Dr. Christian Scharen

Associate Professor and Gordon Braatz Chair of Worship


  • Ph.D., Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia), 2001
  • M.Div., Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (Berkeley, California), 1996
  • M.A.R., Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California), 1995
  • B.A., Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, Washington), 1989
  • Certificate, College of Arts, Science, and Technology (Kingston, Jamaica), 1987
  • Anti-Racism trainings: People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (Undoing Racism, Oakland, Spring 2017); Metro New York Synod, Brooklyn (3 trainings, 2 intro + 1 in depth, June 2021, June 2022); Equity in the Center (focus on whiteness and leadership, Spring 2021); Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (faculty training, December 2022)


A practical theologian, he was ordained a pastor in the ELCA in 2001. He holds the Ph.D. in Religion from Emory University and has written or edited more than a dozen books and many articles, book chapters, and research reports. His research and writing focuses on theology, worship and the arts, pastoral leadership, social justice, and theological education. His early work on theological ethnography helped spark an international movement bringing together sociology and theology in the study of the church. His most recent book is co-authored with Aana Vigen, Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics: A Completely Revised 2nd Edition (T&T Clark). He is currently working on a decolonial theological memoir about his family, the Ingalls of The Little House on the Prairie books, and a book on Christian worship before and after Christianity became the religion of Empire. He enjoys cooking, poetry, and music, especially learning to play on his grandfather’s 1910 Washburn bowl back mandolin. He is married to Pierrette Comulada, and together they have three adult children, Isaiah, Finn, and Owen, and a bulldog named Walt.

Academic Employment

  • Affiliated faculty, Liturgy, 2023–present
    Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
  • Co-Director, Learning Pastoral Imagination Project, 2008-present
  • Vice President, Applied Research, 2014-202
    Director, The Center for the Study of Theological Education, 2014-2020
    Auburn Theological Seminary, New York, NY
  • Assistant Professor of Worship and Theology, 2008-2014
    Director of Contextual Learning, 2013-2014
    Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, MN
  • Assistant Professor of Congregational and Ministerial Studies (Adjunct) 2004-2008
    Director, Faith as a Way of Life-Pastoral Excellence Program
    Yale Center for Faith & Culture
    Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT
  • Lecturer in Practical Theology and Sociology of Religion, 1999-2001
    Research Associate, Responding to Community Crisis Project, 1999-2001
    Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Ecclesial Employment

  • Pastor, St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn, NY 07/2021-present
  • Interim Senior Pastor, Church of Our Saviour, Lutheran, Manhasset, NY 2/2022-1/2023
  • Interim Pastor, St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn, NY 12/2019-07/2021
  • Sabbatical Senior Pastor, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, 2017
  • Sabbatical Senior Pastor, University Lutheran Church of Hope, Minneapolis, MN, 2010
  • Supply Pastor, Connecticut Conference, New England Synod, ELCA, 2004-2008
  • Senior Pastor, First Lutheran Church of the Reformation, New Britain, CT, 2001-2004
  • Regular Supply Pastor, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, East Point, GA, 1998-2000
  • Vicar, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA, 1995-1996

Research Grants and Awards

  • Pilot Studies of the Church’s Future, a Compelling Preaching Program Grant from Lilly Endowment, Project Director with Metro New York Synod, along with other partners, 2024 through 2027
  • Beyond the Land Acknowledgement: Christian Congregations, Native Peoples, and the Question of Repair, Project leader for a Louisville Institute Pastoral Study grant, 2024, for St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn
  • Missional Church Leadership Formation Network, Project leader for a Ministry in the Cit Hub project grant, 2024, for St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn
  • The Stone Catcher Project: Equipping Congregations and Communities to Move Beyond Affirmation to Actively Counter anti-LGBTQ Hate and Violence, Co-Project leader with Rev. Liz Edman and Rev. Dr. Roberto Che Espinosa for a Wild Gifting Project Grant, 2024-2025 for St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn
  • Missional Church Leadership Formation Network, Project leader for a Ministry in the City Hub pilot grant, 2022, for St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn
  • Are We Safe To Eat With? Beyond Open and Affirming Work in Queer Christianity. Co-project leader with Rev. Liz Edman for a Wild Gifting Project Grant, 2021-2022 for St. Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn
  • From Imagining Ministry to Pastoral Imagination. Co-Principle Investigator with Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed for a Louisville Institute grant to Union Seminary, 2021-2023, focused on a 10-years after graduation round of interviews in the first longitudinal, national, and ecumenical study of ministry in practice.
  • Another World is Possible. Principal Investigator for an Anonymous Foundation grant, 2019-2020, focused on faith leaders and communities, narrative change and reproductive health, rights and justice.
  • Emerging Multi-Faith Prophetic Leadership. Principal Investigator for a Lilly Endowment grant, 2018-2023, part of the Thriving in Ministry Initiative.
  • The Future Story of America. Principal Investigator for a Sherwood Foundation/Righteous Persons Foundation grants, 2017-2020, focused on equipping faith leaders with data and analysis regarding pluralism, democracy, and national identity in a time of crisis.
  • Civic Practices/Sowing Community. Principal Investigator for a Ford Foundation grant 2017-2018, studying faith leaders and communities in welcoming new immigrants.
  • Current and Future Directions in Theological Education. Principal Investigator for Henry Luce Foundation grant, made through Lancaster Theological Seminary, 2017-2019, focused on mapping the types of innovation in theological schools and other institutions forming faith leaders in the USA.
  • Experiential Learning in Theological Education. Principal Investigator for Duke Endowment grant, 2016-2018, focused on changing uses of experiential learning in the formation of faith leaders.
  • Not Being There. Principal Investigator for Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning grant, 2015-2017, focused on understanding history and current patterns of online teaching and learning.
  • Bright Spots in Theological Education. Principal Investigator for Arthur Vining Davis grant, 2014-2016, focused on excellence in leadership education for 21st century faith leadership.
  • Christian Hospitality and Pastoral Practice in a Multifaith Society (CHAPP). Co-investigator with Mary Hess for ATS grant, 2010-2012. Title: The Pastoral Practice of Hospitality as Presence in a Muslim-Christian Engagement: Contextualizing the Classroom.
  • Learning Pastoral Imagination, 2008-2014. Co-Principal Investigator with Eilee Campbell-Reed on a Lilly Endowment-funded longitudinal research project on practical wisdom and learning ministry in practice.
  • Faith as a Way of Life, 2004-2008. Co-Project leader with Miroslav Volf on a Lilly Endowment-funded Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Grant
  • Saying ‘YES’ and Saying ‘NO’: Baptismal Practice and the Formation of Christians, 2002-2004. Leader for a Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People of Faith grant
  • Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellow in American Religion, 2000-2001
  • Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Fellow in Southern Studies, 1999-2000
  • Doctoral Fellow, Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University, 1996-2000
  • Presidential Leadership Award, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, 1995
  • Abdel Ross Wentz Prize in American Lutheran History, 1992

Books and Major Research Reports

  • After Empire: Worship Before and After Constantine (ms. under development).
  • Becoming Wise in Ministry: Pastoral Imagination and Christian Leadership Today, with Eileen Campbell-Reed (ms. under development).
  • Custer Died for My Sins: A White Practical Theology of Settler Repair (ms. under development).
  • After Laura Ingalls Wilder: Facing My Family’s Pioneer History and the Battle Over the Story of America (forthcoming 2025).
  • Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics, Second Edition, with Aana Marie Vigen. T&T Clark Studies in Social Ethics, Ethnography, and Theologies (T&T Clark, forthcoming 2024).
  • Someone Has To Care: The Roots and the Prophetic Vocation of Hip Hop (Cascade Press, 2021).
  • You Belong Here: Sowing Seeds of a New Nation, with Chris Alexander, Francisco Diaz, Erica Ramirez, and Mary Laurel True (Auburn Studies 24, Fall 2019).
  • Making Theology Matter: Field Education as the Practical – Prophetic Heart of Effective Ministry Preparation (Auburn Studies 23, Fall 2018)
  • (Not) Being There: What Works and Why in Online Distance in Theological Education (Auburn Studies 23, Winter 2017).
  • Bright Spots in Theological Education: Innovation in 21st Century Faith Leadership Education with Sharon Miller (Auburn Studies 22, Summer 2016).
  • Learning Pastoral Imagination: A Five-Year Report on How New Ministers Learn in Practice with Eileen Campbell-Reed (Auburn Studies 21, Winter 2016).
  • Christian Practical Wisdom: What it is, Why it matters with Dorothy Bass, Kathleen Cahalan, Bonnie Miller-McLemore, and James Nieman (Eerdmans 2016)
  • Fieldwork in Theology in The Church and Postmodern Culture Series, James K. A. Smith, series editor (Baker Academic 2015)
  • Serving the Assembly’s Worship: Assisting Ministers. Worship Matters Series. (Augsburg Fortress, 2013)
  • Worship Matters: An Introduction, with Jennifer Baker-Trinity, Erik Christensen, Callista Isabelle, Miriam A. E. Schmidt, and Paul E. Walters (Augsburg Fortress, 2012)
  • Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics, with Aana Marie Vigen (Continuum 2011)
  • Broken Hallelujahs: Why Pop Music Matters to Those Seeking God (Brazos 2011)
  • Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership (Eerdmans, 2008)
  • One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God (Brazos 2006)
  • Public Worship, Public Work: Character and Commitment in Local Congregational Life (The Liturgical Press, 2004)
  • Married in the Sight of God: Theology, Ethics, and Church Debates over Homosexuality (University Press of America, 2000)
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