Dr Jo Henderson-Merrygold

Job TitleDirector, Centre for Discipleship and Theology
EmailHenderson-merrygoldj@queens.ac.uk

I started as Director of the Centre for Discipleship and Theology in 2023 after working in lay ministry for the Church of England in diocesan and national roles. Taking on this role at Queen’s is an exciting opportunity as it draws together my commitment to ecumenism, adult learning, theological exploration, and lay discipleship. My own background reflects these themes. Having grown up in a United Reformed Church in Devon, I found my church home in the Methodist Church and was accredited as a Local Preacher in 2010. In professional lay ministry roles I have served in city centre ministry, chaplaincy and student work, through establishing a lay residential community, in mission and evangelism roles, and as Warden of Readers. These roles have taken me through multiple denominations and across a range of theological perspectives and church styles.

Each has taught me to recognise the distinctive and shared facets that go to enrich the diversity of God’s church.

My academic journey has also been an unexpected delight. A school refuser who dropped out of sixth form and never completed A Levels, I was initially terrified by the prospect of starting to study theology and religious studies as a mature student. Despite this I found not only a real delight in the discoveries that came through studying as an adult but also a surprising aptitude that has kept me researching and asking questions. Whether researching contextual religion or developing new biblical hermeneutics (ways of reading), I continue to be interested in what we learn through engaging with our own experience in dialogue with text and religious practice. I am also particularly interested in what we learn when things do not go to plan, whether we see that as a blip, failure, or somewhere in between. For example, my doctoral research uses queer and trans theory to help us understand how and why some characters – and particularly the portrayal of their gender – are treated as failures. Through this work I was able to develop a hermeneutics of suspicion to address the problem of cisnormativity – something I named a hermeneutics of cispicion. You can find out more about this idea by checking out my publications, which can be found at the bottom of this page. My doctoral work is under contract for publication by Bloomsbury, anticipated in 2024/25.

Since beginning to support lay ministry I have become increasingly interested in deepening practitioner-led theologies of the role of laity in church leadership and ministry. I am now focussing my research interests on developing a community theology of lay ministry. I hope that the Centre of Discipleship and Theology can provide a space to nurture such perspectives and elevate lay voices in the life of the churches.

If you are interested in taking your first steps in theological study, hope that an introduction to theology can help you in your church or work role, want to learn more about your own discipleship, or just want to find out more about my work or that of the Centre for Discipleship and Theology, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Outside the academic setting, I live in the East Midlands with my wife and we are very proud godparents and aunties to a wonderful collection of children. I have an enduring love of Iceland and have been slowly but patiently trying to learn Icelandic since January 2020. I am also a lapsed knitter and a regular swimmer.

Qualifications

2021PhD: Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies ​University of Sheffield
2015MA: Theology and Religious Studies​University of Leeds
2014BA: Theology and Religious Studies​University of Leeds

Roles at Queen’s

​I am the Director of the Centre of Discipleship and Theology and work very closely with Dr Jen Smith. Together we support independent students and those beginning their journey of theological study, especially if you are a lay person. We also support local diocesan partners to deliver training for ministry, especially as a Reader/Licensed Lay Minister.

I provide research supervision and teach Introduction to Christian Doctrine and History, Introduction to the Bible, and Theology and Discrimination. I have been a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy since 2016.

External roles and responsibilities

​Academic roles:
I am a member of the Society for Old Testament Study, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the European Association for Biblical Studies.

Church Roles:
I am a Methodist Local Preacher in the National Forest East circuit and a member of the panels for Discerning Ordained Vocations phase 2. I am also a member of the Church of England’s Lay Ministries Network.

Research interests and supervision

​My research interests fall into four main areas:

  • community and contextual religion – including church and religious practice in community, religious mapping, ethnography and the study of religion in Britain, contemporary religious practice
  • biblical interpretation – especially ideological and contextual interpretations, gender and queer approaches, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (especially Genesis), the Bible and popular culture
  • queer and trans theologies, including theologies of discrimination
  • lay ministry and church life – including lay leadership, the distinctiveness of lay ministry, palliative care for churches, church lifecycles.

I would be interested in providing supervision aligned to any of my research interests outlined above, especially around lay ministry, queer and trans theologies, community religion and biblical interpretation.

In addition to academic writing,  am happy to offer consultation, training, workshops, and writing for general audiences on these themes.

Key publications

Public Scholarship:

2021‘Lay Ministry from a queer and Methodist perspective’. 
Central Readers’ Council, Church of England. November.
‘Genesis of Gender: Exploring Gender Diversity in the Hebrew Bible’. With R. Grant. Woodbrooke
Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham. February-April.
2019‘Gender Beyond Male and Female in the Bible Workshop’. National Justice & Peace Network & Church Action on Poverty Conference, Swanwick, July.
2018‘Gender Diversity in the Bible Workshop’. Hull URC Churches, Hull (Centre and West) & Beverley Circuits of the Methodist Church. 22 September.
‘Gender Roles in Godly Play’. with C.H. Kennedy. Faith in Research 2018. Birmingham. 23 May.
‘LGBT & Religion’. with Andrew Dalton (University of Sunderland). Open@TUOS LGBT Staff Network: LGBT History Month Seminar Series. University of Sheffield. 14 February.
‘Reading Cispiciously Workshop’. Student Christian Movement. Sheffield. 31 January.
2017‘Queerness in Faith’. Interfaith Week Event. Sheffield University Union, University of Sheffield. 16 November.
Tim Farron, the Bible and Queerness. History Matters: History brought alive by the University of Sheffield. 27 July.
What do you believe in, Tim Farron? The Queerness. 21 June.
‘Meet Jacob…’ The Image Speaks 2017: Collaborative Exhibition. Communication your PhD through photography. Jessop West Building. University of Sheffield. From 24 April.
Bringing the Arts out of the closet. Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland. 23 March.
My Queer Research: Jo Henderson-Merrygold. Hidden Perspectives Research Seminar, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland. 17 March.
Hidden Perspectives and the Cispicious Bible. Auckland Rainbow Community Church, Auckland. 14 March.
Representation, self-disclosure and the role of the teacher in the study of religion. Religion in Public. 1 March.
Hidden Perspectives Turns the World Upside Down. Hidden Perspectives. 23 February.
2016How biblical double standards killed Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. The Conversation. 11 November.
The Church’s Damning Edicts on Sexuality Challenge What It Means to be Human. William Temple Foundation Blog. 9 September.
Orange is the New Black can teach us a lot about religion. The Conversation. 17 June.
One Week to Go: Orange is the New Bible Promotional Video. Orange is the New Bible. 10 June.
Genderqueering Sarah: Developing a hermeneutics of cis-picion. Festival of Arts and Humanities Showcase, Winter Gardens, Sheffield. 21 May.
2015Knitting together a queer rainbow. LGBT Photo Exhibition. Jessop West Building. University of Sheffield. 23-27 February.
2014Living with the ‘Call the Midwife’ nuns. Manchester Rotary Breakfast Charter Night. Manchester. 31 October. Invited paper.
Re-reading the Bible in Public Life. William Temple Foundation Blog. 29 October. Invited contribution.
35 Years of the Community Religions Project: Revisiting the Archives. First prize paper. Edward Boyle Bequest Lecture. RSA Yorkshire. Bar Convent, York. 22 March. Invited paper.
Adams, S., Alexander, E., Merrygold, J. et al. Religious Mapping of Chapeltown: The complexity of community and identity in Chapeltown. Community Religions Project, University of Leeds.

Connect with us