Dr Karen J. Wenell BA, PhD

Dr Karen J. Wenell

Department of Theology and Religion
Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Theology

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research centres on biblical texts and their reception, particularly where texts become resources for ethical reflection and action. I am especially interested in the gospels, and the spatial constructs for group identity found within them, focussing on the ways these may be formative for ancient and contemporary moralities. My interests include theories of the sacred and space, critical theory, especially spatial-critical theory and actor network theory, reception historical approaches to biblical texts, ethical consuming, and human rights.  


  • BA (with Departmental Honors) in Biblical and Theological Studies, North Park University, Chicago (1998) 
  • PhD in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow (2004) 
  • PGCert in Academic Practice, University of Glasgow (2010)


Prior to joining the Department of Theology and Religion in Birmingham in 2011, I was co-editor of the Expository Times (2005-2011), and Lecturer in Creativity, Culture and Faith at the University of Glasgow (2006-2011), where I had previously completed my doctoral research, focussing on ideas about land as sacred space in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. 

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising research students who would like to work in any of the following areas:

Religious Festivals, Social and Environmental Concerns
Spatial-critical approaches in Biblical Studies
Feminist and Rights-Based approaches to Biblical (NT) Texts
Ethical Consuming and Biblical (NT) Texts
The Bible and Sacred Space (especially NT and Gospels)
The Bible in Religious Education (especially in relation to ethical issues and parables)

Find out more - our PhD Theology and Religion  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am interested in the ways that religious resources (especially those with wide cultural significance) inform ethical ways of thinking about key contemporary challenges. My new monograph, Locating the Kingdom of God: Performing Sacred Boundaries, offers a new look at an ancient concept that has been performed in numerous ways since its origins. In the book, I demonstrate how non-physical space can be formative for identity and ethical relationships with others, touching on issues from consumption and environmental concerns to rights, solidarity and decolonisation. 

Previously, I was Principal Investigator on the AHRC Network Grant ‘Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions’, part of the wider Global Challenges Research Fund. With co-investigator Andrew Davies and project partners Global One. This network focussed on the need for gender- and faith-sensitive humanitarian programming to meet Sustainable Development Goals, outlining priority areas for women and girls in spaces of activation, support and empowerment. 

Other funded projects have explored intersections between religion and culture. I was co-investigator on the AHRC-funded workshop (led by Damian Sutton) ‘Not Just for Christmas: Consumption, Popular Culture and Religious Observance’, exploring ethical consuming and environmental concerns as they relate to cultural and religious narratives of Christmas and everyday life. As part of a team of researchers, I investigated the role of textbooks and representations of religion in Religious Education provision across the UK as co-investigator on the large grant ‘Does Religious Education Work?’, led by Jim Conroy under the AHRC’s ‘Religion and Society’ programme.

Currently, my work focusses on religious festivals and their environmental and ethical impact, looking in particular at the cultural and religious stories and icons of Christmas.



Recent publications


Wenell, K, Økland , J & de Vos, JC (eds) 2019, Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. paperback edn, Continuum, London.

Wenell, K, Conroy, J, Lundie, D, Baumfield, V, Barnes, P, Gallagher, T, Lowden, K & Bourque, N 2013, Does Religious Education Work? A Multi-dimensional Investigation. Continuum, London.


Wenell, K 2017, 'Kingdom, not kingly rule: assessing the Kingdom of God as sacred space', Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 206–233. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685152-00250A01, https://doi.org/10.1163/15685152-00250A01

Wenell, K 2014, 'A Markan "Context" Kingdom? Examining Biblical and Social Models in Spatial Interpretation', Biblical Theology Bulletin: a journal of bible and culture, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 123-132. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146107914540487

Wenell, K 2013, 'Editorial', Expository Times.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Wenell, K 2023, Sacred Space. in S Ahearne-Kroll (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Synoptic Gospels. Oxford Handbooks, Oxford University Press, pp. 372–391. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190887452.013.29

Wenell, K, Økland, J & de Vos, C 2016, Introduction. in K Wenell, J Økland & C de Vos (eds), Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. T & T Clark International, London.

Wenell, K 2016, Religion and Ethical Consumption: Supramorality and Space. in D Shaw, T Newholm, A Chatzidakis & M Carrington (eds), Ethics and Morality in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives., Chapter 2, Routledge Studies in Business Ethics, Routledge.

Wenell, K 2016, The Kingdom of God as ‘Space in Motion’: Towards a More Architectural Approach . in J Økland, C de Vos & K Wenell (eds), Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. 1st edn, The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, vol. 540, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, pp. 135-150. https://doi.org/10.5040/9780567661647.ch-008


Wenell, K 2017, The Setting: Biblical Geography, History and Archaeology. in Scripture and Its Interpretation.

Wenell, K, Økland , J & de Vos, C 2016, Introduction. in Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred.

Wenell, K 2012, ‘Ears to hear’: The Bible, The Sower, and Performative Christianity. in T van der Zee & TJ Lovat (eds), New Perspectives on Religious and Spiritual Education. Waxmann, pp. 117-132.


Wenell, K 2011, 'Editorial', The Expository Times, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 53.


Økland, J, de Vos, JC & Wenell, K 2016, INTRODUCTION. in Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pp. xiv-xxiii.

Working paper

Wenell, K, Davies, A & Ahmad, H 2020 'Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions: Policy Options and Opportunities'.

View all publications in research portal