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“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.”

The conference was sponsored by the CSCS Theological Educators’ Project which has been working on these issues since 2009. The Project was launched to respond to CSCS members concerns that so many clergy and pastoral ministers appeared to be ill-equipped to engage in discussion around gender and sexuality issues. Its focus has also been highlighted by the challenges of recent independent reports into sexual abuse and the Churches, where profound fault-lines in the recruitment, training, and ongoing formation of clergy and other pastoral workers were identified The project has been identifying common ground in academic curricula on these topics, across denominational ordained and lay ministerial training programmes. It has been exploring good practice in recruitment and support for candidates both during their training and post-ordination or appointment, not least in terms of on-going support and formation.

CSCS’s Chairperson, Martin Pendergast, said: “This was far from being ‘wishy-washy liberals’ playing doctrinal games and fantasies, but rather a place of rigorous, solidly-based theological reflection. The Conference was graced as a space where honesty could prevail over deception, where our bodies could be celebrated as the many fleshly parts of the one Body of Christ and where, in our prayer and worship, we could ‘sing a new Church into being’ transcending divisions in a new way!”

Adrian Thatcher, Redeeming Gender presentation
Attentive listening to Professor Adrian Thatcher, present, speaking on “Redeeming Gender”

The various Conference presentations will be available, shortly, on the Theological Education page of CSCS’s website:.Worship & Prayer Resources will also be available on-line.


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