Becoming the Baptized Body

Sarah jean barton

Theologian | Occupational Therapist | Consultant

© Sarah Jean Barton. All rights reserved.


Dr. Barton’s current work includes a new scholarly project on prayer and disability. She is also writing about the experiences of students with disabilities and chronic health conditions in health professions education programs. Finally, Dr. Barton is co-authoring an essay-length piece with Suvya Carroll on how the experience of disability challenges the medical industrial complex.

Scholarly Publications

Becoming the Baptized Body

2023 Article
Barton, S. J. “Responding Faithfully to Women’s Pain: The Stations of the Cross.” Christian Bioethics.

Becoming the Baptized Body

2022 Book Barton, S. J. Becoming the Baptized Body: Disability and the Practice of Christian Community. Baylor University Press.

Journal of Disability and Religion

2021 Article Barton, S. J. “Re-Membering Methodology in Theologies of Disability.” Journal of Disability & Religion.

Sarah Jean Barton

2021 Article Barton, S. J. “Expanding the Theological Classroom: People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as Theological Learners.” The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching.

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

“Perspectives from disabled Christians enrich our theology”
Faith & Leadership

“The healing of occupation: Rediscovering the heart of my profession”
Duke Chronicle

“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. She is the author of Becoming the Baptized Body: Disability and the Practice of Christian Community (Baylor University Press).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 worked as a pediatric occupational therapist for nearly a decade and currently holds an 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 currently worships at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Durham, NC. 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 disabled people. She is married to the Rev. Andrew Phillips and they have one child, Amos. She enjoys spending time with her family (including tiny dogs Jed and CJ), exploring the great outdoors, as well as trying new restaurants and wines with friends.

Sarah Jean Barton

Becoming the Baptized Body

Sarah Jean Barton

Baptism offers the distinctive practice of Christian initiation, rooted in Jesus' own baptism, ministry, death, and resurrection. Too often, however, people with intellectual disabilities are excluded from this core Christian practice and so barred from full inclusion in the life of discipleship. How can the work of the Triune God in baptism renew Christian imagination toward an embrace of baptismal identities and vocations among disabled Christians?In Becoming the Baptized Body Sarah Jean Barton explores how baptismal theologies and practices shape Christian imagination, identity, and community. Privileging perspectives informed by disability experience through theological qualitative research, Becoming the Baptized Body demonstrates how theology done together can expansively enliven imagination around baptismal practices and how they intersect with the human experience of disability. Through a lively tapestry of stories, theological insights, and partnerships with Christians who experience intellectual disability, Barton resists theological abstraction and engages and expands the field of disability theology.With a methodological commitment to inclusive research and a focus on ecclesial practice, Barton brings theologians of disability, biblical accounts of baptism, baptismal liturgies, and theological voices from across the ecumenical spectrum in conversation with Christians shaped by intellectual disability. Becoming the Baptized Body explores how the real-world experiences of disabled Christians enrich and expand received Christian theological traditions and illustrates avenues for vibrant participation and formation for all believers.

Praise for Becoming the Baptized Body

"Critically important and advancing disability research with concrete examples of the ethnographic turn, Barton’s participatory research methods and conclusions witness persons with intellectual disability as ‘people inextricably caught up in one another’ in the communion of the faithful, as the image of God, and by a baptismal hermeneutic of inclusion as members of the Body of Christ/the Church. Practical, insightful, and liberating, Barton’s work is welcome to the corpus of Baylor’s commitment to disability studies. Barton here confirms the value and power of this commitment."
~Mary Jo Iozzio, Professor of Moral Theology, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College
"What is baptism? What is it for? To read this book is to receive, with its author, the baptismal witness of Christians with intellectual disabilities. That witness illumines, inter alia, the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ baptism, the Book of Common Prayer’s baptismal choreography, and the practice of pastoral care. Sarah Barton’s inquiries traverse ecclesiology, pneumatology, and hamartiology. Finally, with her co-researchers, Barton is after nothing less than what baptism shows us about being human."
~Lauren F. Winner, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke Divinity School
"Sarah Barton has provided disability theology and the church a consequential vision for and instantiation of collaborative theology alongside people with intellectual disabilities. Barton and her conversation partners demonstrate how the lived experience of intellectual disability can serve as a hermeneutical lens through which congregations can be challenged to rethink disablement, identity, and community. The baptismal font is presented as the orienting site for developing an inclusive theology of personhood in a way that contests dominant theological evaluations and articulations of personhood. In its method and its message, this book is profound."
~Benjamin T. Conner, Professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Center for Disability and Ministry, Western Theological Seminary
"Dr. Barton’s scholarly yet accessible book about our baptismal theology and the reality of disabilities is a timely work that needs to be read and discussed by clergy and lay leaders, and indeed all who take seriously Jesus’ Way of Love."
~Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and author of Love Is the Way and The Power of Love


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

  • Formation for Service I (Duke OTD)

  • Formation for Service II (Duke OTD)

  • The Disabled Church (Duke Divinity School)

  • Healthcare and Theological Context I (co-instructed at Duke Divinity School)

  • 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

“Dr. Barton is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the course content and is dedicated to helping students grow in their understanding. She has effectively designed her class to prompt students to apply disability theology to our lives as Christians within and beyond the Church. The amount of grace, understanding, and open-mindedness Dr. Barton has towards her students is admirable, and she gives me hope for a vision of theological academia free from ableism.” (The Disabled Church, Fall 2022)“I would like to share how impactful this course has been to me personally and professionally. I greatly appreciated the balance this class provided and the openness that Dr.Barton facilitated in the course. I felt so comfortable in this class and really found the start of my professional identity which I would have never imagined.” (Formation for Service I, Fall 2022)“This class has been absolutely transforming. I have noticed a change in how I handle conflict and a greater appreciation for the skills that I bring to the client-therapists relationship. Sarah has been incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, encouraging our growth through every assignment. I could tell that a lot of thought was put into each assignment we did and felt a sense of accomplishment after completing each one. There is truly no better person to teach this unique one of a kind course!” (Formation for Service II, Spring 2022)“Dr. Barton makes me feel welcome and safe in our learning environment every single time I come to class. The care she puts into the accessibility of our class sessions and materials, as well as the actual course content is second to none. She is kind, thoughtful, thorough, and well-spoken. I find myself trying to emulate her communication style with my colleagues and even in life outside the Duke OTD program. Her expertise, educational background, and clinical experiences make her invaluable to the program and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to continue to learn from her.”(Formation for Service I, Fall 2021)“Dr. Sarah Barton is the best teacher that I have had at Duke. She absolutely has changed my life, and there are not many instructors that I can say that about. The amount of people that will be blessed second-hand because of her is astounding. I am so excited to take this information and apply it to real life. Thank you.” (Discipleship and Disability, Spring 2021)“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, 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 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)

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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