Sarah Coakley

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Sarah Coakley

Sarah Anne Furber

(1951-09-10) 10 September 1951 (age 70)
London, England
James F. Coakley
(m. 1975)
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
  • 2000 (deacon)
  • 2001 (priest)
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisThe Limits and Scope of the Christology of Ernst Troeltsch (1982)
Academic work
School or tradition

Sarah Anne Coakley[7] FBA (born 1951) is an English Anglican priest, systematic theologian and philosopher of religion with interdisciplinary interests.[8] She is an honorary professor at the Logos Institute, the University of St Andrews, after she stepped down as Norris–Hulse Professor of Divinity (2007–2018) at the University of Cambridge. She is also a visiting professorial fellow at the Australian Catholic University, both in Melbourne and Rome.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Sarah Anne Furber on 10 September 1951 into a wealthy family of lawyers in Blackheath, London, Coakley attended Blackheath High School.[5][10][11] Following this, she spent a gap year teaching English and Latin in Lesotho.[12] Her education continued at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), University of Cambridge (BA, first-class honours, 1973), and at Harvard Divinity School (ThM, 1975), to which she went as a Harkness Fellow. Her PhD on Ernst Troeltsch is also from the University of Cambridge (1983).


Academic career[edit]

Coakley has taught at Lancaster University (1976–1991), Oriel College, Oxford (1991–1993) and Harvard University in the divinity school (1993–2007; as Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity, 1995[13]–2007). She was a visiting professor of religion at Princeton University (2003–2004).

In 2006, she was elected[citation needed] the Norris–Hulse Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge (the first woman appointed to this chair) and took up the position in 2007.[14] In 2011, she became deputy chair of the School of Arts and Humanities with a four-year appointment on the general board of the university. She stepped down as Norris–Hulse Professor in 2018 and was made professor emeritus. She has been an honorary professor at the Logos Institute and the University of St Andrews since 2018 and a visiting professorial fellow at the Australian Catholic University since 2019.[15][16]

Coakley's teaching and research interests cover a number of disciplines cognate to systematic theology, including the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science, patristics, feminist theory and the intersections of law and medicine with religion. Her contributions to these areas have generally been by way of co-ordinating research projects and editing or co-editing collections of papers. It was through these collaborative projects that her profile gained a level of international prominence. At the time of her appointment to the Norris–Hulse chair in Cambridge, Coakley had not published a monograph subsequent to the 1988 publication of her doctoral thesis. She has been working on a four-volume systematic theology, the first volume of which was published in 2013 as God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity.[citation needed]

From 2005-08, Coakley co-directed, with Martin A. Nowak, the "Evolution and Theology of Cooperation" project at Harvard University sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, out of which has come a co-edited volume, Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation. An earlier interdisciplinary project on "Pain and Its Transformations", undertaken with Arthur Kleinman at Harvard (as part of the Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative), produced Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture (co-ed. with Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Harvard UP, 2007).

She delivered the Gifford Lectures in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2012.[17]

She holds honorary degrees from Lund University, St Andrews, University of St Michael's College, Toronto, and Heythrop College, London.[9] In July 2019, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and social sciences.[18]

Ordained ministry[edit]

Coakley was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 2000 and as a priest in 2001.[11] She has assisted in parishes in Waban, Massachusetts, and at the Church of St Mary and St Nicholas, Littlemore, Oxford, England (where she served her title). Her training for the priesthood included periods working in a hospital and a prison. In 2011 she was appointed an honorary canon of Ely Cathedral where she assists with the morning office and Eucharist. (Note: as at June 2019, Ely Cathedral no longer lists Coakley as an honorary canon.[19])

In 2012, she was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to change Church of England rules to allow women to become bishops.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In 1975, Coakley married James F. Coakley,[9] a Syriac scholar and fine printer. They have two daughters, Edith Coakley Stowe and Agnes Coakley Cox,[9] who attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[21][failed verification] Her brother is a legal adviser to Prince Charles.[22] Her father, a wealthy lawyer and bon viveur, died in September 2016.[23]

Published works[edit]

Books authored[edit]

  • Christ Without Absolutes: A Study of the Christology of Ernst Troeltsch. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1988. ISBN 978-0-19-826670-9.
  • Coakley, Sarah, ed. (2002). Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. doi:10.1002/9780470693407. ISBN 978-0-631-20735-1.
  • Sacrifice Regained: Reconsidering the Rationality of Religious Belief. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 2012. ISBN 978-1-107-40224-9.
  • God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity'. Cambridge, England: University of Cambridge Press. 2013. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139048958. ISBN 978-1-139-04895-8.
  • The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God. London: Bloomsbury Continuum. 2015. ISBN 978-1-4411-0322-2.

Books edited[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Myers 2016, p. 9.
  2. ^ Tonstad 2013, pp. 547–548.
  3. ^ a b "The Woman Before the Cross". Times Higher Education. London. 16 May 1996. Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  4. ^ Mohall 2013, p. iii; Ogilvy 2014, pp. 121, 123.
  5. ^ a b Oppenheimer, Mark (28 June 2003). "Prayerful Vulnerability: Sarah Coakley Reconstructs Feminism". The Christian Century. Vol. 120, no. 13. Chicago. p. 25. ISSN 2163-3312. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013 – via Religion Online.
  6. ^ Hallonsten 2009, p. 50.
  7. ^ Harvard Magazine. Vol. 95. 1992.
  8. ^ Burns 2016; Koh 2013, p. 32; McRandal 2016, pp. viii–ix.
  9. ^ a b c d "Sarah Coakley". Oxford: Jericho Press. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  10. ^ Tonstad 2013, p. 547.
  11. ^ a b "Prof Sarah Anne Coakley (née Furber)". Crockford's Clerical Directory. Church House Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Faith, Rationality, and the Passions - Chair". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  13. ^ Evans 2006, p. ix.
  14. ^ Ogilvy 2014, p. 121.
  15. ^ "Professor Sarah Coakley". Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry. Australian Catholic University. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Professor Sarah Coakley". Faculty of Divinity. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Gifford Lecture Series 2012/". University of Aberdeen. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  18. ^ "New Fellows 2019" (PDF). The British Academy. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Ely Cathedral - Who's Who".
  20. ^ "Has the Church of England finally lost its reason? Women bishops and the collapse of Anglican theology – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 22 November 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  21. ^ "America's Most Expensive Prep Schools". Forbes. 11 December 2006. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  22. ^ "James Furber". Farrer. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  23. ^ "Bobby Furber, lawyer, collector, sportsman and bon viveur – obituary". The Telegraph. 9 September 2016 – via


External links[edit]

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