Frances Young, Ph.D.

Emerita Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham.

Frances Young taught Theology at the University of Birmingham from 1971. From 1986 to 2005 she held the Edward Cadbury Chair, serving as Head of Department, Head of School, Dean of the Faculty and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She was made OBE for services to Theology in 1998, and elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2004. Now Emeritus Professor of Theology, she is still engaged in research and writing. New Testament and early Christian studies are her main fields of interest. Her academic publications include From Nicaea to Chalcedon. A Guide to the Literature and its Background (SCM press, 1983, 2nd edition 2010) and Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (CUP, 1997); she co-edited The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature and The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine.

Frances was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1984, and regularly leads worship locally, as well as responding to preaching invitations from various denominations across the country. She has always endeavoured to bridge academia and the life of the churches, engaging particularly in ecumenical activities and conferences, including the World Faith and Order Conference in Santiago di Compostela in 1993. She is a Patron of the Ecumenical Society of the Virgin Mary.

She and her husband cared for Arthur Thomas, their son born in 1967 with profound learning disabilities, until June 2012, when at 45 years of age he finally left home for residential care. In 1985 she published Face to Face (Epworth Press), an account of her son’s life and education, her own struggle with faith, coming to terms with the situation and her call to ordination. Since then she has frequently been asked to speak about theology and disability, and her journey of understanding has continued through Arthur’s adulthood. Jean Vanier, the L’Arche communities and Foi et Lumière have been an important influence; in 1991 and 2001 she was involved in the Faith and Light pilgrimages to Lourdes, she has spoken at an International General Assembly meeting for both L’Arche (Swanwick 2002) and Faith and Light (Rome 2002), has visited Faith and Light in Moscow twice (2003, 2010), and over the years been involved in a number of meetings exploring the theology of L’Arche. She would now say that through her son and his condition she has been given privileged access to the deepest truths of Christianity. Her most recent publication is Arthur’s Call. A Journey of Faith in the Face of Severe Learning Disability (SPCK, 2014).

Meanwhile, her personal experience fed into Brokenness and Blessing. Towards a Biblical Spirituality (DLT, 2007), and in 2011 she delivered the Bampton lectures in Oxford in which she tried to bring all the different aspects of her life, as scholar, minister and mother of a person born with profound disabilities into a coherent theological understanding of creation, human existence, Christ, salvation, the Spirit, the Church, Mary and the Trinity. The resulting book, God’s Presence: A Recapitulation of Early Christianity, was published by CUP in 2013. In 2015, she gave the Didsbury Lectures at NTC.

Select Publications

‘Creation and Human Being: The Forging of a Distinct Christian Discourse’, Studia Patristica XLIV, 335-348.   Republished in Exegesis and Theology, 2012.

‘Self and Cosmos Transformed: The Significance of the Idea of Creation for Christianity’s Counter-cultural       Challenge’ in Weltconstruktionen. Religiőse Weltdeutung zwischen Chaos und Kosmos vom Alten Orient bis zum Islam, ed. Peter Gemeinhardt und Annette Zgoll (Tűbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010). 

Holiness and Mission. Learning from the Early Church about Mission in the City, with Morna Hooker (London: SCM press, 2010).

From Nicaea to Chalcedon. A guide to the Literature and Its Background, 2nd Edition, with Andrew Teal, London: (SCM press & Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010).

 ‘Now and Then: Ecumenism over time’ in A Thankful Heart and a Discerning Mind. Essays in Honour of John Newton, Mervyn Davies, ed (Lonely Scribe, 2010).

 ‘God’s Image: The ‘Elephant in the Room’ in the Fourth Century?’ SP 50 (2011) 57-71.

 Exegesis and Theology in Early Christianity (Variorum, Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

 Apathōs epathen: Patristic Reflection on the Problem of Suffering, the Cross and the Incarnation’, in Godhead Here in Hiding, Terrence Merrigan and F. Glorieux (eds.), Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 234 (Leuven: Peeters, 2012).

 God’s Presence. A Contemporary Recapitulation of Early Christianity (Cambridge: CUP, 2013).

 Arthur’s Call. A Journey of Faith in the Face of Severe Leaning Disability (London: SPCK, 2014).

 Apathōs epathen: Patristic Reflection on God, Suffering, and the Cross’ in Within the Love of God. Essays on the Doctrine of God in Honour of Paul S. Fiddes, Anthony Clarke and Andrew Moore, eds (Oxford: OUP, 2014). [A slightly adapted version of the essay published in 2012]

Construing the Cross: Type, Sign, Symbol, Word, Action. Didsbury Lecture Series (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, Wipf and Stock, 2015).