Conference on Intersex, Theology and the Bible: 12th March 2013
The Lincoln Theological Institute hosted an international conference on Intersex, Theology and the Bible at the University of Manchester on Tuesday 12th March 2013.
The speakers were:
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.
Dr Patricia Beattie Jung is Professor of Christian Ethics and the Oubri A. Poppele Professor of Health and Welfare Ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a Roman Catholic lay woman who has written extensively in Christian sexual ethics. She is the co-editor, with Shannon Jung, of Moral Issues and Christian Responses (Fortress, 2012), and, with Aana Maria Vigen, of God, Science, Sex and Gender: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Christian Sexual Ethics (University of Illinois, 2010). She and Darryl Stephens are currently working on a volume on Professional Sexual Ethics in the Practices of Ministry (Fortress, 2013). She is nearing the completion of a monograph entitled Sex on Earth as It Is in Heaven.
Nathan Carlin, “Middlesex: A Pastoral Theological Reading”
This paper focuses on Middlesex, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel 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.
Dr Nathan Carlin is Assistant Professor in the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He is Director of the Medical Humanities and Ethics Certificate Program for medical students. He is the co-author of two books: Living in Limbo: Life in the Midst of Uncertainty (Cascade, 2010) and 100 Years of Happiness: Insights and Findings from the Experts (Praeger, 2012). He is currently co-authoring Introduction to Medical Humanities. He also has published over 100 essays, articles, and book reviews. Dr Carlin earned a BA in History from Westminster College, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary (with a focus on Pastoral Theology), and an MA and PhD in Religious Studies from Rice University.
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.
Dr Megan K. DeFranza received her PhD from Marquette University in 2011 and is now Adjunct Professor of Theology at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts. Her doctoral dissertation, “Intersex and Imago: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Postmodern Theological Anthropology,” brought intersex into conversation with Roman Catholic and Evangelical theological anthropologies. Beginning with the Biblical language of the eunuch, she showed how even conservative religious traditions have resources for the inclusion and care of intersex persons even while they learn from intersex to construct more nuanced visions of human persons made in the image of God. She is revising her dissertation for publication, teaching theology, and lecturing on sexuality, while raising two young girls with her husband in Beverly, Massachusetts.
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.
Dr Stephen Craig Kerry is a recently appointed lecturer at Charles Darwin University, Australia. Over the past decade Dr Kerry has researched the social lives, identities, and relationships of intersex Australians with the aim of increasing broader societal awareness of the issues pertaining to the psycho-social trauma experienced by intersex individuals and their various paths to health and well-being. Most notably this includes an examination of the role of religion and religiosity as a means of support and understanding. Additionally, in recent years Dr Kerry’s research has extended to attempts by mainstream news media to represent intersex to a broader audience. In particular this research consists of content analyses of the news media representation of two intersex women: Australian Kathleen Worrall and South African Caster Semenya. He currently lives in Darwin, Australia.
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.
Dr Joseph A. Marchal is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Women's and Gender Studies, at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. His research and teaching focuses upon biblical studies and critical theories of interpretation, especially feminist, postcolonial, and queer perspectives and practices. Most recently, he is the author of The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul (Fortress, 2008), and editor of Studying Paul's Letters: Contemporary Perspectives and Methods (Fortress, 2012). While he is currently preparing a guidebook on Philippians and a second edited collection, he is most particularly focused upon finishing a larger study implementing newer queer approaches to the places Pauline epistles and interpretations deploy a series of perversely feminized figures. Marchal serves on several editorial boards, and as the Chair of the Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible Section (of the Society of Biblical Literature).
Sally Gross, "Not in God's Image: Intersex, Social Death and Infanticide" (via Skype)
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.
Sally Gross is founder and director of Intersex South Africa, a not-for-profit organisation which engages in education and advocacy on behalf of people, particularly in South Africa, who are intersex. Born in South Africa in 1953, it was decided to classify and rear Sally – named "Selwyn" in the vernacular and "Shlomo" in Hebrew – as male. Happily, Sally was spared genital surgery. She benefitted from a thorough Jewish education including an intensive year in an ultra-Orthodox Rabbinical College in the United Kingdom. From her late teens, she involved herself in clandestine anti-Apartheid activity, and had to flee South Africa in 1977, becoming a refugee, to avoid detention and a long prison sentence. She was baptised into the Catholic Church in 1976, although she never surrendered Jewish identity as such, and joined the English Province of the Order of Preachers at the end of 1981, becoming a priest in the Order and earning an MA in philosophy and theology through Blackfriars, Oxford. In 1991, she moved to the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, becoming sub-prior in 1992. At the end of 1992, she sought professional advice about her body, and learned, slowly and by dint of considerable struggle, that she is in fact intersex. Advised professionally to present as female, she is classified as born female by reason of her natal genital phenotype. Disclosure of her discovery that she is intersex to her major religious superior forced her to leave community in 1993, and led to a Papal Rescript in 1994 annulling her religious vows and to her exclusion from the Church in effect, though no formal censure was involved. This also had the effect of making completion of a nearly complete Oxford DPhil thesis on philosophical theology impossible. In 1999, after winning a fifteen month battle to establish that she was a human being in South African law, she was able to return to South Africa, and worked in public service until the end of 2010, also engaging in intersex activism. She has drafted and lobbied two judicial amendments bearing on intersex into South African law. Since January 2011, she has been full-time director of Intersex South Africa.
John Hare, respondent
Revd Dr John Hare (MA, MD, FRCOG) is Quondam Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. He qualified in medicine in 1964. After preliminary resident posts he spent four years working in the field of sexually transmitted
infection, during which time he wrote his MD thesis. He then resumed training in obstetrics and gynaecology, reaching consultant level in 1976. After holding teaching posts for ten years in London and Cambridge Universities he moved to set up the Obstetric Unit at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon. He retired from the NHS in 1998 and was ordained priest in the Church of England in 2003. He 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. He is also the author of over 100 scientific papers.
Susannah Cornwall, 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, 2013). She is editing a special issue of Crucible: The Christian Journal of Social Ethics (July 2013) on sexuality.
For more information about this aspect of the project, or to join the mailing list for news and updates, please e-mail Susannah.firstname.lastname@example.org