Tag Archives: Susannah Cornwall

“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).

“Embodied Ministry” Conference 2014: Speakers

Speakers and workshop leaders

Adrian Thatcher, Redeeming Gender

 Adrian Thatcher, Redeeming GenderThe churches have forgotten that, until the 17th century, the dominant understanding of sex and gender was of a single humanity, ‘man’, within which women were imperfect, malformed men. Later, a two-sex view of humanity, supposedly established by modern science, became preferred. The idea of the complementarity (not equality) of the sexes arose directly from this view. The Christian Gospel offers neither an ancient one-sex theory, nor a modern two-sex theory, but a single inclusive humanity, made by God and redeemed by Christ, in which differences of all kinds are a means towards communion instead of conflict.

Professor Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor at the University of Exeter. He is ‘retired’ and currently editing The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality and Gender. His most recent books are Making Sense of Sex (SPCK, 2012) and God, Sex and Gender: an Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). He is an Anglican.

Carla Grosch-Miller, Fifty Shades of Grace: The Crafting of Sexual Wisdom

Carla Grosch-Miller, Fifty Shades of Grace

 Each of us has lived sexual experience that gives us embodied knowledge.  This embodied knowledge is the premier source for the creation of practical sexual wisdom. We learn by doing, bumping up against others and surviving the consequences. Grace accompanies us all along the way. The purpose of this workshop is to explore a model of sexual-spiritual integration in which embodied knowledge is in critical-liminal conversation with theological sources to create practical sexual wisdom. Space will be made available for (private) personal reflection and creative expression. Implications for theological education will be discussed.

Revd Dr Carla A. Grosch-Miller is a minister and theological educator specialising in sex and ministry short courses for various ministry training colleges.  She is the author of Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2014).

Brendan Callaghan, Guided Examen

Brendan Callaghan, Guided ExamenThis workshop takes the form of a guided Ignatian “Examen” – helping people reflect on where and how they encounter God in the sexual dimension of their lives. This will include an introduction from Brendan, followed by 20 minutes’ or so guided silent reflection, followed by a chance to share and discuss (as people are comfortable to), followed by a little plenary discussion.

Revd Dr Brendan Callaghan SJ is Novice Director for the North-Western Europe Provinces of the Jesuits. In addition to his 30 years of academic work in psychology of religion, based at Heythrop College in London and Campion Hall Oxford, he has run numerous workshop courses on sexuality, both for retreat guides and for committed celibates at various stages of their lives.

Christina Beardsley, Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality: Exploring the Interplay

Christina Beardsley, Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality

Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality: Exploring the Interplay is an interactive workshop that builds on trans, queer and intersex perspectives. An exploration of identity, role and practice, it requires honesty and attentive listening from participants. Produced for a day conference at St Anne’s, Soho in 2007, it has been offered (and developed) with LGBT Christian organizations, the LGBT Health Summits 2010 and 2011, and the York Spiritual Directors’ Course in 2012 and 2013. Originally a trans-led workshop, at more recent events leaders have identified as lesbian, gay, and trans, and ‘spirituality’ has always been defined broadly.

Revd Dr Christina Beardsley is Head of Multi-faith Chaplaincy at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London. A member of Sibyls – Christian spirituality for transgender people – Tina is a speaker, writer and activist for LGBTI inclusion in the Church of England   and the author of Unutterable Love (Lutterworth, 2009), a biography of F.W. Robertson.

Rachel Mann, Queering Spiritual Direction

Rachel Mann, Queering Spiritual DirectionThe praxis of Spiritual Direction has a number of well-established orthodoxies, most notably Ignatian, Franciscan and Benedictine, each typically characterized as paths which invite us to become our ‘true’ selves in God. This session explores and interrogates practices of spiritual direction from a queer perspective, examining the exclusions, inclusions, aporia and opportunities for trans* people implicit in traditional notions of ‘Spiritual Direction’. Grounded in my experience as a trans woman, a spiritual director and directee, this session will use queer/deviant readings of Biblical texts and meditative strategies in order to open liberative and creative space for trans* Christians.

Revd Rachel Mann is an Anglican priest and writer based in South Manchester. She is the author of Dazzling Darkness: Gender, Sexuality, Illness and God (Wild Goose, 2012) – a theological memoir about what it means to be a trans, disabled and lesbian Christian – and The Risen Dust: Poems and Stories of Passion and Resurrection (Wild Goose, 2013) A trained philosopher, she regularly broadcasts and writes about the intersections between faith, culture and theory. She is also currently Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral. 


Nicola Slee, God-language in Public and Private Prayer as a Place of Integrating Gender, Sexuality and Faith: A Workshop

Nicola Slee, God-language in Public and Private PrayerIn this workshop, we will consider how praying with a range of images of God may aid the process of integrating gender, sexuality and faith (and, conversely, how the use of a limited range of patriarchal God-images can limit that work).  We will explore a range of terms, images and metaphors for God drawn from Christian tradition, in scripture, hymnody, poetry and visual imagery, considering particularly how they represent gender and sexuality in God, and how that may relate to our own sense of ourselves as embodied, sexual, engendered beings.  We will use creative writing as a tool to respond to some of these images for ourselves, as well as consider how we might offer a range of God-language to others, through the leadership of worship, spiritual accompaniment, teaching and ministerial formation.

Dr Nicola Slee is Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, and a well-known feminist practical theologian and poet.  Her most recent publications are Making Nothing Happen: Five Poets Explore Faith and Spirituality (Ashgate, 2014), and The Faith Lives of Women and Girls (Ashgate, 2013). 


Susannah Cornwall, Intersex and Formation

 Susannah Cornwall, Intersex and FormationConcerns about intersex and identity are actually broader questions about identity which face all of us, and the process of thinking and working through one’s own sense of one’s gender and sex is likely to better equip one to help others in this part of their journey. In this paper I note some of the questions and challenges intersex candidates may face during selection, training and ministerial formation, before going on to explore some of the theological questions surrounding formation and identity more broadly.

Dr Susannah Cornwall is Advanced Research Fellow in Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter. 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 (SCM, 2013). 

David Nixon, Sod ‘Em, Sod ‘Em, Like There’s No Gomorrah”: Comparing Sexualities Education for Teachers, Doctors and Clergy in the UK

 David Nixon, Sod 'Em, Sod 'Em, Like There's No GomorrahThis seminar paper compares education in the field of sexualities equality, enquiring how teachers, doctors and clergy are prepared for their professional lives. Data from questionnaires and semi-structured interviews are analysed to reveal that although in many outward respects teaching and medicine reflect recent legislative and cultural changes and the Church does not, in more subtle ways these three professions share a common theme of disjunction between policy and practice. There is also some evidence that certain subsections of these professions offer differential degrees of welcome to gay and lesbian individuals. Behind this empirical study lies the theoretical question of the way in which historically these professions have enmeshed together to structure a dominant heteronormativity. Evidence from this research points to some loosening of these historic ties.

Revd Dr David Nixon is Dean of Studies of the South West Ministry Training Course, and was previously a parish priest in Plymouth. He is a research fellow at the University of Exeter, and has undertaken research and publication about the intersections of education, faith and sexualities. His book Stories from the Street: A Theology of Homelessness was published by Ashgate in 2013.

Also (abstract not yet available):

Sharon Ferguson, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and the Senior Pastor for the Metropolitan Community Church North London.

Sharon Ferguson

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“Embodied Ministry” Theological Educators Conference

Rev Jane Fraser has described her journey as a female Anglican priest, in an article in CSCS News (Winter 2013), titled “Reflections on a ‘ministry in sex employment“. She explains that this rather odd description of her work arose when a parishioner either misheard or misunderstood the explanation of the term MSE (Minister in secular employment).  Nevertheless, she uses the term advisedly, because her secular work is indeed, indirectly, involved with “sex employment”: in sex education, especially among sex workers. While this is secular employment, it is also and at the same time, a valuable form of Christian ministry.

This is valuable work, but in addition to the importance of ministry for those involved in sex work, there is also an urgent need for the converse: “sex work”, in the form of sexuality education, for those employed in ministry, and in theological education of all kinds. The revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and later in several other institutions, has brought home to many people the absence or grossly inadequate extent of sexual education in the training of priests, ministers and pastors, across denominational lines. Yet it is often to our pastors, untrained in the complexities of human sexuality, that we may turn for guidance on sexual ethics, or when our sexual lives and relationships become tangled and confused.

It is for this reason that CSCS some years ago launched a “Theological Educators Project”, with the aim of providing support and resources to all those involved in sexuality education for those involved in ministry. This year, the project steps up a gear, with a two day conference at Rippon College, Oxfordshire, on the subject, under the title “Embodied Ministry: Gender, Sexuality and Formation

EmbodiedMinistry flier

Here follows the provisional programme information. More detailed planning is coming along well, and over the next few days we will publish fuller information on the speakers, workshop facilitators, and their topics, together with a call for short papers.

Provisional Programme Information 

Target Audience

Theological educators, those with denominational responsibilities in education, training, and on-going ministerial formation, students, denominational policy-makers.


The conference will attempt to respond to what appears to be a fault-line, in and across a range of denominations, regarding training and formation in the areas of gender and sexuality.


Through a combination of plenary presentations, panel discussion, experiential and reflective workshops:

  • To enable open learning, and reflection on the importance of growth in human and sexual maturity, so as to promote effective, inclusive, and non-judgmental pastoral practice.
  • To identify relevant and appropriate academic and human development resources as tools in this journey.
  • To equip those in formational communities to respond to issues of gender and sexuality.

Areas of Focus

  • Gender, sexuality & the pastoral encounter.
  • Sexual maturity and gender identity and awareness in ministry.
  • Integration of gender, sexuality, faith & spirituality.

Speakers / Facilitators (will include)

  • Christina Beardsley – Changing Attitude, England / Sibyls
  • Brendan Callaghan – Campion Hall, Oxford
  • Susannah Cornwall – University of Exeter
  • Sharon Ferguson – Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement / MCC North London
  • Carla Grosch-Miller – URC minister and theological educator
  • Rachel Mann – St Nicholas Burnage, Manchester
  • Martin Pendergast – Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality / Soho Masses
  • Nicola Slee – Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham
  • Adrian Thatcher – University of Exeter

Topics (will include)

  • Integrating sexuality, gender and spirituality
  • Spirituality in the gendered and sexual “broken middle”
  • Themes from Redeeming Gender
  • Negotiating gender transition in formational communities
  • Fifty Shades of Grace: practicing sexual and spiritual integration
  • Intersex, formation and pastoral care
  • Honouring gender fluidity in liturgy and worship
  • Ministry with the families of LGBT people
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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