Sarah Coakley

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Sarah Coakley
Sarah Anne Furber

(1951-09-10) 10 September 1951 (age 67)
London, England
TitleNorris–Hulse Professor of Divinity
Spouse(s)James Farwell Coakley (m. c. 1976)[1]
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisThe Limits and Scope of the Christology of Ernst Troeltsch (1982)
Academic work
Sub-disciplineSystematic theology
Philosophy of religion
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
ChurchChurch of England
  • 2000 (deacon)
  • 2001 (priest)

Sarah Anne Coakley (born 10 September 1951) is an English Anglican systematic theologian and philosopher of religion with interdisciplinary interests. She is 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 Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, both in Melbourne and in Rome.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born on 10 September 1951 into a wealthy family of lawyers in London, Coakley attended Blackheath High School.[3] Following this, she spent a gap year teaching English and Latin in Lesotho.[4] 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), at Oriel College, Oxford (1991–1993) and at Harvard University in the divinity school (1993–2007; as Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity, 1995–2007). She was a visiting professor of religion at Princeton University (2003–2004). In 2006, she was elected 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. 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 of the University of St Andrews since 2018, and a visiting professorial fellow at the Australian Catholic University since 2019.[5]

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. Indeed, 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'.

From 2005 to 2008, 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).

Coakley delivered the Gifford Lectures in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2012.[6]

She holds honorary degrees from Lund University, St Andrews, University of St. Michael's College, Toronto and Heythrop College, University of London.[2]

Ordained ministry[edit]

Coakley was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 2000 and as a priest in 2001.[7] She has assisted in parishes in Waban, Massachusetts, and at 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.

In 2012, she was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to change Church of England rules to allow women to become bishops.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Coakley is married to J. F. Coakley, a Syriac scholar and fine printer.[9] They have two daughters, who attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols school in Cambridge Massachusetts.[10] Her brother is a legal adviser to Prince Charles.[11] Her father, a wealthy lawyer and bon viveur, died in September 2016.[12]


  • Sarah Furber (1951-1975)
  • Sarah Coakley (1975-1983)
  • Doctor Sarah Coakley (1983-1995)
  • Professor Sarah Coakley (1993-2000)
  • The Reverend Professor Sarah Coakley (2000–present)


  • Christ Without Absolutes: A Study of the Christology of Ernst Troeltsch (1988)
  • The Making and Re-Making of Christian Doctrine (co-ed., 1993)
  • Religion and the Body (ed., 1997)
  • Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (2002)
  • Re-Thinking Gregory of Nyssa (ed., 2003)
  • Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture (co-ed., 2007)[13][14][15]
  • Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture (co-ed., 2008)
  • Re-Thinking Dionysius the Areopagite (co-ed., 2009)
  • The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity (co-ed., 2012)
  • Sacrifice Regained: Reconsidering the Rationality of Religious Belief (2012)
  • Fear and Friendship: Anglicans Engaging with Islam (co-ed., 2012)
  • Faith, Rationality and the Passions, (ed., 2012)
  • God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity', (2013)


  1. ^ "The Woman before the Cross". Times Higher Education. 1996-05-16. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b "SARAH COAKLEY". Mysite. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  3. ^ "Sarah Coakley Reconstructs Feminism". 2003-06-28. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  4. ^ "Faith, Rationality, and the Passions - Chair". Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  5. ^ "Professor Sarah Coakley". Faculty of Divinity. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Gifford Lecture Series 2012/". University of Aberdeen. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Sarah Anne COAKLEY (née FURBER)". Crockford's Clerical Directory (online ed.). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Has the Church of England finally lost its reason? Women bishops and the collapse of Anglican theology – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  9. ^ "The Jericho Press".
  10. ^ "America's Most Expensive Prep Schools". Forbes. 2006-12-11. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  11. ^ "James Furber". Farrer. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  12. ^ "Bobby Furber, lawyer, collector, sportsman and bon viveur – obituary". The Telegraph. 9 September 2016 – via
  13. ^ Carlin, Nathan (2009-03-01). "Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture – Edited by Sarah Coakley and Kay Kaufman Shelemay". Religious Studies Review. 35 (1): 30. doi:10.1111/j.1748-0922.2009.01315_1.x. ISSN 1748-0922.
  14. ^ Rosen, Sara Vieweg; Ross, Donald R. (September 2008). "Pain and Its Transformations. The Interface of Biology and... : The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease". LWW. 196 (9): 720. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181856ed6.
  15. ^ Fitzgerald, Maria (2010). "BOOK REVIEW The lost domain of pain" (PDF). Brain: 1850–1854. doi:10.1093/brain/awq019/2/awq019 (inactive 2019-01-30).

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