Research Programme 2018-2023

Brief description

The CCMW’s current research programme is ‘Salvation in the 21st Century’. The selection of this topic was inspired by several independent impulses, such as (1) the conviction that the (future) significance of theology is determined by its ability to sustain a vision of the ‘good life’ – as has been advocated programmatically by a.o. Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun in For the Life of the World (2019), and Stefan Paas in Zoeken naar het goede leven (2019); (2) the observation that ‘lived soteriology’, that is, which visions of the good, wholesome, and ‘saving’ life animate missional/ecclesial practices and institutional structures, and how they relate to Christian soteriological traditions, is largely underresearched in practical theology, missiology and church law; (3) the growing awareness, influenced by recent ethnographic studies of missional practices (such as Wall, Salvation and the School of Christ, 2014; Strahn, Aliens and Strangers?, 2015; Riphagen, Church in the Neighbourhood, 2021), and by reports on missional pioneering in the UK and the Netherlands, that precisely this topic of ‘salvation’ is often a source of embarrassment for practitioners.

Leading question of the CCMW’s research programme: how are current practices in church and mission in the secularizing and de-institutionalizing context of the West motivated by views on salvation, how do they develop in response to new conditions of faith, and how can they be brought into dialogue with theological traditions in order to contribute to a fruitful embodiment of Christian faith in the secular West?

This question is studied in the contexts of practices, individuals, and institutions:

  • Practices. Exploring the relationship between ecclesial and missional practices on the one hand and sense-making narratives on the other. Which views of salvation animate existing practices of church and mission, and how are they intertwined with these practices?
  • Individuals. Exploring (auto)biographical narratives of salvation. How do late-modern Christians’ experience salvation? How does this change their relationship to the church as community, and its practices?
  • Institutions. Exploring institutional expressions of salvation. How can church organization, the structure of the offices, and church law be expressions and embodiments of the good and wholesome life? How can they be (more) redemptive?

Strategic Aims

In response to this particular nature of a theological university with its responsibility to serve the church and to balance this responsibility with the importance of high-quality research, the CCMW has formulated the following three strategic aims so as to fulfil its mission. Within the modest resource span of the CCMW, this number seems realistic yet ambitious:

  1. The CMMW aims to be a national hub for interdisciplinary theological research in missiology, practical theology, and church polity (societal).
  2. The CCMW aims to be agenda-setting for international academic theological research into the relationship between lived soteriology (views of salvation) and ecclesial/missional practices (academic).
  3. The CCMW aims to be a welcoming and stimulating context for PhD students in the interdisciplinary fields of practical theology, missiology and church law (academic).


Strategic Aim #1: becoming a national hub for interdisciplinary theological research in missiology, practical theology, and church polity. While the CCMW is located at the Theological University Utrecht (TU/U) and its core of paid researchers are drawn from the TU/U’s academic staff, its strategy has been to build a strong network in order to build up its profile and visibility for societal partners. Its ambition is to become a nationally recognized hub for societal partners with regard to missiology, practical theology, and church law – particularly where these fields intersect.

The following strategies are being developed to achieve this aim:

  1. Developing the Centre in terms of memberships and partnerships. The CCMW seeks not just to expand its human resources, it seeks to do so strategically. That is, the CCMW aims at having the right people at the table. Therefore, linking pins with relevant organizations are actively sought. Bi-monthly meetings for mutual discussion, exchanging (research) news, and discussing each other’s work are the CCMW’s main instrument to build up the relationships within the Centre.
  2. Building an active valorization policy. Although an academic research institution must always ground its contributions in solid academic research, the CCMW’s primary strategic aim requires an active policy of knowledge dissemination through relevant journals, op-eds, conferences, and a website.
  3. Gaining an annual funding of 35K Euros from societal partners, as a result of valorization.

Strategic Aim #2: becoming agenda-setting for international academic theological research into the relationship between lived soteriology (views of salvation) and ecclesial practices. This is a modest goal, based on the expectation that the CCMW’s research programme touches on a largely unexplored yet increasingly important field. The CCMW does not aim, as a Centre, to become internationally leading in its domains in general. It does, however, aim for its research programme to be an impulse for other academic institutions so as to recognize the importance of this topic for practical theology, missiology and church law studies.

As for academic output, the CCMW maintains a norm of a minimum of one peer-reviewed article per year per 0.2 fte research time per year. Additionally, we encourage our researchers to publish one academic book per five years.

Thus, the following strategies are being developed to achieve Strategic Aim #2:

  1. 2-3 annual publications in internationally leading and relevant journals such as Mission Studies, Missiology, International Journal of Practical Theology, Ecclesiology, Ecclesial Practices, Exchange.
  2. Between 2018-2023, 2-3 academic books will be published by the CCMW’s members. Each of these books will be reviewed in at least five academic journals.
  3. The CCMW’s website will be further developed as an access to the CCMW’s academic research.
  4. While the CCMW does not have a specific open science policy (in addition to what the TU/U already has), it does encourage its members to upload their publications on and/or similar websites.
  5. In 2022, the CCMW will organize an international academic conference, with call for papers and a peer-reviewed publication of contributions to the conference.
  6. Each of the CCMW’s senior members are invited as speakers to academic conferences at least twice during the period 2018-2023.
  7. Submit (together with academic partners) between 2018-2023 at least one funding application to an academic funding institute, such as NWO, ERC or Templeton.

Strategic Aim #3: becoming a welcoming and stimulating context for PhD students in the interdisciplinary fields of practical theology, missiology and church law. Within the general policy for PhD students by TU/U (which a.o. includes participation in the Initial Graduate School, and NOSTER for paid PhD students), the CCMW is developing the following strategies:

  1. Pre-selection of promising MA-students, especially in the Master Course ‘Church and Mission in the West’. Given the predominantly male composition of the CCMW’s members (including PhD students) so far, special attention will be paid to the selection of promising female students.
  2. Drawing sufficient funds to allow for at least one paid PhD student (AIO) annually.
  3. Bi-monthly research meetings where PhD students can discuss their work together with senior researchers, and one day per year for intensive discussion.


The programme contains three projects: (a) Salvation and Liturgy; (b) Salvation and Mission; (c) Salvation and Polity.

Salvation and Liturgy

Coordinator: Prof. dr. Hans Schaeffer.

Leading question: which visions of salvation animate and inform liturgical and other ecclesial practices in the Reformed tradition?

Brief description: by exploring liturgical and ecclesial practices in the Reformed tradition from a practical-theological perspective this project examines how salvation is experienced in Reformed churches in the contemporary West. Mostly ethnographic data gathered from concrete ecclesial practices will be brought into dialogue with biblical and systematic theology, with a view to making theological sense of current practices and innovating them. In this way this project will contribute to the vitality of the Reformed experience of faith especially in relationship to the liturgy and community.


Salvation and Mission

Coordinator: Prof. dr. Stefan Paas.

Leading question: which visions of salvation animate and inform missional practices, practitioners and institutions in modern Western societies?

Brief description: by exploring historical discussions on mission and salvation, and through ethnographic study of espoused views of salvation among missionary practitioners this project contributes to a deeper sounding of the so-called ‘crisis of mission’ in the West, and it presents mission-minded Christians with theological tools to make sense of their practices and to improve them.


Salvation and Polity

Coordinator: Prof. dr. Leon van den Broeke.

Leading question: how are visions of salvation embodied in church polity, the offices, and church organization, and how can these visions be explored such that they help practitioners to make sense of these institutional dimensions of church and mission?

Brief description: by exploring conflict resolution by church officials, studying polity dimensions of new expressions of church, and reflecting on the relationship between church and state in shifting conditions of the secular West this project contributes to current practices of church and mission, offering tools to develop and improve them from a legal perspective.


Mid-term self-assessment

Mid-term self-assessment of CCMW’s research programme (2018-2023) (PDF).