Tag Archives: Intersex

“Embodied Ministry” Conference a Great Success

Participants gathered at Ripon College, Oxfordshire, July 9th and 10th for the CSCS theological educators’ “Embodied Ministry” conference on sexuality, gender and formation. They came from  all corners of England (including at least York, Kent, Exeter, and Manchester), as well as one Australian stopping off en route to Sydney, two Ugandan asylum seekers, and a nun resident at Ripon College.  They came from a wide range of Christian denominations and backgrounds, including Church of the Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Anglican and United Reform Church. Some were priests / pastors in active ministry, some were academics training aspirant clergy – and some were aspirant ministers in training, or preparing for training, themselves.

Ripon College

Opening the conference, our chair Martin Pendergast noted that this conference was not an end in itself, but the beginning of a process. By the end, it was obvious to all that this optimism was more than justified. It’s safe to say that this conference will probably repeated, possibly on a larger and more ambitious scale.

A press release by Pendergast yesterday, quoted the enthusiastic response of Revd. Dr. Martyn Percy, Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon and Dean-elect of Christ Church, Oxford, as this major Conference concluded:

It’s rare to say that an event has been truly ground-breaking, but I’m proud that Ripon College Cuddesdon hosted the Embodied Ministry: Gender, Sexuality & Formation Conference, with such a rich, ecumenical breadth and seriously respectful discussions on issues which are often too neuralgic for all our Churches to consider, not least together.”

Continue reading “Embodied Ministry” Conference a Great Success

Intersex and Formation

Presentation by Dr Susannah Cornwall, for the CSCS theological educators’ conference “Embodied Ministry: Sexuality, Gender and Formation”.

(To view the full Power Point Presentation, open this link: Intersex and Formation )

Intersex,title slide


Dr Susannah Cornwall is Advanced Research Fellow in Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, and Director of EXCEPT (Exeter Centre for Ethics and Practical Theology). Her research focuses on constructive body theologies, and, in particular, the implications of intersex for theologies of sex, gender, sexuality, and theological anthropology. Her books include Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (Equinox, 2010); Controversies in Queer Theology  (SCM, 2011); and Theology and Sexuality
y (SCM, 2013).


Notice of another upcoming conference

12 March 2013:  The University of Manchester

 Intersex conditions (sometimes called DSDs) are conditions causing a physical variation from male or female. About 1 in 2500 people has an intersex condition, yet intersex remains an area shrouded in secrecy. Intersex has attracted increasing attention in the humanities and social sciences in recent years, not least because of the controversies surrounding treatment protocols, and the terminology used for these conditions by intersex people and their families, the medical profession, activists and society at large.

However, intersex remains understudied within theology, religion and biblical studies. Little existing work focuses on the importance of spirituality and faith for intersex people and their families, or the implications of intersex for Christian theology, biblical interpretation, church policy, and pastoral care. Theological implications for social understandings of intersex also remain under-examined.

This one-day conference, part of the Intersex, Identity and Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church project at the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester, brings together scholars and activists from Britain, the USA, Australia and South Africa. We ask what difference intersex might make to the way theology and biblical studies (especially in the areas of sex, gender and human sexuality) are done, and what difference insights from theology and biblical studies might make to social and cultural understandings of intersex.


Nathan Carlin (University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas): Middlesex: A Pastoral Theological Reading.”

Megan K. DeFranza (Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts): “Addressing Intersex in Conservative Christian Contexts: The Use and Limitation of Eunuchs.”

Sally Gross (Director, Intersex South Africa): “Not in God’s Image: Intersex, Social Death and Infanticide.”

Patricia Beattie Jung (Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri): “Intersex on Earth as It Is in Heaven?”

Stephen Craig Kerry (Charles Darwin University, Australia) – via Skype: “Revisiting ‘Intersex Individuals’ Religiosity and their Journey to Wellbeing’.”

Joseph A. Marchal (Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana): “What Can Lavender Do When the Baby’s Not (Exactly) Pink or Blue?: Contributions from Feminist and Queer Biblical Studies for Intersex Advocacy.”

Respondent: John Hare

Conference Chair: Susannah Cornwall (Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester)

For more information, including abstracts and speakers’ biographies, and details of how to book, see



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News from the Lincoln Theological Institute is that they are hosting an international conference on Intersex, Theology and the Bible at the University of Manchester on Tuesday 12th March 2013Booking is now open and costs £20 (£10 student/unwaged) for the day, including lunch.

Confirmed speakers include:

Patricia Beattie Jung, “Intersex on Earth as It Is in Heaven?”

Christian convictions about life in the world to come impact Christian approaches to the transformation of life on earth. This presentation will trace carefully the connections between Christian eschatological convictions about the body, in particular sexuality and gender, and normative Christian thinking about intersex here and now.

Nathan Carlin, Middlesex: A Pastoral Theological Reading”

This paper focuses on Middlesex, a Pulitzer Prize-winningnovel by Jeffrey Eugenides, published in 2002. The novel, set in twentieth-century America and written as a fictional memoir, is a coming of age story of Cal/Calliope, a man with an intersex condition caused by 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. Much scholarly criticism of the novel has focused on literary concerns (e.g. style and genre considerations) as well as the themes of the American Dream, race relations, ethnic identity, sexual identity, gender identify, and the nature versus nurture debate. This paper addresses religious themes in the novel and offers, specifically, a pastoral theological reading of the text.

Megan K. DeFranza, “Addressing Intersex in Conservative Christian Contexts: The Use and Limitation of Eunuchs”

While many intersex persons and advocates emphasize points of contact between intersex and LGBTQ experiences / activism / theories / theologies, such connections may also undermine efforts for education, inclusion, and medical care for intersex persons and families within conservative religious traditions. Christians who hold to heteronormative sexual ethics are often wary of intersex on account of its perceived connection to queer sexualities. DeFranza demonstrates how the Biblical language of the eunuch provides a useful starting point to begin education about intersex, recovering and expanding space that once existed even within traditions holding to strong notions of sex/gender complementarity. Theological reflection on intersex must acknowledge not only what can be learned from eunuchs and LGBTQ experiences but also the limitations of these lenses.

Stephen Craig Kerry, “Revisiting ‘Intersex Individuals’ Religiosity and their Journey to Wellbeing’” (via Skype)

In 2009 Stephen Craig Kerry published a paper in the Journal of Gender Studies on how intersex individuals have turned to religion and religiosity as a means of helping them back on a path of well-being following the psycho-social trauma they have experienced as a result of medical intervention. He argued that as intersex individuals found strength in numbers some were turning elsewhere for guidance and means of ‘coping’. This presentation will revisit some of the main points in that paper and open up a conversation to further articulate the need for established counselling and peer support services to incorporate the finding that it is in spiritual and/or religious life that intersex individuals are finding answers, health, and wellbeing.

Joseph A. Marchal, “What Can Lavender Do When the Baby’s Not (Exactly) Pink or Blue?: Contributions from Feminist and Queer Biblical Studies for Intersex Advocacy”

Issues of authority are central in the interpretation of bodies, both biblical and biological. Intersex advocates and scholars know this well, which is why many have turned to feminist and queer ideas and practices. Are there ways then that biblical scholars, particularly those with feminist and queer commitments, can be useful in intersex advocacy? The answer lies in not speaking for intersex people, but speaking to the conditions that generate the dehumanizing treatment of intersex people. Intersex bodies aren’t ambiguous; what is far more ambiguous is whether authorities and those who rely upon authoritative arguments do more damage than good. Biblical scholars are practiced in issues of authority and the uses of such arguments. Feminist and queer biblical scholars recognize that to counter shame and stigma and the cultures – medical, religious, and even biblical – that maintain them, efforts must aim not toward apology or reformation, but toward resistance and transformation. Critical negotiations of figures found in a range of New Testament texts, from eunuchs to circumcised members, from friends to enemies, provide generative examples for why we should care about complicated communities and complex bodies (likely because they always are), both then and now.

Sally Gross, “Not in God’s Image: Intersex, Social Death and Infanticide”

This paper will draw upon the personal experience of the author, who discovered that she was in fact intersex at the age of forty and was pushed out of her former religious order and, in effect, out of the Church in which she had served as a priest. This was a direct consequence of seeking to act with honesty and integrity. The ostracism which followed involved an implicit denial that she (and by implication, other intersex people) is human. The paper will argue that the model which makes the most sense of the way in which her situation was handled is the “social death” model associated with Orlando Patterson’s work on slavery, and used controversially by Daniel Goldhagen in connection with the Nazi attempt as a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem”. The paper will also look at evidence of infanticide involving babies born with ambiguous genitalia in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa, and will argue that a “social death” model is relevant to the explanation of this phenomenon as well. It will link this with the spurious religious perception that to be intersex is not to be in God’s image and not to conform to God’s putative model of what it is to be human.

John Hare, will respond.

Revd Dr John Hare (MA, MD, FRCOG) is Quondam Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. He qualified in medicine in 1964. A former consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, he is the author of over 100 scientific papers. He was ordained priest in the Church of England in 2003 and has recently retired from his position as an assistant priest in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. His writing on intersex and theology includes “‘Neither Male Nor Female’: The Case of Intersexuality”, in Duncan Dormor and Jeremy Morris (eds.) (2007), An Acceptable Sacrifice? Homosexuality and the Church, London: SPCK.

Susannah Cornwall will be the  conference chair.

Dr Susannah Cornwall is Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Lincoln Theological Institute, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, where she leads the Intersex, Identity, Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church project. She is the author of Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (Equinox, 2010), Controversies in Queer Theology (SCM Press, 2011), and SCM Core Text: Theology and Sexuality (SCM Press, forthcoming 2013). She is editing a special issue of Crucible: The Christian Journal of Social Ethics(July 2013) on sexuality.

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“Theology and Sexuality” contents, Volume 14 (2), January 2008