Resources from the Network of Theological Educators
…it is not enough for the Church just to insist on the rules. We need rules, of course, but they make no sense unless one has at least some initial glimpse of the Christian meaning of sexuality….We need a pedagogy, ways of gradually opening people’s eyes to the beauty and dignity of the human body and its grace. Learning to live our chastity well is not primarily a question of the will, but a way of life that sustains us in the truth of what and who we are.
Timothy Radcliffe OP, What is the Point of Being a Christian?
In 2009, CSCS brought together theological educators from around Great Britain in order to share insights, discuss developments in the field and contemplate how to progress theological education for sexual-spiritual integration. The group has continued to meet and offers the resources of this page that Christians might live happily with the urgent power of the erotic (Radcliffe).
Formation and Integration
The language of formation is often used in discussing Christian growth into mature faith. “Formation”, however, is a tricky educational goal. Is the educator seeking to conform the student to a particular expression of the Christian tradition’s ways and means, or is the educator hoping to invite and resource transformation that shapes the student’s being? We find the word “integration” to be helpful in expressing the core tasks of formation. Students are neither entirely malleable nor are they blank slates on which to write a new way of being. Theological education that equips the faithful living out of an internalised Christian sexual ethic aims for consistency of thought, word and deed: this is the work of sexual-spiritual integration.
The Basics: fostering sexual-spiritual integration
We identify six key activities in theological education that fosters sexual-spiritual integration:
- Cultivating the habit of reflexivity that will enable self-awareness and perpetual self-correction in sexual decision-making.
- Inviting reflection on personal sexual knowledge in order to consolidate learning, identify particular vulnerabilities, and enable ease in addressing sexual matters pastorally.
- Exploring the complex interaction of sex, gender and spirituality.
- Providing opportunities to wrestle scripture and tradition critically and constructively in conversation with personal and other knowledge.
- Providing specialist information about the ministerial role and managing sexual dynamics, and seeking to enable the integration of this information.
- Enabling worship and liturgy to become spaces where sexuality and gender can be embraced honestly.
It is a foundational principle in adult learning theory that all learning begins with experience, hence the emphasis above on engaging people’s personal sexual knowledge. This knowledge is often hidden in the person: we are mysteries to ourselves. Rarely are we helped to reflect on and claim our personal sexual knowledge. Teaching methods which enable students to interact with scripture, tradition, other knowledge, personal experience and each other assist students to make the tradition their own while making sense of sex and faith. Creative and autobiographical methods are particularly helpful as they enable the kind of wrestling and sense-making required for integration.
Creating Sacred Space
As sexuality and spirituality are intimate and integral parts of a person’s being, it is important that teaching events are safe enough to enable students to grapple personally with sexual issues. Activities such as creating a group etiquette (e.g., confidentiality, no requirement to share, respectful listening) serve to bound sacred space and create trust. Prayer, song and laughter help, too, to create the space where there is room for God to work the earth of the tender heart.
Outline Currricula for Sexual Spiritual Integration in Ministerial Training.
On this page we have two suggested outlines of possible curricula to be included in ministerial training programmes, with stated goals as:
- 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
Outlines are offered for two possible courses, one for a longer, ten session course (“Sexuality and the Pastoral Encounter”), and another for a shorter three session course, (Sex & Ministry: Foundations and Formation)
For details of the proposed curricula, see this page “Sexual-Spiritual Integration in ministerial training”
Other websites you may find helpful:
The Faith Trust Institute, based in Seattle WA, provides resources for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence and publishes a DVD training resource for ministerial training called The Sacred Trust. Their Home Page describes themselves as “a national, multifaith, multicultural training and education organization with global reach working to end sexual and domestic violence”. Additional pages are for
- Training and consulting services (in – person or on-line)
- Their On-line Store
- A News page
- and Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune’s blog, with analysis and commentary on issues that concern the work of FaithTrust Institute.
The Religious Institute is a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society, based in Westport CT and offers numerous resources. In 2009, the RI published the report Sex and the Seminary: Preparing ministers for sexual justice and health. They also offer a Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminary programme and an online Sexuality Issues for Religious Professionals course. These resources are available on the website seminary page, “Changing Seminary Education”.
Their “About Us” page states that they are “a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. The Religious Institute has emerged as the national leadership organization working at the intersection of sexuality and religion”.
Additional pages include
- The Religious Declaration on- Sexual Morality Justice and Healing
- Issues (Sexuality Education / Reproductive Justice / LGBT Inclusion / Abuse Prevention / International
- Resources (Open Letters / Study Guides / Research Reports / On – line Guides)
For more resources, see our links and books pages.
Additional resources, especially on curricula, and thematic bibliographies will be added shortly.
Page created October 2012