Peter Horsfield completed undergraduate studies in Arts and Divinity at the University of Queensland, and a PhD in systematic theology and mass communication at Boston University in 1982. He is one of the early scholars in the emerging interdisciplinary field of media, religion and culture – his book, Religious television: the American experience (Sage, 1984), was the first systematic theological and empirical analysis of the audiences, finances, syndication and effects of American televangelism.
From 1995 to 2016 he worked at RMIT University, Melbourne in the School of Applied Communication and School of Media and Communication. Along with teaching and research, he developed the new Bachelor of Communication program within the University, and held positions as a Program Director, Director of Learning and Teaching, Associate Dean, and Professor within the Schools.
During that time, he was a member of the International Study Commission on Media, Religion and Culture, a group of scholars and media producers supported by the Porticus Foundation to collaborate internationally in exploring and developing new frameworks for thinking about the impact of new media developments on religious institutions and social religiosity. Peter managed the Commission’s Doctoral Fellowship Program for Research in Media, Religion and Culture and was lead editor of the publication of their work, Belief in media (Ashgate, 2004).
Prior to that – “in a previous life” – he worked for the Uniting Church in Australia and the United Methodist Church in the U.S. In this capacity he was Dean of the Uniting Church Theological Hall in Melbourne, lecturer in the United Faculty of Theology, Director of the Electronic Culture Research Project, and a minister in parishes in Brisbane, rural Queensland and Boston, and an industry chaplain to the Utah Development Company’s coal mine in Blackwater (central Queensland).
In the early 1990’s, he became involved in SHIVERS, the first support group in Australia for women who had been sexually abused by clergy. The group’s pioneering advocacy and conceptual work laid the foundation for the subsequent recognition of the extensive sexual abuse of children within religious organisations, leading to the Australian Government’s establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. His involvement in that group as an early researcher and advocate lead to his removal from his position at the Theological Hall and his shift to the university, and was a significant influence on his perspectives on religion, belief, theology and churches.
His latest book, From Jesus to the internet: a history of Christianity and media (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) brought together this decades-long research, experiences, insights, questions, collaborations and thinking about religion and media into a coherent whole.
He retired from the university in 2016, giving him more time and space for “long thinking” of life beyond religion and to engage his postponed passion of growing, inventing, making and fixing things with his hands.