Dr Susannah Cornwall
Senior Lecturer in Constructive Theologies
My research focuses on Christian constructive theologies. Much of my work has been in contextual theologies, particularly those relating to sex, gender and sexuality. I also have interests in disability, homelessness, contextual Bible study, postcolonial theologies, queer theologies, and theologies of art.
I have taught undergraduate-level courses including Religion in the Modern World, Introducing Christian Theologies, Body and Society, Postcolonial Theology, Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics, and Theological Ethics and Genital Surgery, and MA courses including Religion, Politics and the Media and Contemporary Issues in Theology, Religion and Gender.
My latest monograph, Un/familiar Theology: Reconceiving Sex, Reproduction and Generativity, was published by Bloomsbury T&T Clark in June 2017.
My first book, Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ (Routledge, 2010), examined the Christian constructive theological and ethical implications of the existence and treatment of intersex. I returned to this in the project I led at the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester, between 2011 and 2013. This project was entitled Intersex, Identity and Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church. It included empirical work with intersex Christians in Britain, learning about the overlaps between their intersex and faith identities, and their experiences of talking about intersex with other Christians. As part of this project I edited Intersex, Theology and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text and Society, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. A special panel was convened to discuss the book and its implications at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015.
My second book, Controversies in Queer Theology (SCM Press, 2011), examined ongoing debates in the area of queer theology, including: What is queer? Is queer theology synonymous with gay theology? Is queer theology inherently white or western? Is the Bible queer? Is the Christian theological tradition queer? Given the historical and contemporary treatment of LGBT by the Church, should queer people remain Christians?
As well as undergraduate and postgraduate-level teaching, I am committed to engagement and knowledge exchange with people in a range of contexts. I have been a support tutor and associate lecturer for the South West Ministry Training Course, working with trainee clergy, readers and members of the public on the Encountering Theology course. My third book, Theology and Sexuality (SCM Press, 2013), is part of the SCM Core Texts series, and is designed for use as an individual or class text for upper-level BA and MA students studying theology and sexuality, gender, sex and embodiment. It includes chapters on sexuality in the Christian tradition, sex and marriage, sex outside marriage, celibacy and virginity, transgender and intersex, and same-sex relationships. I also contributed to Sexuality: The Inclusive Church Resource (2014), part of a series designed to enable church communities to explore inclusion.
Christian constructive theologiesl; Theological and ethical implications of intersex conditions; Theological and ethical responses to transgender, variant gender and homosexuality; Sexual ethics; Christologies; Theologies of disability; Theology and the body; Queer theologies; Feminist theologies; Relational theologies; Postcolonial theologies; Contextual Bible Study; Theology and art; Environmental ethics.
2017-19 Modelling Transgender Spiritual Care: Pilot Framework for People Undergoing Gender Transition in NHS England Gender Clinics (in partnership with West of England NHS Specialist Gender Identity Clinic).
This project, funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, explores the development of spiritual and pastoral care for people undergoing gender transition, including those who have no religious beliefs. Spirituality and religious involvement correlate positively with improved wellbeing and mental health, and the NHS Contract of Care 2014-15 and the Health and Social Care Act 2008 require medical teams to provide for service users’ religious and spiritual needs. However, there are currently no specific guidelines or frameworks in use by NHS England to ensure transgender people’s spiritual care.
As well as formulating a spiritual care framework, to be piloted by the West of England Specialist Gender Identity Clinic, the project will also develop training resources on transgender spiritual care for healthcare chaplains.
2015- Mind the Gap? Perceptions and Realities of Sexualities and Diversities Education for Church of England Ordinands (with David Nixon, South West Ministry Training Course)
The project involves empirical work with ordinands and staff at three theological education institutions (TEIs) using the new Common Awards curricula to learn how and where education on sexualities and diversity is delivered.
Outputs from the project include:
- with Nixon, David, "Mind the Gap? Perceptions and Realities of Sexualities Education for Ordinands", Practical Theology 10.2 (2017), 147-159
- with Nixon, David, “‘Anglicanism in a Bottle’? Theological Implications of Sexualities Education for Anglican Ordinands”, Practical Theology 10.4 (2017), 383-395
2011-2013: Intersex, Identity, Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church.
Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester.
The project had several components:
1. Empirical interviews and questionnaires with intersex Christians in Britain, focusing on the interactions between intersex identity and faith identity, and experiences in church contexts.
2. Work with healthcare chaplains and pastoral carers.
3. Academic work on intersex and theology, including an international conference in Manchester in March 2013 (see http://lincolntheologicalinstitute/iid-conference); an edited volume on intersex, theology and the Bible; and a lecture tour of US seminaries.
Outputs from the project include:
- "British Intersex Christians' Accounts of Intersex Identity, Christian Identity and Church Experience", Practical Theology 6.2 (2013), 220-236
- “Telling Stories About Intersex and Christianity: Saying Too Much or Not Saying Enough?”, Theology 117.1 (2014), 24-33.
- “Intersex and the Rhetorics of Disability and Disorder: Multiple and Provisional Significance in Sexed, Gender and Disabled Bodies”, Journal of Disability and Religion 19.2 (2015), 106-118, DOI: 10.1080/23312521.2015.1010681
- “Identity and Formation in Theological Education: The Occasion of Intersex”, Journal of Adult Theological Education 12.1 (2015), 4-15.
Edited volume on intersex, theology and the Bible:
- Cornwall, Susannah (ed.) (2015), Intersex, Theology and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text and Society, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Briefing papers on intersex, theology, policy and pastoral care:
- “Intersex, Identity, Disability Project Briefing Paper 1: Intersex Conditions/DSDs: A Guide for Christians”, Manchester: Lincoln Theological Institute (open access online publication) (2012).
- “Intersex, Identity, Disability Project Briefing Paper 2: Intersex Conditions/DSDs and Pastoral Care: A Guide for Healthcare Chaplains, Ministers, and Pastoral Carers”, Manchester: Lincoln Theological Institute (open access online publication) (2012).
- Intersex, Identity, Disability Project Briefing Paper 3: Intersex Conditions/DSDs: Some Implications for Church Policy”, Manchester: Lincoln Theological Institute (open access online publication) (2013).
- “Intersex, Identity, Disability Project Briefing Paper 4: Intersex Conditions/DSDs: Some Christian Theological Implications”, Manchester: Lincoln Theological Institute (open access online publication) (2012).
Resources for healthcare chaplains, designed for use with parents whose children have intersex conditions/DSDs
2010: Readings from the Road, British Academy-funded small research project
Outputs from the project include:
- Cornwall, Susannah (2012), “Contextual Bible Study: Characteristics and Challenges”, Modern Believing 53.1, 14-22.
- Cornwall, Susannah and David Nixon (2011), “Readings from the Road: Contextual Bible Study with a Group of Homeless and Vulnerably-Housed People”, Expository Times 123.1, 12-19
I am open to discussing research proposals on any relevant subject given my research expertise. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates with interests in the following areas:
Theology and sexuality
Variant sex and gender, religion and spirituality
Spirituality in sex and relationships education
Spirituality and wellbeing
Current PhD students:
Penelope Cowell Doe, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Exeter: PhD, "Queering the Pilling Report" (with Louise Lawrence)
Sian Taylder, Department of Geography, University of Exeter: "There’s God in Them There Hills: Encounters with Spiritual Landscape" (with Paul Cloke)
Mehrdad Alipour Kalaei, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter: PhD, "Negotiating Same-Sex Desires and Acts in Islam: A Legal-Hermeneutical Analysis of Shīʿa Islamic Sources" (with Robert Gleave)
Completed PhD students:
Charles Pemberton, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, "Charity, Homelessness, and the Doctrine of Creation" (PhD, 2016) (with Peter Manley Scott)
Rohan Gideon, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, "Dalit Theologies of the Child" (PhD, 2015) (with Peter Manley Scott)
Scott Midson, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, "A Cyborg Theology? Venturing Between and Beyond Humans, Technology and God" (PhD, 2015) (with Peter Manley Scott)
External impact and engagement
I regularly deliver talks, lectures and workshops for audiences beyond the University. These have included church groups in London, Manchester, Exeter and Plymouth; arts festivals in Sheffield and Cheltenham; youth and student groups in Dewsbury and Manchester; and conferences for groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (now OneBodyOneFaith) and the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality.
I have been involved in professional training for groups including clergy, healthcare chaplains, gender medicine specialists, counsellors and pastoral carers.
I have given public lectures in a range of places from Glasgow, Scotland to Berkeley, California. I have also given lectures on philosophy and theology to sixth-form students, and led widening participation sessions at secondary schools in Devon.
Contribution to discipline
- British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (BARSEA) 2018-19 (for facilitation of public engagement activity and training for early career researchers on working with activists, advocates and practitioners in the area of sex, gender and religion)
- Modelling Transgender Spiritual Care: Pilot Framework for People Undergoing Gender Transition in NHS England Gender Clinics (with West of England NHS Specialist Gender Identity Clinic), Sir Halley Stewart Trust, 2017-19
- "Readings from the Road", British Academy Small Research Grant 2010 (for contextual Bible study project with homeless and vulnerably-housed people in South-West England)
Academic society positions
- Executive committee member, Society for the Study of Theology, 2013-16
- Executive committee member, TRS-UK, 2017-
- Editorial board member, Modern Believing
- Editor, Bloomsbury T&T Clark book series Rethinking Theologies: Constructing Alternatives in History and Doctrine
Media coverage of my work
- Marshall, Richard (2014), “Queer Theology and Sexchatology: Interview with Susannah Cornwall”, 3:AM Magazine, 8 August 2014, online at http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/queer-theology-and-sexchatology/
- Bingham, John (2012), “Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite, claims academic”, The Telegraph, 2 March 2012, online at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9116974/Jesus-may-have-been-a-hermaphrodite-claims-academic.html
- Davies, Madeleine (2012), “Intersex bodies brought into the ordination debate”, Church Times 7772, 2 March 2012, 6
- Huffington Post (2012), “Jesus may have been intersex, claims Dr Susannah Cornwall”, 2 March 2012, online at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/02/jesus-hermaphrodite-intersex-susannah-cornwall-bishop_n_1315630.html
- Mullen, Peter (2012), “Jesus was a man: look at the evidence, Dr Cornwall”, The Telegraph, 2 March 2012, online at http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/petermullen/100141058/jesus-was-a-man-look-at-the-evidence-dr-cornwall/
I have also discussed my own work and other issues including trade justice, gender-neutral liturgy, women bishops in the Church of England, transableism, and the Bible, on BBC Radio Jersey, BBC Radio Devon, and Premier Christian Radio. In April 2018 I was a contributor to BBC Radio 4's Beyond Belief.
I joined the Department of Theology and Religion in 2013 as Advanced Research Fellow in Theology and Religion under the HASS research strategy, as part of the Identities and Beliefs strand. In 2014 I became the new Director of EXCEPT (Exeter Centre for Ethics and Practical Theology). In 2016 I became Lecturer, and in 2018 Senior Lecturer, in Theology and Religion.
From September 2011 to August 2013 I was Postdoctoral Research Associate at Lincoln Theological Institute at the University of Manchester, where I led a project entitled Intersex, Identity and Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church.
During 2011 I was Associate Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, on a project entitled Christian Ethics through Art in the Religious Studies Classroom, with Professor Esther Reed and Dr Rob Freathy. During the same period, I was also Associate Research Fellow with the South West Ministry Training Course.
Between 2008 and 2011 I was Honorary Research Fellow and Occasional Lecturer in Theology at the University of Exeter, and also taught Medical Humanities at the then Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (now University of Exeter Medical School).
I received my PhD in Theology from the University of Exeter in 2007.