CSCS NEWS 40, Spring 2011

Editorial

Anthony Woollard

I write this after a most encouraging Annual Conference and AGM. After the excitements of last year’s joint conference in Birmingham, with its enormous attendance and stimulating content, some of us were fearful of returning to the conferences of recent years where attendance would sometimes struggle to get into double figures and our doubts about the future of CSCS would consequently be reinforced. We need not have been concerned.

First, and I think significantly, our new venue, the URC headquarters near King’s Cross, not only proved highly convenient but may also have helped to draw in some new attenders from that denomination. As a group which has been a little Anglican-biased for much of its existence, the Committee finds considerable blessing in fellowship with a Christian tradition which seems to be somewhat freer than most from sexual hang-ups.

More important, this ecumenical enrichment continued in our choice of speakers, both deeply involved in our project with theological educators. Brendan Callaghan SJ and Carla Grosch-Miller (the latter herself URC) spoke vividly about their work with ordinands and others and were as attractive in their personalities as in the activities to which both bore witness. I reproduce below Brendan’s handout, and a slightly edited version of Carla’s full talk. Many of the 30 or so people present were clearly personally enriched by the presentations and ensuing discussion. I was left feeling that we might have been even more blessed had the time allowed for us ourselves to go through the processes which our speakers described. And the challenge remains for us, to see how such processes can be “rolled out” (to use contemporary jargon) not just amongst leaders and future leaders in more denominations but also amongst ordinary worshippers.

By coincidence, the Gospel for the following day included the hard words of Jesus from Matthew 5 about adultery and divorce. Listening to a sermon which sought to be compassionate – and to address, albeit not in much depth, the well-known problems about just how to read the Sermon on the Mount – I could not help putting alongside it Brendan’s little story about the fictional Roman Catholic priest “Tom” which was included in his handout. “Tom” is in a sense committing adultery against his Church. Irrespective of the merits or justification of his vow to celibacy, he is breaking that vow in the search for personal fulfillment, a fulfillment which, he believes, enhances his ministry. In his voice, I can hear that of quite a few adulterers in novels, and one or two in real life. For Jesus, it would seem – and for my Vicar, challenging as he did the alleged “epidemic of infidelity” in contemporary society – surely such self-justification must just be a manifestation of sin. Well, is it? And whose sin? Brendan asked us to consider what we would say if brought face to face with such an individual and his story. My Vicar also, to do him credit, made it clear that our task was not to judge but to listen to people’s stories, more particularly in the context of divorce – which is far from uncommon in my own or most congregations (and some of us divorcees, too, can hear Tom’s voice, perhaps very close to home). In the words of Jesus, and the ministry of the Church, there is, and must be, a challenge to the contemporary secular ethic of short-term self-fulfillment above all things and the widespread emphasis on the sexual dimension of that.. But there must equally be a challenge to those forces in Church and society which seem to crush God’s needy children’s search for human and embodied love. And there are many other words in the Gospels – not least By their fruits you shall know them – which point to the possibility that those who “break the rules” (or fail to live up to the ideals, or to fit the framework, or however you want to see them), those who are “deviants” in terms of my last editorial, can nevertheless find blessing and bring blessing to others.

The AGM which followed these presentations was attended by some 20 people including some non-members (who we hope may join us in time). I also reproduce below the Chair’s report and the accounts for 2010. As will be clear, we remain a small and in some ways struggling organisation, but we are still solvent and viable, and the work we are doing with theological educators shows that – because of the many networks into which we are plugged – we can punch well above our weight.

The AGM took one potentially controversial decision – to remove from the Constitution the Statement of Conviction to which all members are supposed to subscribe. That Statement, which especially emphasises the acceptability in Christian terms of same-sex relationships, was felt to be putting off some senior Church leaders, and also some researchers, who could not publicly identify with such a statement without prejudicing their positions. Whilst probably all current members would agree passionately with the original Statement of Conviction, which is based closely on that used by LGCM, it was unanimously recognized that subscription to it was not appropriate in a body dealing with study rather than campaigning.

The existing Committee (Martin Pendergast as Chair, Jane Fraser now as Secretary, Colin Hart as Treasurer, Heather Barfoot, Rosie Martin, Michael Moran and myself) were re-elected, but we do have power to co-opt more people who are interested in forwarding the work. On a mundane level, the loss of our newsletter designer has left me (as will be all too clear from the pages which follow) struggling with the business of formatting material especially where a great deal of scanning of diverse inputs is required; and if anyone would be able to help with that, whether combined with Committee membership or otherwise, I shall be especially delighted to hear from them!

Celebrating our Sexuality: Preparing future Church Leaders for Pastoral Care

Brendan Callaghan SJ

  1. Jesuit, Catholic priest & (NHS clinical) psychologist by training

  2. main mission has been teaching Psychology of Religion @ Heythrop (1980- 2010)

  3. also involved with formation of Jesuits ordinands

  4. at request of Jesuit Centre of Spirituality at Loyola Hall outside Liverpool, developed workshops in area of sexuality

    1. o originally for spiritual directors and retreat givers

    2. o then used extensively with ordinands

    3. and with those already in ministry

  5. more recently been involved with Safeguarding/Child Protection work on behalf of the British Jesuit Province

How to help people grow?

  1. trying to steer course between

    1. o “French” approach (“…l’humanité, c’est quoi?”)

    2. o “USA” approach (“…and how was it for you, then?”)

  2.   some approach which doesn’t simply discuss abstract principles, but which doesn’t demand inappropriate self-disclosure

  3. looking for a way of opening-up discussion around issues of sex and sexuality

    1. o mostly in a setting where celibate living is expected (and committed to by vow)

  4. not an easy task

    1. o lots of vulnerabilities involved

    2. o no “track history” of such discussions

Actual practice in workshops is a mixture:

  1. some didactic input

    1. o overall schemas of psychosexual development (c.f. extract)

    2. drawing on different psychological perspectives

    3. o input on contemporary understandings of sexual orientation

    4. o and usually some input on abusive sexual behaviours and their consequences

  1. work with imaginary-first-person-stories (c.f. sample)

    1. o not a “scenario” about which to talk

    2. but an individual to whom to respond:

    3.  “what would I say to X if they told me their story?”

    4. o produces a slightly but usefully different dynamic

  2. stories read individually, then discussed in small groups, then plenary

  3. part of introduction is making explicit the possibility that some of a story might be my story

    1. o I have the possibility of exploring and discussing aspects of my story without going further in self-disclosure than I am ready for.

Some Reflections

  1. my experience (with ordinands at least) is very specific

    1. o all RC ordinands are men, and committed to celibacy

    2. o women religious also have formal commitments to celibacy

  2. cultural questions are to the point:

    1. o different national cultures

    2. and different “subcultures” (churches/congregations/religious orders)

    3. have very different assumptions about what can and cannot be spoken of.

  3. crucial area of ministerial formation

    1. o lack of growth can produce individuals

    2. who are dangerously repressed, out of touch with their own sexuality

    3. and vulnerable to acting-out in inappropriate ways

    4. who are too immature and anxious to be of service to others

    5. either in areas concerning sexual issues or in any form of ministry which requires them to engage with another beyond the superficial

    6. o continuing growth can produce individuals

    7. not only aware of “their own fallibility and limitations”

    8. but reasonably comfortable with their own sexuality

    9. o and so able to help others be comfortable raising sexual issues

    10. a valuable gift in ministry – and for “ministerial educators”

PSYCHOSEXUAL MATURING: adapted from Ferder & Heagle, Your Sexual Self, Notre Dame, 1992

A) ADOLESCENCE:

Phase 1 – Sexual fantasising:

- Rehearsal for relationships

- Male-Female differences in sexual fantasising

- The ethical issue

Phase 2 – Psychosexual preoccupation:

- Physical Changes and Personal Appearance

- Peers and Social Pressure

- Subcultures

- Personal Identity

Phase 3 – Relational Exploration:

- Falling in Love

- Normal Narcissism

- Levels of Physical Expression

B) PSYCHOSEXUAL MUTUALITY:

- Accurate self-knowledge

- Empathy

- Interpersonal Sensitivity

- Trust

- Equality

- Capacity for Self-Disclosure

- Spontaneity

C) ONGOING INTEGRATION:

LEVEL ONE: Basic characteristics of psychosexual maturity

  1. Deepening personal awareness and good self-knowledge

  2. Body comfort and a sense of being at home in our skin

  3. The capacity for intimacy, incarnated in sustained and consistent involvement in close personal relationships characterised by

    1. a. honesty and trust

    2. b. fidelity

    3. c. awareness and openness about one’s expectations

    4. d. self-disclosure that is appropriate to the level of the relationship

    5. e. open communication of feelings

    6. f. physical expressiveness that fits with the level of commitment and closeness in the relationship

    7. g. avoidance of control, manipulation, and abuse

  4. Faithfulness to primary commitments

  5. Adequate knowledge of sexual anatomy and physiology, as well as current information on sexual issues and concerns

  6. Comfort using sexual words and talking about sexual realities in appropriate settings

  7. Not ‘overspiritualizing’ sexual realities or engaging in emotional/psychic denial in relationship to them

  8. Ability to make appropriate decisions and commitments involving sexuality

  9. Taking responsibility for one’s sexual expressions and behaviour

  10. Awareness of past hurts or traumas around sexuality and the willingness to take steps towards healing

LEVEL TWO: Signs of deepening psychosexual integration

  1. A growing congruence between our personal behaviour and our public, social commitments; a sense of integrity about our lives

  2. The ability to name and articulate our sexual story in an appropriate setting, and to understand how it has influenced our lives and relationships

  3. A psychic and emotional balance between our sexual life and other aspects of living; neither being preoccupied with sexuality nor denying its place in our life

  4. Growing integration between the human and the holy, between our sexual energy and our spirituality

  5. An attitude of compassion rather than self-righteousness in relation to other peoples’ sexual behaviour

  6. A deepening sense of generativity, i.e. the experiential knowledge that our presence to and with other people is life-giving and nurturing

  7. Inclusivity in our relationships, without diminishing the depth of our primary commitments.

TOM’S STORY:

(Tom is a Roman Catholic priest, ordained after promising lifelong celibacy)

I’ve been a priest for twenty years now: I don’t suppose I am a very good one, but I know that I am a lot better priest as a result of my relationship with Sheila than I would be otherwise. We are not very unusual, Sheila and I, you know: we know of at least two other priests who have lovers in my own diocese alone. You wouldn’t know – you wouldn’t be able to guess, I mean. It’s all very discreet: none of this over-the-top american stuff here. But we are lovers: we weren’t for a long time, because we both took, and continue to take, the matter of priestly celibacy pretty seriously, but it slowly became obvious that we both wanted to sleep with each other, and that our relationship had reached a point of commitment where this made sense; well, more than ‘made sense’, more ‘was inevitable and natural’.

How do I fit this in with being a priest? Well, I’m certainly a better priest than I was, if you measure this in terms of compassion and openness to others. And you don’t have to take my word for it: a number of people who have known me in the various parishes where I have worked say just that, quite without knowing what has made the difference. I took on celibacy as part of a package: I knew God wanted me to be a priest, and I knew in seminary that I was not going to find it easy to live celibate, but I was sure that if God wanted me as a priest, then he would help me live as a priest: and he has! Sheila and I meet up regularly: my housekeeper at the presbytery is very amused by the devotion I show to the weekly clergy golf match, but she has never worked out how long I spend on the course and how long with Sheila at my own house outside the town. It’s one day of domesticity, really: apart from our holidays, which we take together most times, it’s the only time we get with each other. But it’s enough, though we are looking forward to eventually retiring and moving in together.

I know our relationship isn’t within the rules of celibacy, but they’ve long been honoured as much in the breach as in the observance, and I know what I am capable of, and what I am not capable of: I cannot live without an active intimate relationship, and nor can Sheila. No-one gets hurt by our relationship, because it only involves the two of us. In fact, lots of people gain, because of the beneficial effect it has on my priesthood and ministry. I look around at some of the old bachelors in the diocese, and I find myself thinking that they would be much the better off – as priests as well as human beings – if they had a lover. And I look at the men whose live-in housekeepers are more than just that – and there are certainly a few such arrangements in every diocese -and I think, “what’s so different about Sheila’s and my arrangement?”

What of my prayer-life? That, too, has been helped by Sheila. We pray the office together when we meet, and when we are on holiday it is a regular feature of our day. But more than that, loving Sheila has taught me how to get outside my own preoccupations and self-concerns, and that really has changed me. I’m not a romantic – I never have been – but I know what moves me and how I grow, and my relationship with Sheila has brought me closer to the Lord.

Carla Grosch-Miller:

It was the beginning of the second day of a course titled Sex and ministry: ‘living with the urgent power of the erotic’1. I hadn’t slept well. The first day had ended with a strong statement offered by a participant that sex only belonged in marriage and marriage was God-ordained between one man and one woman. No one had risen to articulate a different view.

I had laboured to make the space safe and open. The participants in this course held diverse theological viewpoints; I had hoped that we could teach each other as we explored the topic. One of the three ‘S’s’ that shapes my teaching is space that respects the sanctity of the individual. In the first session, after I introduce myself and my assumptions (which include that all four sources of theology are of value and that each of us will weight those sources differently), I ask the group to create Rules of the Road: guidelines to enable respectful and searching conversation among people with diverse viewpoints. This group had included in those Rules:

  • Be open to where others come from; open mind – open heart

  • Disagreement is with ideas; respect the idea-holder

I view my educator role as providing information and making the space for participants to engage it and each other. When a viewpoint is expressed particularly strongly, I expect (or may ask for) opposing viewpoints to emerge from other participants. At the end of the first day in this course, in response to the strong statement articulating the traditional view, that had not happened. As I tossed and turned that night, I wondered if, in my striving to make the space safe for all, I had leaned too far in one direction.

At breakfast the next day, another participant approached and asked if he could talk to me. He said 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. ‘Can you say more?’ I asked. He then told me his story: a 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. He became strident in his opposition to homosexuality, as insistent as others had been the day before that sex was for married heterosexual couples….until he couldn’t bear the dissonance between what his heart knew and what he wished he could live up to. He told his vicar about his struggle – who promptly removed him from all church responsibilities and let him know that there was no room in the church for him. He continued to wrestle issues of sex and faith until he came to accept who he was 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, and he said yes.

I began day two recalling that there are four sources of theology – scripture, tradition, reason and experience – and that they each had value and they each had problems. Three quarters of the first day had been spent mining the Bible and tradition for sexual attitudes and assumptions, and the class had come to understand that biblical sexual ethics are quite different from what we call Christian family values today. We had looked at ancient Hebrew culture, where women were considered domestic and sexual property, fertile women needed to bear five live children to replace their generation, and most births ended in death before the child reached its first birthday. Concern for procreation, property rights, and purity laws that kept the Hebrew people distinct from their Promised Land neighbours had created a sexual ethic that included polygamy, concubinage, levirate marriage, rules allowing rape in war with distant enemies, and the requirement that a rapist marry his Hebrew victim. We noticed the New Testament’s relative lack of concern about sexual matters and how a central message of the gospels was that people’s relationship was no longer determined by following physical purity laws, but by purity of heart: loving God and neighbour as self. We traced the development of Christian sexual ethics, shaped by the revulsion of the body present in late antiquity and dualistic and misogynist thinking, hearing Tertullian describe women as ‘the devil’s gateway’ and Jerome say ‘Blessed is the man who dashes his genitals against a rock’. We noted how the development of Christian sexual ethics was a journey that attempted to modulate a basically negative view of sex by first finding it acceptable for procreative purposes and later a good for the sake of the communion of husband and wife. We then took a detour into contemporary times and heard what Freud, Jung, Kinsey, Fisher and others had to say about sex and love, its psychological importance and its neurological components. After all of this, we began to write and post on the wall theological principles that would enable us to think theologically and pastorally about sex. It was then that the strong statement was made, just minutes before the end of the day.

Now it was day two. I said that at the conclusion of 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. The man who had approached me at breakfast raised his hand and gently and simply told his story.

The impact of the story was to transform the space, opening and warming it. Others thanked him for his courage in sharing; there was acknowledgement by voices who held the “heterosexual marriage only” viewpoint that, while their opinions on the topic of homosexuality were strong, there was a need for pastoral sensitivity when dealing with this subject. That sensitivity was embodied by many and diverse people on diverse topics as the course progressed.

Whenever I teach in this area, I move from exploring scripture and tradition and identifying theological principles to the link between sexuality and spirituality. I said at the beginning that there are three ‘S’s’ that shape my teaching. The first is the setting up of a space that respects the sanctity of the individual. The second ‘S’ is structure: the course can be envisioned as a drama with three acts. Act One locates us as Christian people in the 21 century, reviewing biblical, traditional and contemporary views of sex and gender and teasing out theological themes that may help in thinking theologically and pastorally about sex. I begin with the Bible and tradition because whenever we deal with sexual issues in a church context, we bring our understandings of them, as well as our personal experience. We need to reflect critically on what the Bible and tradition actually say and what assumptions lie beneath those sources.st We then need to identify theological principles that help us to think about and respond to sexual issues.

The second Act of the drama introduces a new thought landscape, drawing on the link between sexuality and spirituality, and enables a new framework for Christian sexual ethics that affirms the goodness of the gift of sexuality. After a mini lecture about how both sex and spirit are operant in identity, development, relationship, creativity and transcendent experience, I ask the group to formulate a new framework for Christian sexual ethics: one premised not on procreation, property and ancient purity concerns, but rather on the aspiration to live out one’s sexuality sacramentally. Informed by the theological thinking in the first third of the course, the group articulates a holistic view of sex as gift and self-giving, using ‘thou shalt’ as a template. The lists generated come to include such things as: Thou shalt know, love, accept and become/be oneself; treasure the other and seek their flourishing; be faithful in relationship; be willing to learn to give and receive pleasure; nourish the fruits of the Spirit; be open to healing, transformation, grace and creativity.

Act Two also includes the opportunity to do autoethnographic work. One of the convictions I bring to this work is that that training for ministry must engage personal experience.2 Self-knowledge and self-awareness are key tools in enabling good ministry, which includes preventing sexual misconduct. Our personal knowledge of our own sexual experience and attitudes is subjugated, tacit knowledge.3Whenever I teach in this area, I invite participants to do reflective writing throughout the course– using oblique and not so oblique methods to enable them to uncover the experiences and attitudes that shape where they are in their sexual formation. Methods include: word-association; icon/image identification; reflective writing of prose and/or poetry; autobiographical ‘life lines’ for sexual and spiritual events; boundaried conversation. No one is required to share anything personal. Some do share personal information with the larger group, and some do not. In individual interviews conducted after the event, I have been struck by the identification of vulnerability and working through of early sexual experience those methods had facilitated.

In class, after giving time to work autoethnographically, I invite participants into pairs for a reflective listening exercise on the topic of ‘sexuality and spirituality’. In the plenary after the exercise, as the group reflects on what it is like to speak of such holy things and what it is like to listen, it is common for the room to be hushed and reverent as people acknowledge the privilege and the challenge of ‘hearing one another into speech’4.

Act Three takes us to the streets, addressing the nitty gritty of sex in ministry and enabling work with sexual issues, our own and those of others. The third ‘S’ guiding this work is most explicit here – Safety. Not just safety in the space opened up for honest exploration, but safety in the practice of ministry. One of the primary goals of this course is to enable people in the church to inhabit their vocations in a way that is healthy and safe for themselves and for their ministry settings. I became a church sex worker because of the shocking prevalence and potentially devastating impact of ministerial sexual misconduct: a Canadian study suggests that ministers transgress sexual boundaries with someone in their care at a rate of twice that of secular counsellors.5 I wanted to understand how better to prevent the suffering caused when ministers transgress sexual boundaries.

Thus the last third of the course works on safety in ministry: looking at boundaries, power, vulnerability and intimacy in ministry; considering the prevalence and impact of ministerial sexual abuse; and working with scenarios in pastoral ministry. Space is made to enable people to raise sexual issues in pastoral ministry. Issues that arise include pornography, sex addiction, marriage preparation, bereavement as a time of heightened sexual desire, youth work. The discussions I’ve witnessed have been frank, self-revealing and compassionate.

The final scene in Act Three is called taking good care, the focus of which is that self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-awareness and self–care are some of our most important tools in ministry. We look at the expectations of others in the ministry settings and our own, and labour to articulate how we may manage those expectations for the good of all.

At the end, I do a quick what worked and what could work better evaluation. Invariably people remark that the course should be required (if it is not already), that learning what the Bible and tradition really say is important, and that having a place in the church to struggle honestly and holistically with sexual issues is essential for these times.

The title of today’s exploration is Celebrating our Sexuality: Preparing Future Church Leaders for Pastoral Care. Good pastoral care is informed, sensitive and safe pastoral care. Good pastoral care is about the pastoral carer communicating in her body and by her words a sense of welcome and hospitality, and having at her disposal tools to enable light and space for sexual issues to be expressed and wrestled. The pastoral carer brings with her attitudes about Biblical and traditional sexual ethics and her own life experience, attitudes and experiences she has hopefully had an opportunity to work through. She also carries the imprimatur of church authority; she’s been given a role, a certification of approval, to hold these sensitive areas. She needs to be adequately prepared to wrestle scripture and tradition and know where she stands and why; to respond to contemporary understandings of sex and sexuality; to listen sensitively as others wrestle these questions themselves; and to articulate a holy and holistic ethic that enables the living out of sexuality sacramentally.

CSCS Accounts year ending 31 December 2010

2009

Income

Subscriptions

1258.00

1830.00

Conference

850.00

590.00

Bank interest

5.70

7.36

Tax refund

0.00

0.00

Total

2113.70

2427.36

Expenditure

Journal

462.00

0.00

Newsletter

285.08

319.18

Website

0.00

115.00

Conference

1157.50

291.83

Theological Education Forum

125.45

0.00

Committee/secretarial

599.72

551,49

Total

2629.75

1277.50

Deficit/Surplus

-516.05

1149.86

Balance Sheet as at 31 December

Community Directplus account

2994.46

3704.20

Business Select Instant Access account

2148.28

2146.94

Uncredited deposits

120.00

Lost deposit

85.00

Less uncleared cheques

-80.15

-67.50

Total

5267.59

5783.64

Less Deficit 2010

-516.05

5267.59

Notes

  • Some of the payments for the 2010 Joint Conference were credited in 2009. As far as CSCS was concerned, the event broke even. A balance of £282.25 is being held as restricted income by LGCM.

  • Gift Aid claims of £285.75 for 2009 and £206 for 2010 are pending.

  • Subscription income for Theology and Sexuality in 2010 was notionally £476.

  • The Co-operative Bank was unable to discover anything about the loss of a deposit for £85.

The Chair’s Report – 12 February 2011

First and foremost, I must give thanks, as I’m sure will our dear Canon Jane Fraser, that I have survived this year as the new CSCS Chair without having to ring her up in the middle of the night, or at any other anti-social hours. Jane was a hard act to follow, and do not believe her when she bewails her self-claimed inefficiency. Life was made immeasurably easier by a smooth, neat hand-over, with all documents in their allotted places.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Matron, Roberta Rominger, and Patrons, David Gamble and John Gladwin, for their support for CSCS and the advice they offer from time to time. We’re particularly grateful to Roberta for arranging for us to use the URC Headquarters for today’s meeting.

We were sorry to lose John and Daphne Cook on their retirement from the Committee, although Daphne was kind enough to stay on for a little longer to facilitate the hand-over of Treasurer’s duties to Colin Hart as our new Treasurer. Colin has now also taken on some membership responsibilities. We were also delighted that Rosie Martin agreed to be co-opted to the Committee, so that CSCS can respond to issues of gender variance more directly and effectively. I have been ably assisted and supported by a lively Committee. Anthony Woolard has continued to produce CSCS News, sometimes against all odds and often, I suspect, surprising even himself with the quality of its contents. We are currently exploring how secretarial functions can be shared.

At this point I would also like to thank those beyond the Committee in their support for CSCS: Mike Egan for his assiduous examination of our accounts, and Philip Gardner for his oversight of the CSCS website. We have been grateful to St. Matthew’s Church, Westminster, and latterly the Church of the Assumption in Soho, as venues for our Committee Meetings, and to the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham and Campion Hall, Oxford, for hosting Theological Educators’ meetings.

Like many organisations, founded in the 80’s and 90’s we experience a reducing membership as the founding stalwarts increase in maturity. When it appeared that perhaps our mission had been accomplished, members and others challenged us with the reality that CSCS is the only ecumenical network in the UK dealing with a broad range of human sexuality issues. The challenge for each CSCS member is to make CSCS’s work better known in their respective denominations, local churches, and other organisations. Over the past year we have continued to strengthen our links with sister-groups such as Modern Church, formerly known as the Modern Church-people’s Union, with Inclusive Church, and with the Cutting Edge Consortium. We are enlivened by the powerful stimulus that comes from these fruitful relationships. Some of these activities have expressed CSCS’s commitment not only to discussion and reflection on matters of human sexuality, but also action for justice and equality. Such action in turn becomes a fruitful source for our theological reflections and growth in faith.

Nowhere has our ecumenical commitment been more focussed that in the work of the Theological Educators project. Exploring how human sexuality is taught, what models of good practice can be discovered, what level of support is given to students as they grow in sexual maturity, and what kind of support is given in terms of post-graduation or post-ordination ongoing human development is highly relevant for all Churches. It’s not so much about talking about sex and sexuality, but rather enabling listening and experiences of faith and sexuality to be heard.

Key reports in Ireland and elsewhere on the Church and sexual abuse have highlighted inadequacies in recruitment, formation, education, and support. The Theological Educators’ group has tried to meet at least twice a year since its inception in March 2009. We meet again in late April to explore what practical outcomes we may draw from our process thus far, not least in drawing together those responsible for ordination and lay ministerial training across the various denominations. Although our detailed discussions have been subject to ‘Chatham House Rules’, it is a desire to share some of this work with you that occasioned the theme of today’s conference.

As the founding organisation which brought the journal, Theology & Sexuality, to birth, we continue to be frustrated by the vagaries of publishing companies, as well as the difficulties in communication between the editorial body and publishing executives. We seem to be powerless to effect any impact upon any of these systems and the reneging on their commitments to produce prompt editions of the journal. The CSCS Committee is deeply aware that the sporadic production of Theology & Sexuality may well be a reason for people to cease their CSCS membership.

The Committee is increasing conscious of the impact of social networking tools and internet

communication for networks such as CSCS, rather than a reliance on pieces of paper coming through letter-boxes. Over the next few moths we hope to enhance the quality of the CSCS website, enabling more direct communication with both the Committee and possibly between members. The website needs to be not simply a storage point for archived material but a source of information and resources, with easy links to sister organisations for anyone trying to explore the integration of Christian faith and sexuality.

Finally, your presence here today suggests that you believe that reflections on faith, sex, and sexuality are not, if I might quote the Revd. Clare Herbert’s recent maiden speech to General Synod , “hot potatoes for the young people in London’s West End, but the very stuff of mission , of deciding whether they can belong to, let alone lead, our church into the future.” I believe that the growing convergence amongst Christians of so many different traditions on major issues in human sexuality is creating a new unity, rather than more and more division in the Body of Christ. We see the evidence of this all around us and it is this ecumenical movement of the Spirit that the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality celebrates and is keen to promote for the building up of all God’s people.

Martin Pendergast

CSCS Chair – 12 February 2011

We are created by God”

For four Tuesday evenings in November a group of us met at Offa House [he Coventry Diocesan retreat house] to discuss this. We were blessed with the leadership of Rev. John and Daphne Cook. As Christians we believe that all of us are created by God. It was a mixed group of varying ages with three men amongst the ten gathered each time.

Each of us has been given a particular identity and during the four evenings we investigated that our identity and relationships encompass our whole life including our sexuality, which is not just about sexual intercourse but our whole being.

The content of the booklet supplied for the course helped us to discuss four different aspects of identity and relationships: marriage and cohabitation, divorce and further marriage, being single or widowed, gay and lesbian sexuality.

At times I felt uncomfortable about the subjects. having been brought up in a Christian home in the 30’s and 40’s, our sexuality was not an item that one met with in Church or at Home. (My church then was an Evangelical Free Church). Biblical teaching was the law and anyone who was not ‘normal’ was not welcomed. In the village where we lived divorced people were shunned and definitely were not allowed in Church, (including the Anglican Church).

The series opened my eyes and my heart to the problems that many individuals have, especially some members and some churches.

I would recommend this course to anyone, professing Christians or not and would suggest that Churches and Mothers’ Union branches should include it in their programme.

David Smith

I was uncertain what to expect on a course created by the Mothers’ Union having mental images of Jam and Jerusalem but found that both the material in Created by God and the group discussions tested and challenged my understanding of issues in human sexuality and relationships. 

David Williams

This Newsletter is produced for CSCS

The Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality

Chair and principal point of contact:

Martin Pendergast

PO Box 24632

LONDON E9 6XF.

Phone: 020 8986 0807.

E-mail martinjp@btinternet.com

Website: http://www.cscs.co.uk

Next issue in autumn 2011 – contributions invited by 1 September

Please send any enquiries about/contributions to the Newsletter to:

Anthony Woollard

1 Chestnut Walk

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

CV37 6HG

Phone/fax: 01789 204923

e-mail: awoollard@joyousgard.org.uk

1 ‘Living happily with the urgent power of the erotic’ is a phrase coined by Timothy Radcliffe, OP. 2005. What is the Point of Being a Christian? London and NY: Burnes& Oates, p.99.

st Transformative learning theory posits that critical reflection is essential to such learning. See Mezirow, Jack and Associates. 2000. Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

2See, also, Guindon, J.(1993) The Integral Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood, Montreal: ÉditionsPaulines (trans. Terrence Prendergast, S.J.), recommending a Human Formation Counsellor to work alongside seminarians to promote psycho-sexual integration.

3 Butler Scally, Dorothy 2000. “Personal Sexual Story: A Radical Vehicle for Transformative Learning in Adult Education”. PhD Thesis, University of Glasgow.

4Nelle Morton. 1985. The Journey is Home.

5Churches Together in Britian and Ireland. 2002. Time for Action: Sexual abuse, the Churches and a new dawn for survivors. London: CTBI, p. 83.

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Promoting open and honest Christian discussion of sexuality and gender

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