Reforming a theology of the body

Susanna Wesley in dialogue with Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel


Susanna Wesley’s writings are intricate and complex as they illustrate a theology of embodiment stemming from the Incarnation. Her meditations and journal entries reveal a spirituality of the body, a contribution in the history of Methodism that has been undervalued. This paper places Susanna Wesley (1669–1742) in dialogue with theologian, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel (1926–2016), on the subject of embodiment. Susanna Wesley was on a continuum of change as she moved from strict societal constraints and ecclesial expectations of women in the late 17th and 18th centuries to an enlarged view of humankind. She expressed this movement as “becoming a lover of oneself.” The self-possession with which she opposed the views of her forceful father, Dr. Annesley, is noteworthy for a young girl not quite thirteen. Dr. Annesley was a leader of the Dissenting cause, which found fault with the dominant Church of England. Susanna, against her father’s wishes, adhered to the Church of England!