Sexual-Spiritual Integration in Ministerial Training

The Goals

The goals in an andragogy for sexual-spiritual integration are:

  •  Creation of a safe enough space in which to speak honestly about sex and to listen to diverse viewpoints, engaging all four sources of theology (scripture, tradition, reason, experience)
  • Enabling critical and constructive engagement with all four sources of theology
  • Identification of theological foundations for an affirming Christian sexual ethic
  • Inviting the mining of personal sexual knowledge/wisdom
  • Learning ministerial role responsibilities
  • Encouraging reflexivity, accountability and perpetual self-correction in the practice of ministry

 The assumption behind the curricula below is that Christians create a personal sexual ethic through the activity of wrestling all four sources of theology.  This wrestling is aided in an educational setting by a sex-affirming ethos/anthropology, as full information as possible from all four sources, critical reflectivity and critical reflexivity.  As personal sexual knowledge is tacit, oblique methods enable the surfacing of the personal sexual wisdom that Christians create through their experience in conversation with other sources.

 Ten session course:  Sexuality and the Pastoral Encounter

Session 1   Introduction and Bounding Sacred Space

A preparatory session introducing the course, surfacing expectations and concerns, and creating sacred space.  The class creates an etiquette that bounds the sacred space, including such elements as confidentiality regarding persons and no requirement to share.  Initial personal exploration of attitudes towards sex and church teaching is invited.

 Session 2   Sex and the Bible

Biblical passages concerning sex are read and studied, surfacing the writers’ assumptions about gender and sex.  Information about the ancient near eastern context of the writings is provided.

Session 3   Sex and the Tradition

Christian tradition on sex is surveyed through the centuries, revealing the dynamism of the tradition.

 Session 4   Other Voices; Engaging theological sources

A look at the other two sources of theology (reason, experience) including what other disciplines (biological, social) offer to the understanding of sex.  Followed by a group assessment of the values and problems with each source of theology.

 Session 5   Sexuality: its formation and link with spirituality

A heuristic model of sexuality is offered and the factors that influence personal sexuality are teased out.  The link between sexuality and spirituality and the formation of moral agency is explored.  The inadequacy of a genital-acts based prohibitory ethic is discussed.  An affirming Christian sexual ethic for the 21st century is imagined (“thou shalt…”).

 Session 6   Autoethnography

Students work individually with their personal sexual history; oblique methods of inquiry are invited.  Opportunities for one on one conversation about the topic generally are provided to practice listening and speaking about the topic.  Further work on an affirming Christian sexual ethic.

 Session 7   Boundaries, power and vulnerability

The phenomenon of ministerial sexual misconduct is introduced – its prevalence, aetiology and impact.  The function of boundaries in good pastoral care is described, and questions of power and vulnerability presented.  Gender-specific considerations may be discussed.

 Session 8   Intimacy in ministry

Transference, countertransference and physical boundaries are introduced.  Small groups work on ministry scenarios to tease out helpful guidelines and approaches for sensitive matters.

 Session 9   Sexual issues in pastoral ministry

Small group discussions using scenarios that cover a range of issues including sexual abuse, youth work, cohabitation, divorce and homosexuality.  Other issues that may arise are also introduced and resources identified.

 Session 10   Taking good care

The importance of personal self-care in ministry; handling the expectations of others; reflexivity and accountability.

Three session course:   Sex & Ministry: Foundations and Formation

Session 1   Foundations: Sex, the Bible and Christian Tradition

A survey of what scripture says about sex and how Christian tradition has developed over the centuries, the purpose of this session is to acquaint students with the content of scripture on the topic, to enable critical reflectivity on the original sources and to understand that our tradition is dynamic.

 Session 2   Sexuality, Spirituality and the Whole Person

An introduction to other sources of theology (reason, experience) on sexuality and sexual expression and to the link between sexuality and spirituality.  The phenomenology of sexual-spiritual integration will be discussed and the class invited to articulate of an affirming Christian sexual ethic.

 Session 3   Sex in Ministry: Taking Good Care

A role-specific session that highlights the importance of maintaining appropriate sexual boundaries in ministry given the prevalence of ministerial sexual misconduct.  This session includes DVD segments from the Faith Trust Institute on transference, hugging/touch and intimacy and the opportunity to imagine assuming the role in discussing ministry scenarios.  Additional resources will be highlighted.

Carla A. Grosch-Miller

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Promoting open and honest Christian discussion of sexuality and gender

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