Theology of online life

Day conference on Presence, Communication and Digital Media Technologies  - 13 December 2019

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The following resources are being made available to support those within the church who are reflecting theologically and pastorally about the nature of online life and Christian experience. In particular they are directed towards exploration of uses of communication technologies and social media, with specific reference to current conversations about ‘Holy Communion Mediated Through Social Media’, and to locate the immediate discussion in a broader context. Properly theological work on this subject will depend in part on informed thinking about our relationships with media technologies.

The initial paper (below) has been prepared on behalf of the Faith and Order Committee as part of its commitment to support consultation and reflection in this area, and is followed by a bibliography specifically intended to aid reflection.

Working notes on a theology of online life (Pdf)


Select Bibliography of Resources for Study of Online Communion

Baym, Nancy Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Polity Press: 2010)

Boyd, Danah It's Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens Yale (University Press, 2015) 

Campbell, Heidi

Exploring Religious Community Online: We are One in the Network (New York: Peter Lang, 1995)

When Religion Meets New Media  (New York: Routledge, 2010)

Digital Religion (New York: Routledge, 2013)

Cheong, Pauline Hope, Peter Fischer-Neilson, Stefan Gelfgren, and Charles Ess (eds) Digital Religion, Social Media, and Culture: Perspectives, Practices, and Futures (New York: Peter Lang, 2012)

CODEC   A video containing a brief exploration of online communion is available here:

Cowan, Douglas E. & Lorne L. Dawson (eds) Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet  (New York: Routledge, 2004)

Dunlap, Joanna & Lowenthal, Patrick "Tweeting the Night Away: Using Twitter to Enhance Social Presence", Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 2009 (available at:

Easum, B., and B. Tenny-Brittian Under the Radar: Learning from Risk-Taking Churches  (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005)

Estes, Douglas. SimChurch: Being the Church in a Virtual World  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009)

Gunawardena, Charlotte Social Presence Theory and Implications for Interaction and Collaborative Learning in Computer Conferences, IJET (1.2), 1995 (available at:

Horst, Heather and Miller, Daniel Digital Anthropology  (Berg: 2012)

Karaflogka, Anastasia  E-religion  (Equinox Publishing (UK): 2006)

Lanier, Jaron You are not a Gadget  (Penguin Books: 2011)

Madron, Thomas W. "Can we Provide Holy Communion Over the Web?" Holy Communion on the Web. 23.6.2015)

Mitchell, Jolyon P. and Marriage, Sophia Mediating religion  (T&T Clark Ltd: 2003)

Neal, Gregory S. 'Holy Communion over the Internet: Reflections on an Experiment in Sacramental Practice' (accessed 23.6.2015)

Ostrowski, Ally 'Cyber Communion: Finding God in the Little Box' Journal of Religion and Society 8 (2006)

Palfrey, John Born Digital (Basic Books: 2010)

Prokes, Mary Timothy At the Interface: Theology and Virtual Reality (Tuscon, AZ: Fenestra Books, 2004)

Rainie, Lee and Wellman, Barry Networked: The New Social Operating System  (MIT: repr 2014)

Siemens, Lynne "The balance between on-line and in-person interactions: Methods for the development of digital humanities collaboration", Digital Studies/Le Champ Numerique 2011, (available at:

Turkle, Sherry Alone Together (Basic Books: 2011)

United Methodist Church, This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 2005)

Wagner, Rachel Godwired: Religion, Ritual, and Virtual Reality (New York: Routledge, 2011)

White, Susan J. Christian Worship and Technological Change (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994)


Other Resources

The United Methodist Church has also been considering the question of 'online communion' and some relevant resources can be found here:



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