Category Archives: Conference papers

“When Sex Goes Wrong…….” (Conference 2015)

How do faith, conscience and justice inform our decisions?

How do people of faith make informed and consistent ethical choices on today’s hot topics – reproductive health issues such as abortion and contraception, 3-parent conceptions, IVF and donor insemination, polyamory and multiple relationships, use of internet and pornography, young people’s sexual behaviour and emotional well-being, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, “chem-sex” and drugs use? These are some of the topics which will figure in both the keynote presentation and panel discussions.

This is the them of our 2015 annual conference, with keynote speaker Professor Tina Beattie,  followed by open discussion and a panel discussion after lunch.

CSCS Conference Programme 2015

10:30 Arrivals, registration & refreshments

11:00 Welcome

11:15 Professor Tima Beattie

12:00 Open discussion

12:45 Lunch

13:45 CSCS AGM

14:15 Panel Discussion

16:00 Depart

All are welcome to our Annual Conference. Although the AGM is for CSCS members, all are welcome to take part, and we welcome new members and any who are interested in our work.

Cost: £25 (waged), £20 (unwaged). Price includes lunch, tea and coffee.

Venue: Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EP

Booking form:


“Redeeming Gender”: Two Sexes? Or One? Or More?

Underlying much of the standard theology of sexuality and marriage, is the assumption that there exists a simply binary division of humanity into two clear sexes, male and female, created to marry and procreate.That view has been challenged in recent years by the recognition of intersex people, contradicting the assumption of just two sexes, and by gender theory, which notes that gender and sex are not interchangeable terms.

In his paper to the “Embodied Ministry” conference of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, Professor Adrian Thatcher presented a less familiar challenge to this assumption of a sexual binary divide. Taking an historical view, he argued that this binary assumption is a relatively modern innovation, which in turn is currently being developed further into a much more nuanced understanding. Continue reading “Redeeming Gender”: Two Sexes? Or One? Or More?

Adrian Thatcher, on The Bible – AND the Word of God.

We are so used to speaking of the Bible as the Word of God, that we often forget that things are not quite that simple. In his contribution to the opening plenary session of the CSCS “Embodied Ministry” conference at Ripon College, July 2014,  Prof Adrian Thatcher reminded us that there are also other sources of revelation, taking as his title :

“how the Bible might be used to inform better integration of gender, sexuality and spirituality in formational settings”

Adrian Thatcher

Continue reading Adrian Thatcher, on The Bible – AND the Word of God.


 Hymn – Sing a new Church   (Tune: Ode to Joy or Nettleton)

 Words: Delores Dufner OSB

Summoned by the God who made us
rich in our diversity, gathered in the
name of Jesus,  richer still in unity.

Refrain: Let us bring the gifts that differ and, in splendid, varied ways,  sing a new church into being, one in faith and love and praise.

Radiant risen from the water,  robed in
holiness and light,  male and female in God’s image,
male and female, God’s delight.


Trust the goodness of creation;  trust the Spirit
strong within.  Dare to dream the vision
promised,  sprung from seed of what has been.


Bring the hopes of every nation;  bring the
art of every race.
Weave a song of peace and justice;  let it sound
through time and space.


Draw together at one table,  all
the human family;
shape a circle ever wider
and a people ever free.



From the Letter to the Galatians (3: 26-29)

For all of you are God’s people through faith in the Messiah, Jesus. Indeed, all of you who were baptised into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah.

Because all of you are one in the Messiah Jesus, a person is no longer a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a male or a female. And if you belong to the Messiah, then you are descendants of Abraham and Sarah indeed, and heirs according to the promise.  (International Standard version 2012)


God of all the vast varieties of humankind, help us to move beyond the exclusiveness of an either / or mentality to the inclusiveness of an all and every way of thinking. Move us beyond binary definitions to the mystery and complexity of infinite creativity and creation.

We remember those senselessly murdered because of their all-encompassing humanity, those de-humanised by religious institutions who would prefer invisibility, yet who are prophets of true identity, parents and families confused and fearful yet holding firm to love.

Open hearts that need to hear, souls that need to know, and minds that need to see that there are no limits to You nor Your creation.  In the name of the one who transcends divine and human labelling, who confounds our rigid definitions, and breaks down the walls that separate us, embraced in one Spirit of love. Amen


“Understanding and responding to families of LGBT people”

Report on a workshop facilitated by Bruce Kent,  FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)

Bruce Kent,
Bruce Kent, presenting his workshop

Bruce began his workshop by reminding the educators present that there are no “goodies and baddies” despite our cultural and natural inclination to see conflicts in this light.  From watching films about cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers to Star Wars and Harry Potter, media propaganda moulds a willing population into seeing in terms of “us and them”.  He said that, in his ignorance in the past, he once saw gay people as subversives who were trying to indoctrinate our children into becoming homosexuals and he felt antagonistic towards them.  However, now that he understood how foolish that was and that we are all made in God’s image, equally precious in our diversity, there is a danger now of seeing the religious fundamentalists as “the baddies”.  But we should have an attitude of compassion towards them (because they are bound by their exclusivist beliefs) and be willing to help them, whenever they are willing, to learn the truth that will set them free. Continue reading “Understanding and responding to families of LGBT people”

A Lesson from a Real Life “Pastoral Encounter”

At the CSCS “Embodied Ministry” conference, the final plenary session dealt with “Gender and Sexuality in the Pastoral Encounter”, in which three panellists each contributed a short personal perspective. Rev Carla Grosch – Miller focused on the words, “pastoral encounter”:

Carla Grosch - Miller

The word “encounter” is provocative. It suggests the possibility that we will change each other, that our conversation will be converting.

I want to take note of the opportunities inherent in pastoral encounters that touch on gender and sexuality, and then tell a story. My particular interest in pastoral encounters is in enabling a personal encounter to impact the larger setting in which we operate, perhaps to stimulate other encounters and conversations that move the body of Christ towards greater wholeness.

Opportunities in Pastoral Encounters:

· Surface the feelings and truths in the situation

· Affirm a person’s reality and make the space for them to work with it

· Equip and enable the right response for the person and the situation

· Constructively engage all the sources of theology – scripture, tradition, reason, experience

A story:

It was the beginning of the second day. I hadn’t slept well. The first day had ended with a strong statement by a participant that sex belonged only in marriage, God-ordained between one man and one woman. No one had risen to articulate a different view. A heavy silence hung over the class as we disbanded.

I had laboured to make the space safe and open. The participants held diverse theological viewpoints; I had hoped that we could teach each other as we explored this sensitive topic. As I tossed and turned that night, I wondered how, in my striving to make the space safe for all, I had empowered primarily those who kept to the party line.

At breakfast “Michael” approached me. “I’m really angry about how the class ended yesterday. I’ve been angry all night. I felt like I was being told that I was not a Christian,” he said. “Can you say more?”, I asked. He then told me his story: the story of a young man active in church struggling with his sexuality who, when he had his first sexual experience with another man, was full of self-loathing. Michael became strident in his opposition to homosexuality, until he couldn’t bear the dissonance between what his heart knew and what his tradition taught. He went to his pastor and confessed his struggle. The pastor promptly removed him from all church responsibilities. Michael left and continued to wrestle issues of sex and faith. He came to accept his sexuality and discovered a renewed and deepened faith that in time blossomed into a vocation for ministry. I asked him if he would be willing simply to tell his story at the start of the day’s class. He said “Yes.”

I began the class (after psalm and prayer) with a statement that at the conclusion of class the previous day, we had heard a strong articulation of a scriptural and traditional view of the place of sex in human life and asked if there were any other viewpoints, perhaps drawing on other sources of theology. Michael raised his hand and told his story.

The impact of the story was to transform the space, opening and warming it. Some thanked him for his courage. People who held the heterosexual marriage only viewpoint acknowledged that, while their opinions were strong, there was a need for pastoral sensitivity when dealing with this subject. (Indeed, the two most vocal protagonists of that view approached Michael during the tea break to speak with him.) The remainder of the course was marked by great sensitivity, which enabled others later to speak openly about struggles with internet pornography.

Michael later described the experience of the first day as extremely painful, triggering all the hurtful, destructive, unloving things he had heard as a young man. He knew he either had to live with the anger and survive the rest of the course or say something. He would have wanted to say something judgmental and angry, engaging with the issue theologically, but with my encouragement decided he would just tell his story. He couldn’t have done that on day one because “it would have felt like I was playing the victim, changing the discourse to a different, emotional level which didn’t seem fair”. But that second morning, he felt he could offer it in the structure of a conversation about the sources of theology.

When he opened his mouth to speak to the group, he thought “Oh my God, what am I about to do?” He knew that people would see him in a different light forever after. But once he began, the atmosphere in the room changed. He got visual clues of support around the room: thumbs up, smiles, tears. He immediately felt relief – having said all that was on his heart, not repressing or bottling anger. The man next to him, who was theologically more traditional, put his arm around him when he finished.

“The best thing”, Michael said, “was the spirit of generosity, openness and honesty –real listening to each other– treating each other as sisters and brothers, once we got over the hurdles of fear, doubt and hurt…. ‘Hearing’ each other into speech’[1] summed up the whole experience of the course……the Holy Spirit was definitely there.”

2014 July 10 14:45

© Carla A. Grosch-Miller, 2014

[1] I had titled one of the sessions “hearing each other into speech”, a feminist strategy (Morton, 2001, 178 n.1, 209-210).

(Revd Dr Carla A. Grosch-Miller is a minister and theological educator specialising in sex and ministry short courses for various ministry training colleges.  She is the author of Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers, available from  Canterbury Press Ifollow the link).

Contact Rev Grosch – Miller at


“Male AND Female”He Created THEM: What is YOUR Gender?

The biblical verse “Male and female he created them” is usually taken to mean that humans are created either male of female, and so to justify all that is contained and implied by the binary understanding of sex and gender. However, the simple binary division of biological sex is shown by the modern understanding of intersex conditions to be simplistic. (See for example) Susannah Cornwall’s presentation for this conference).

In another workshop, Rev Sharon Ferguson showed that the standard interpretation of the words may be not the only one. The binary division is even less universally applicable to gender, than it is to biological sex.

Sharon Ferguson, Male AND Female he created THEM

Opening the workshop, which took the form of a genuine interactive workshop rather than a formal presentation, Rev Ferguson put the questions “Are sex and gender equivalent terms?” and “How are they different?” After obtaining agreement from participants that they are not equivalent, that “sex” refers to biological factors and “gender” to how we present ourselves, in dress and in behaviour, we went on to a participatory exercise. We were divided into two groups, and each asked to write down the attributes that people usually associated with females, or with males (one set for each group). Continue reading “Male AND Female”He Created THEM: What is YOUR Gender?

“Embodied Ministry” Conference a Great Success

Participants gathered at Ripon College, Oxfordshire, July 9th and 10th for the CSCS theological educators’ “Embodied Ministry” conference on sexuality, gender and formation. They came from  all corners of England (including at least York, Kent, Exeter, and Manchester), as well as one Australian stopping off en route to Sydney, two Ugandan asylum seekers, and a nun resident at Ripon College.  They came from a wide range of Christian denominations and backgrounds, including Church of the Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Anglican and United Reform Church. Some were priests / pastors in active ministry, some were academics training aspirant clergy – and some were aspirant ministers in training, or preparing for training, themselves.

Ripon College

Opening the conference, our chair Martin Pendergast noted that this conference was not an end in itself, but the beginning of a process. By the end, it was obvious to all that this optimism was more than justified. It’s safe to say that this conference will probably repeated, possibly on a larger and more ambitious scale.

A press release by Pendergast yesterday, quoted the enthusiastic response of Revd. Dr. Martyn Percy, Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon and Dean-elect of Christ Church, Oxford, as this major Conference concluded:

It’s rare to say that an event has been truly ground-breaking, but I’m proud that Ripon College Cuddesdon hosted the Embodied Ministry: Gender, Sexuality & Formation Conference, with such a rich, ecumenical breadth and seriously respectful discussions on issues which are often too neuralgic for all our Churches to consider, not least together.”

Continue reading “Embodied Ministry” Conference a Great Success

Intersex and Formation

Presentation by Dr Susannah Cornwall, for the CSCS theological educators’ conference “Embodied Ministry: Sexuality, Gender and Formation”.

(To view the full Power Point Presentation, open this link: Intersex and Formation )

Intersex,title slide


Dr Susannah Cornwall is Advanced Research Fellow in Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, and Director of EXCEPT (Exeter Centre for Ethics and Practical Theology). Her research focuses on constructive body theologies, and, in particular, the implications of intersex for theologies of sex, gender, sexuality, and theological anthropology. Her books include Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (Equinox, 2010); Controversies in Queer Theology  (SCM, 2011); and Theology and Sexuality
y (SCM, 2013).

“We Are Vulnerable” – but “the Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near”

In the communion service for the CSCS Theological Educators’ “Embodied Ministry” conference this week (July 2014), this was the homily delivered by Rev Carla Grosch – Miller:

Carla Grosch - Miller

Here are the signs that the kingdom of heaven has come near: unclean spirits are cast out; and every disease and sickness is cured. Jesus sent the twelve out to their own people, with authority to cast out, heal disease and sickness, and proclaim heaven’s nearness. Continue reading “We Are Vulnerable” – but “the Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near”