TEENAGE PREGNANCY: ARE THE CHURCHES TO BLAME?

Jane Fraser

This was the rather controversial title of a paper I wrote for inclusion in ‘Opening Up: Speaking Out in the Church’ [edited by Julian Filochowski and Peter Stanford, published by Darton, Longman & Todd last year and reviewed in the Winter 2005 edition of CSCS News]. It was pointed out to me by the Press and Communications Officer in our Diocese of Worcester, that I couldn’t write about the lack of engagement by the churches in this social problem without doing something about it myself. Duly chastised, I met with the Bishop, the Social Responsibility Officer, the Director of Education and the Youth Officer for the Diocese. Out of that meeting came a proposal for me to write a ‘popular’, shortened version of the original paper to be published as one of a series of diocesan booklets containing stories and critical comment on social justice themes. They are meant to be read and studied by a wide range of people, both within the faith communities and in wider society. They are circulated to churches and other faith groups, voluntary and community agencies, statutory organisations and local authority departments. A brief press release from the Diocesan Offices at the time of publication of the booklet stimulated a flurry of interest in the media – radio interviews locally and in London, and press reports in both Worcester papers and the Birmingham Post. For a little discussion booklet it was unprecedented and one can only surmise that the juxtaposition of God and sex was the trigger! However, it was a golden opportunity for me to highlight a Christian perspective on the wider issue of teenage sexual behaviour that didn’t encompass the popular view that the Church is entirely condemnatory but, on the contrary, presented a compassionate analysis.

The other outcome of my discussion with Diocesan officers was to take up one of the recommendations in the booklet, to offer training to church and voluntary organisation youth workers on talking to young people about sexual matters. The Diocesan Youth Officer, working in collaboration with the Worcestershire Council for Voluntary Youth Services, arranged an evening workshop that was appreciated by those who came. It was
of particular value for those who were fully aware of the need to discuss sexual matters with the young people with whom they had contact but were nervous about broaching the subject, or those who were uncertain about strategies that were known to be effective.

We are now exploring the possibility of joining forces with the local Teenage Pregnancy Unit to organise a local conference on the subject for any health, social services, voluntary or church personnel who share our concerns and are motivated to engage in a constructive way with the issues.

If any of our members are interested in this topic or the project in general, you may download the booklet entitled, ‘Teenage Pregnancy: A Church Problem?’ from the Worcester Diocesan website www.cofe-worcester.org.uk You will need to click on ‘Social and Economic Engagement’ and then on ‘Publications and Resources’, where you will find it listed under the ‘Just So’ series of booklets. I am also happy to offer a workshop on ‘Talking to Young People about Relationships and Sex’ for a small fee and travel expenses.

You can contact me on training@revjane.demon.co.uk or by phone on 01684 594715.

 

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