Sarah jean barton

Theologian | Occupational Therapist | Consultant

© Sarah Jean Barton. All rights reserved.

Photo by Justin Cook

Photo Credit: Justin Cook


Dr. Barton’s current work includes final revisions of a book-length manuscript related to her participatory research on Christian theologies and practices of baptism in partnership with individuals experiencing intellectual disability. She is also conducting a pilot study on the experiences of students with disabilities and chronic health conditions in health professions education programs. Finally, Dr. Barton is authoring several essay-length pieces on the following subjects: applying a disability studies approach to theological education, how the experience of disability challenges the medical industrial complex, and the current state of engaging participatory methodologies within occupational therapy and occupational science.

Scholarly Publications

Sarah Jean Barton

2021 Article Barton, S. J. “Access and Disability Justice in Theological Education.” Journal of Disability & Religion.

Sarah Jean Barton

2020 Article Barton, S. J. “Remember Your Baptism: Engaging People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from a Wesleyan Perspective.” Wesleyan Theological Journal, 55(2): 207-225.

Sarah Jean Barton

2019 Article with Sandu, S., Doan, I., Blanchard L., et al. "Perceived Barriers and Supports to Community-Based Services for Uganda’s Pediatric Post-Surgical Population." Disability and Rehabilitation, December 15, 2019: 1-12. PMID: 31841047

2019 Book Chapter: “Theologising Disability: The Future of Critique and Collaboration at the Intersections of Theology and Disability Studies”

2018 Article with Smith, E. R., van de Water, B. J., Martin, A., et al. “Availability of Post-Hospital Services Supporting Community Reintegration for Children with Identified Surgical Need in Uganda.” BMC Health Services Research

2017 Essay “A Critical Approach to Integrating Christian Disability Theology in Clinical Rehabilitation.” The Journal of Disability & Religion

2017 Book Chapter with Selman, L., Maslow, G., and Barfield, R. C. “Religion and Spirituality in Pediatrics”

Additional Publications

“Considering the Intersections of Trauma and Disability.”
Anabaptist Disabilities Network

“When liturgy embraces difference”
Book review in The Christian Century

“Embracing Belonging: Welcoming Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.”
Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices: Vestry Papers

“Time in New Creation: Apocalypse, Baptism, and Remembering."
Response to John Swinton’s Becoming Friends of Time


Dr. Sarah Jean Barton is a theologian and occupational therapist with a Doctor of Theology degree from Duke Divinity School. She completed her occupational therapy training at Boston University. Her research interests include theology and disability, research in collaboration with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, bioethics, liturgy, and occupational engagement in religious activities. She has published and presented in a variety of interdisciplinary contexts on issues related to Christian theology and ethics, intellectual disability, spirituality, disability studies, and occupational therapy.

Currently, Dr. Barton is Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and Theological Ethics at Duke University. She holds a dual appointment in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Division in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the School of Medicine as well as at Duke Divinity School. She also works as a pediatric occupational therapist at Duke Health, with special expertise in collaborating with families and children experiencing medical complexity, trauma, neuromuscular disorders, as well as multiple and profound disabilities. Dr. Barton is one of only six occupational therapists in North Carolina to hold the AOTA Board Certification in Pediatrics.

Dr. Barton was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She is an active lay leader in The Episcopal Church who enjoys serving as a lay preacher and lay eucharistic minister. Dr. Barton also serves in broader ecumenical and interfaith settings as a teacher and consultant on issues related to cultivating faith communities that support the leadership, gifts, and participation of people with disabilities. She is married to the Rev. Andrew Phillips who is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her spouse and their tiny dogs Jed and CJ, exploring the great outdoors, as well as exploring new restaurants and wines with friends.

Sarah Jean Barton


Dr. Barton has taught for the past six years in both undergraduate and graduate settings, as well as community and ecclesial contexts. Her experience includes the following courses:

  • Discipleship and Disability (Duke Divinity School)

  • Christian Ethics (Western Theological Seminary)

  • Disability and Theology in the Christian Tradition (Western Theological Seminary)

  • Trauma and Disability (Western Theological Seminary)

  • The Practice of Counsel and Care (Western Theological Seminary)

  • Theology and Disability (Co-Instructed at Duke Divinity School)

  • Connections in Global Health (Co-Instructed at Duke University)

  • Christian Ethics: The Healing Arts (Co-Instructed at Duke Divinity School)

Sample syllabi are available upon request.

Sample Student Feedback

“Thank you so much! This class was very well organized and the material was inspiring. I can tell you love this material and are seeking to live it out in the way you lead the class.” (Disability and Theology in the Christian Tradition, Spring 2020)

“Thank you for a great experience. Our shared learning created a foundation for a lifetime of exploration and practice. I am looking forward to continuing to apply what I have learned in all the areas of my life. Thank you also for creating an opportunity for me to tailor the class research project to my unique interests and I am grateful that you were knowledgeable and excited about my topic - the affirmation and helpful feedback I received helped me to remember that what I was working (and will continue to work on) is worthwhile.” (The Practice of Counsel and Care, Spring 2020)

“Thank you for your calm and gracious presence, Dr. Barton. You invited us to engage difficult topics, but I felt cared for and empowered in that engagement. Thank you for creating the space for us to do this work.” (The Practice of Counsel and Care, Spring 2019)

“Thank you, Professor Barton! The interdisciplinary approach you adopted with the course material was original, engaging, insightful, and formational. I have never felt like I gained so much in such little time.” (Trauma and Disability, January Term, 2019)

“This was an extraordinary class. My needs for competency, authenticity, and integrity in teachers were met in spades. You honored each of us and invited us to honor each other.” (Christian Ethics, Fall 2018)

“This course was crucial for my theological growth and preparation for ministry. Before this course, I had paid no attention to ableism, disability, and accessibility in my church (or other) contexts, but now I'm noticing examples of disability and accessibility issues everywhere I look and feel prepared to attend to these matters in a pastoral, ethical, and intelligent manner. In addition, this course advanced my understanding of intersectionality (i.e. intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, age, and ability) perhaps more than any other Divinity School course has done.” (Theology and Disability, Spring 2018)

“Professor Barton has been a wonderful instructor this semester! I look forward to her qualitative research skills teaching days.” (Connections in Global Health, Fall 2017)

“I am incredibly grateful to Professor Barton for her efforts in organizing and teaching this course, particularly in the midst of her doctoral work. She is incredibly knowledgeable in this area of disability theology, and I'm impressed with her breadth of knowledge in what seems to be a very diverse field. I think she is a very effective teacher and lecturer, and also does a tremendous job of engaging the class in discussion to make our sessions participatory. I really appreciated her work in soliciting the participation of other professors in the divinity school to teach on certain subjects, which displays of humility in teaching that I think is rare among many in academia. I also very much appreciated her constant emphasis on the practical components of the course content, both challenging us to think about how what we are learning would play out in real life, as well as efforts to hold class at settings like the Friendship House, Reality Ministries, and the Div School chapel. Moreover, Professor Barton has been incredibly accessible and helpful in helping me to think through the paper I am writing for this class. So, not only is she a tremendous course organizer and teacher, but also very approachable and eager to help particular students. I can't overstate how much I have enjoyed having Professor Barton as the instructor for this course.” (Theology and Disability, Spring 2017)

“Professor Barton brought such a bright and pleasant attitude to the class. She dealt with student concerns and questions with grace, compassion, and fairness. In addition, she is very approachable and articulate. Her passion for the topic was evident. She truly has a gift for teaching.” (Christian Ethics: The Healing Arts, Fall 2016)

Sarah Jean Barton


Dr. Barton welcomes opportunities for further conversation and collaboration. She currently offers a variety of virtual services including teaching, consultation, and workshop facilitation. Please contact Dr. Barton below with questions, or for information on her rates and availability.

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