news. They will facilitate a small group in practical theological conversation during a Google Hangout. They will write a 2 page plan for the conversation that includes a descriptive summary of the event or case study and the theological question it raised for them, description and analysis of the contextual practices involved, potential theological resources related to this, dialogue between those resources and the practice of the community involved, and potential proposals for praxis. After the conversation, a participant will write a two page reflection of how the conversation went.   A third member of the group will write a blog post about the current event to practice sharing insights with a public audience. Guidelines for these assignments can be found here: case study leadership, method reflector role, current event blogs.

Formal Practical Theological Reflections Paper and Workshop: Over the course of the quarter, as students are working on their individual final projects, they will share their progress and consult with the instructor and colleagues regarding their explorations. In preparation for each of these workshops, students will write a 3-6 page draft of a section of their final paper that incorporates their research, reflections, and engagement in a piece of practical theological reflection. After the workshop, each student will provide a one page constructive response to the draft for one of their colleagues as a part of the revision process. Instructions for each of these assignments are found here: Workshop 1, Workshop 2

Book Review: Each student will read one full-length work of practical theology and write a review of it. Instruction for this assignment is found here, a worksheet to prepare to write the review is found here.

Participation: In all online learning, timely participation in the practices of the class, especially completing course readings, is essential to your learning, and makes up a significant portion of your grade .  I grade participation in two ways.  Weekly assignments and discussions receive an individual grade, especially if I recognize that they require significant preparation and thinking to engage. Because I cannot see all of the effort that you put into your own learning, at the end of the quarter I also ask you to assess your own participation in the course using a brief online quiz (which is simply a convenient format to collect your responses). The results from both of these will impact your participation grade.  So, though the readings are not graded week to week, your completion of them will be a part of the participation self-assessment. Assignments are considered on-time if they are turned in within a 12 hour grace period after the official due date.  Assignments turned in later will receive full credit, but turning in assignments late affects your ability to participate in the peer-review process and will impact your participation grade for the course.

Final Grade

The percentage of each of these elements in calculating the final grade can be found on the front page of the course. Rubrics for each assignment designating how they will be evaluated are available with the assignment instructions. 


Degree Learning Goals: Please take some time to look over the Professional Degree Learning Goals (MDiv, MASC, MAPSC) and the Academic Degree Learning Goals (MTS, MA).

Incompletes:  If incompletes are allowed in this course, see the Master's Student Handbook for Policies and Procedures.

Pass/Fail:  Masters students wishing to take the class pass/fail should discuss this with the instructor by the second class session.

Academic Integrity and Community Covenant:  All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Community Covenant.

Core Values: As a community, Iliff strives to live by this set of Core Values.

Accommodations:  Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs.   Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations.  The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303-765-1146. 

Writing Lab:  Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft. 

Inclusive Language:  It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community. 

Degree Learning Goals

The activities and assignments in this course are aligned with the following degree learning goals:


Theology and Religious Practices (PR): engage in analysis of contemporary religious traditions and institutions in order to assess, design, and perform meaningful leadership practices with sensitivity to contextual realities and relationships.


1. Formulate a viable research question that puts the student into conversation with historic and contemporary thinkers in the study of religion and that fosters transformative possibilities for humanity and the world. 2. Identify theological resources that would broaden and deepen their thinking about these questions.


Sep 14, 2021TueCourse Orientation Videodue by 05:59AM
Sep 15, 2021WedGetting to Know Youdue by 05:59AM
Sep 15, 2021WedHybrid Course Q & Adue by 05:59AM
Sep 15, 2021WedEveryday Theologydue by 05:59AM
Sep 18, 2021SatWhat is Practical Theology?due by 05:58AM
Sep 18, 2021SatDiscussion: What is Practical Theology?due by 05:59AM
Sep 18, 2021SatBook Review Worksheetdue by 05:59AM
Sep 18, 2021SatIntroducing Google Hangouts for Current Event Reflectiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2021WedWhich book did you choose?due by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2021WedCurating Everyday Theologydue by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2021WedWeekly Discussion-Identifying Theological Questionsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2021WedIdentifying Theological Questions and Concernsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 25, 2021SatWorkshop Final Paper Section 1due by 05:58AM
Sep 25, 2021SatScheduling Current Events Google Hangoutsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 25, 2021SatDescribing Current Practicedue by 05:59AM
Sep 29, 2021WedReading: Critical Reflection on Present Practicedue by 05:58AM
Sep 29, 2021WedDiscussion of Describing Current Practicedue by 05:59AM
Sep 29, 2021WedWorkshop Paper 1 Peer Review Duedue by 05:59AM
Oct 02, 2021SatFirst Round of Case Study/Current Eventsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 06, 2021WedTheological Reflection-Methodsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 06, 2021WedBrief Introduction to Graham, Walton, and Warddue by 05:59AM
Oct 09, 2021SatMethods, part 2due by 05:58AM
Oct 09, 2021SatTheological Methods in Actiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 09, 2021SatWhich Method?due by 05:59AM
Oct 23, 2021SatSacred Texts as Theological Resourcedue by 05:59AM
Oct 23, 2021SatSecond Round of Case Studies/Current Eventsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 27, 2021WedWeekly Discussion on Using Sacred Texts and Liturgical/Historical Sourcesdue by 05:59AM
Oct 27, 2021WedHistorical and Liturgical Sources from Religious Traditionsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 30, 2021SatTheological Resources/Visions for Flourishingdue by 05:59AM
Oct 30, 2021SatWorkshop Final Paper Sections 2 and 3due by 05:59AM
Nov 03, 2021WedWeekly Discussion on Hymnody as Practical Theologydue by 05:59AM
Nov 03, 2021WedWorkshop Paper Sections 2 and 3 Peer Review Duedue by 05:59AM
Nov 06, 2021SatPractical Theological Conversation on Current Events-Facilitation Plans Uploadsdue by 05:59AM
Nov 06, 2021SatThird Round of Case Studies/Current Eventsdue by 05:59AM
Nov 10, 2021WedPresent Praxis and Tradition in Conversationdue by 06:59AM
Nov 10, 2021WedCurrent Event Blogsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 10, 2021WedMethod Reflections on Google Hangoutsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2021SatHow it all comes together....due by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2021SatBook Reviewdue by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2021SatA Word on Writing About Praxis in Final Paperdue by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2021SatDecisions/Proposals for Lived Praxisdue by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2021WedParticipation Self-Assessmentdue by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2021WedSustaining Critically Reflective Practicedue by 06:59AM
Nov 23, 2021TueFinal Paperdue by 06:59AM