Believing in Grace Davie: what does she bring to an understanding of mission in Europe?

Author: Chris Ducker, Mission Partner, Moldova


“Religion in Europe is like an iceberg: most of what is interesting is under the water and out
of view.”
Grace Davie (2003b)
Grace Davie is a British sociologist of religion who has explored the relationship between
religion and modernity. I begin this essay by introducing Dr Davie‟s work and outlining her
contribution to the field over the last twenty years, including her well-known phrase „believing
without belonging‟ as well as more recent developments. In Section II, I focus on Dr Davie‟s
concept of „vicarious religion,‟ and explain why it can be considered her most significant
contribution towards understanding the place of religion in contemporary Europe. In Section
III, I engage with this concept, considering its relative strengths and weaknesses as a
methodological tool. Section IV demonstrates the usefulness of vicarious religion by
considering it in relation to Christian mission in Europe. Section V then identifies some
problems and weaknesses in its application to this context.

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