Tag Archives: Adrian Thatcher

“Redeeming Gender”: Two Sexes? Or One? Or More?

Underlying much of the standard theology of sexuality and marriage, is the assumption that there exists a simply binary division of humanity into two clear sexes, male and female, created to marry and procreate.That view has been challenged in recent years by the recognition of intersex people, contradicting the assumption of just two sexes, and by gender theory, which notes that gender and sex are not interchangeable terms.

In his paper to the “Embodied Ministry” conference of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, Professor Adrian Thatcher presented a less familiar challenge to this assumption of a sexual binary divide. Taking an historical view, he argued that this binary assumption is a relatively modern innovation, which in turn is currently being developed further into a much more nuanced understanding. Continue reading “Redeeming Gender”: Two Sexes? Or One? Or More?

Adrian Thatcher, on The Bible – AND the Word of God.

We are so used to speaking of the Bible as the Word of God, that we often forget that things are not quite that simple. In his contribution to the opening plenary session of the CSCS “Embodied Ministry” conference at Ripon College, July 2014,  Prof Adrian Thatcher reminded us that there are also other sources of revelation, taking as his title :

“how the Bible might be used to inform better integration of gender, sexuality and spirituality in formational settings”

Adrian Thatcher

Continue reading Adrian Thatcher, on The Bible – AND the Word of God.

“Redeeming Gender”

(Paper to be presented by Professor Adrian Thatcher at the “Embodying Ministry” July 2014 conference of the CSCS Theological Educators Project).

The churches have forgotten that, until the 17th century, the dominant understanding of sex and gender was of a single humanity, ‘man’, within which women were imperfect, malformed men. Later, a two-sex view of humanity, supposedly established by modern science, became preferred. The idea of the complementarity (not equality) of the sexes arose directly from this view. The Christian Gospel offers neither an ancient one-sex theory, nor a modern two-sex theory, but a single inclusive humanity, made by God and redeemed by Christ, in which differences of all kinds are a means towards communion instead of conflict.

Adrian Thatcher

Professor Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor at the University of Exeter. He is ‘retired’ and currently editing The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality and Gender. His most recent books are Making Sense of Sex (SPCK, 2012) and God, Sex and Gender: an Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). He is an Anglican.

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“Embodied Ministry” Conference 2014: Speakers

Speakers and workshop leaders

Adrian Thatcher, Redeeming Gender

 Adrian Thatcher, Redeeming GenderThe churches have forgotten that, until the 17th century, the dominant understanding of sex and gender was of a single humanity, ‘man’, within which women were imperfect, malformed men. Later, a two-sex view of humanity, supposedly established by modern science, became preferred. The idea of the complementarity (not equality) of the sexes arose directly from this view. The Christian Gospel offers neither an ancient one-sex theory, nor a modern two-sex theory, but a single inclusive humanity, made by God and redeemed by Christ, in which differences of all kinds are a means towards communion instead of conflict.

Professor Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor at the University of Exeter. He is ‘retired’ and currently editing The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality and Gender. His most recent books are Making Sense of Sex (SPCK, 2012) and God, Sex and Gender: an Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). He is an Anglican.

Carla Grosch-Miller, Fifty Shades of Grace: The Crafting of Sexual Wisdom

Carla Grosch-Miller, Fifty Shades of Grace

 Each of us has lived sexual experience that gives us embodied knowledge.  This embodied knowledge is the premier source for the creation of practical sexual wisdom. We learn by doing, bumping up against others and surviving the consequences. Grace accompanies us all along the way. The purpose of this workshop is to explore a model of sexual-spiritual integration in which embodied knowledge is in critical-liminal conversation with theological sources to create practical sexual wisdom. Space will be made available for (private) personal reflection and creative expression. Implications for theological education will be discussed.

Revd Dr Carla A. Grosch-Miller is a minister and theological educator specialising in sex and ministry short courses for various ministry training colleges.  She is the author of Psalms Redux: Poems and Prayers (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2014).

Brendan Callaghan, Guided Examen

Brendan Callaghan, Guided ExamenThis workshop takes the form of a guided Ignatian “Examen” – helping people reflect on where and how they encounter God in the sexual dimension of their lives. This will include an introduction from Brendan, followed by 20 minutes’ or so guided silent reflection, followed by a chance to share and discuss (as people are comfortable to), followed by a little plenary discussion.

Revd Dr Brendan Callaghan SJ is Novice Director for the North-Western Europe Provinces of the Jesuits. In addition to his 30 years of academic work in psychology of religion, based at Heythrop College in London and Campion Hall Oxford, he has run numerous workshop courses on sexuality, both for retreat guides and for committed celibates at various stages of their lives.

Christina Beardsley, Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality: Exploring the Interplay

Christina Beardsley, Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality

Gender, Sexuality, Spirituality: Exploring the Interplay is an interactive workshop that builds on trans, queer and intersex perspectives. An exploration of identity, role and practice, it requires honesty and attentive listening from participants. Produced for a day conference at St Anne’s, Soho in 2007, it has been offered (and developed) with LGBT Christian organizations, the LGBT Health Summits 2010 and 2011, and the York Spiritual Directors’ Course in 2012 and 2013. Originally a trans-led workshop, at more recent events leaders have identified as lesbian, gay, and trans, and ‘spirituality’ has always been defined broadly.

Revd Dr Christina Beardsley is Head of Multi-faith Chaplaincy at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London. A member of Sibyls – Christian spirituality for transgender people – Tina is a speaker, writer and activist for LGBTI inclusion in the Church of England   and the author of Unutterable Love (Lutterworth, 2009), a biography of F.W. Robertson.

Rachel Mann, Queering Spiritual Direction

Rachel Mann, Queering Spiritual DirectionThe praxis of Spiritual Direction has a number of well-established orthodoxies, most notably Ignatian, Franciscan and Benedictine, each typically characterized as paths which invite us to become our ‘true’ selves in God. This session explores and interrogates practices of spiritual direction from a queer perspective, examining the exclusions, inclusions, aporia and opportunities for trans* people implicit in traditional notions of ‘Spiritual Direction’. Grounded in my experience as a trans woman, a spiritual director and directee, this session will use queer/deviant readings of Biblical texts and meditative strategies in order to open liberative and creative space for trans* Christians.

Revd Rachel Mann is an Anglican priest and writer based in South Manchester. She is the author of Dazzling Darkness: Gender, Sexuality, Illness and God (Wild Goose, 2012) – a theological memoir about what it means to be a trans, disabled and lesbian Christian – and The Risen Dust: Poems and Stories of Passion and Resurrection (Wild Goose, 2013) A trained philosopher, she regularly broadcasts and writes about the intersections between faith, culture and theory. She is also currently Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral. 

  

Nicola Slee, God-language in Public and Private Prayer as a Place of Integrating Gender, Sexuality and Faith: A Workshop

Nicola Slee, God-language in Public and Private PrayerIn this workshop, we will consider how praying with a range of images of God may aid the process of integrating gender, sexuality and faith (and, conversely, how the use of a limited range of patriarchal God-images can limit that work).  We will explore a range of terms, images and metaphors for God drawn from Christian tradition, in scripture, hymnody, poetry and visual imagery, considering particularly how they represent gender and sexuality in God, and how that may relate to our own sense of ourselves as embodied, sexual, engendered beings.  We will use creative writing as a tool to respond to some of these images for ourselves, as well as consider how we might offer a range of God-language to others, through the leadership of worship, spiritual accompaniment, teaching and ministerial formation.

Dr Nicola Slee is Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, and a well-known feminist practical theologian and poet.  Her most recent publications are Making Nothing Happen: Five Poets Explore Faith and Spirituality (Ashgate, 2014), and The Faith Lives of Women and Girls (Ashgate, 2013). 

 

Susannah Cornwall, Intersex and Formation

 Susannah Cornwall, Intersex and FormationConcerns about intersex and identity are actually broader questions about identity which face all of us, and the process of thinking and working through one’s own sense of one’s gender and sex is likely to better equip one to help others in this part of their journey. In this paper I note some of the questions and challenges intersex candidates may face during selection, training and ministerial formation, before going on to explore some of the theological questions surrounding formation and identity more broadly.

Dr Susannah Cornwall is Advanced Research Fellow in Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on constructive body theologies, and, in particular, the implications of intersex for theologies of sex, gender, sexuality, and theological anthropology. Her books include Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (Equinox, 2010); Controversies in Queer Theology (SCM, 2011); and Theology and Sexuality (SCM, 2013). 

David Nixon, Sod ‘Em, Sod ‘Em, Like There’s No Gomorrah”: Comparing Sexualities Education for Teachers, Doctors and Clergy in the UK

 David Nixon, Sod 'Em, Sod 'Em, Like There's No GomorrahThis seminar paper compares education in the field of sexualities equality, enquiring how teachers, doctors and clergy are prepared for their professional lives. Data from questionnaires and semi-structured interviews are analysed to reveal that although in many outward respects teaching and medicine reflect recent legislative and cultural changes and the Church does not, in more subtle ways these three professions share a common theme of disjunction between policy and practice. There is also some evidence that certain subsections of these professions offer differential degrees of welcome to gay and lesbian individuals. Behind this empirical study lies the theoretical question of the way in which historically these professions have enmeshed together to structure a dominant heteronormativity. Evidence from this research points to some loosening of these historic ties.

Revd Dr David Nixon is Dean of Studies of the South West Ministry Training Course, and was previously a parish priest in Plymouth. He is a research fellow at the University of Exeter, and has undertaken research and publication about the intersections of education, faith and sexualities. His book Stories from the Street: A Theology of Homelessness was published by Ashgate in 2013.

Also (abstract not yet available):

Sharon Ferguson, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and the Senior Pastor for the Metropolitan Community Church North London.

Sharon Ferguson

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“Embodied Ministry” Theological Educators Conference

Rev Jane Fraser has described her journey as a female Anglican priest, in an article in CSCS News (Winter 2013), titled “Reflections on a ‘ministry in sex employment“. She explains that this rather odd description of her work arose when a parishioner either misheard or misunderstood the explanation of the term MSE (Minister in secular employment).  Nevertheless, she uses the term advisedly, because her secular work is indeed, indirectly, involved with “sex employment”: in sex education, especially among sex workers. While this is secular employment, it is also and at the same time, a valuable form of Christian ministry.

This is valuable work, but in addition to the importance of ministry for those involved in sex work, there is also an urgent need for the converse: “sex work”, in the form of sexuality education, for those employed in ministry, and in theological education of all kinds. The revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and later in several other institutions, has brought home to many people the absence or grossly inadequate extent of sexual education in the training of priests, ministers and pastors, across denominational lines. Yet it is often to our pastors, untrained in the complexities of human sexuality, that we may turn for guidance on sexual ethics, or when our sexual lives and relationships become tangled and confused.

It is for this reason that CSCS some years ago launched a “Theological Educators Project”, with the aim of providing support and resources to all those involved in sexuality education for those involved in ministry. This year, the project steps up a gear, with a two day conference at Rippon College, Oxfordshire, on the subject, under the title “Embodied Ministry: Gender, Sexuality and Formation

EmbodiedMinistry flier

Here follows the provisional programme information. More detailed planning is coming along well, and over the next few days we will publish fuller information on the speakers, workshop facilitators, and their topics, together with a call for short papers.

Provisional Programme Information 

Target Audience

Theological educators, those with denominational responsibilities in education, training, and on-going ministerial formation, students, denominational policy-makers.

Objective

The conference will attempt to respond to what appears to be a fault-line, in and across a range of denominations, regarding training and formation in the areas of gender and sexuality.

Aims

Through a combination of plenary presentations, panel discussion, experiential and reflective workshops:

  • To enable open learning, and reflection on the importance of growth in human and sexual maturity, so as to promote effective, inclusive, and non-judgmental pastoral practice.
  • To identify relevant and appropriate academic and human development resources as tools in this journey.
  • To equip those in formational communities to respond to issues of gender and sexuality.

Areas of Focus

  • Gender, sexuality & the pastoral encounter.
  • Sexual maturity and gender identity and awareness in ministry.
  • Integration of gender, sexuality, faith & spirituality.

Speakers / Facilitators (will include)

  • Christina Beardsley – Changing Attitude, England / Sibyls
  • Brendan Callaghan – Campion Hall, Oxford
  • Susannah Cornwall – University of Exeter
  • Sharon Ferguson – Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement / MCC North London
  • Carla Grosch-Miller – URC minister and theological educator
  • Rachel Mann – St Nicholas Burnage, Manchester
  • Martin Pendergast – Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality / Soho Masses
  • Nicola Slee – Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham
  • Adrian Thatcher – University of Exeter

Topics (will include)

  • Integrating sexuality, gender and spirituality
  • Spirituality in the gendered and sexual “broken middle”
  • Themes from Redeeming Gender
  • Negotiating gender transition in formational communities
  • Fifty Shades of Grace: practicing sexual and spiritual integration
  • Intersex, formation and pastoral care
  • Honouring gender fluidity in liturgy and worship
  • Ministry with the families of LGBT people
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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Making Sense of Sex’, Adrian Thatcher

Jane Fraser

 Anyone who has ever felt they needed to leave behind their intellectual understanding and experience of sex on entering the Church’s portals will welcome this book which enables the Christian to do what the title says it does.

 As one would expect from Adrian Thatcher, he manages to present this thesis in a form that is both intellectually and theologically rigorous but which is so clearly written and presented that the intelligent lay person (or in my case, a not so academically minded cleric) can find it accessible and a pleasure to read. It also has the distinct advantage of being short (89 pages in all) and thus a boon to the busy.

 This is one of a series of ‘Making Sense of’ books produced by Modern Church in order to make available to Christians a liberal perspective on their faith. Thatcher very helpfully, therefore, starts by giving a brief discussion of theological sources and the character of Liberal Theology, outlining both what it is not as well as what it is and relating this to the theme of the book. This section is just one of what could almost be seen as stand-alone chapters for those with a specific, rather than a general, reason for picking up this book. For example, those engaged in marriage preparation – both the presenter and the participant – will find a feast of understanding of this sacrament in the chapter, ‘Making Sense of Marriage’.

Thatcher has managed to address the problem that many of us in CSCS are struggling with when he says,

The problem for Christian sexual ethics is that for many people on the fringe of or outside the Church, we have become besotted with sex, and the rows about homosexuality appear to be the final desperate attempts of a Church that has almost completely lost its influence to control what people choose to do with their lives.

He goes on to say that

Sexual desire can lead us away from God…. But (it) can lead us to God. It can drive us out of ourselves to seek connection with a beloved other, and in seeking and making this connection we may also connect with another beloved Other who infinitely desires us.

In this, he echoes much of what Jo Ind had to say in her lively discourse on sex in ‘Memories of Bliss: God, Sex, and Us’ (SCM Press, 2003). She, too, asserts that the core doctrine for Christians is one of love – of God, neighbour and self – and should lie at the heart of a Christian sexual ethic.

 Thatcher is also clear that

God has equipped us for joyful sex, not just reproductive sex.

This statement then becomes the key to his rejection of Christianity’s past repudiation of the body as sinful and thus needing to be controlled. On the contrary, he makes much of the act of sexual intercourse giving us an insight into the love of God. In particular, he examines the concept that the surrendering of the one to the other mirrors the communion of the three persons of the Trinity. Even more tellingly, when discussing the embodiment of love, he points us to Jesus’ establishment of the new covenant between God and humanity in the Eucharist where

Jesus holds nothing back. He gives us his body.

 There is also a feast of clear and unambiguous explanation of the origins of a great deal of the confused and erroneous statements made on the subject of sexual difference and homosexuality. He explains how the ancient world understood biological, gender and orientation difference and then leads us on to examine each of these in the light of modern understanding and thus to ‘good theology’ rather than ‘bad ideology’, concluding

“In the mystery of the Trinity, difference is not allowed to become distorted by allowing silly patterns of dominance and submission to ruin the Communion that God is.”

In making sense of homosexuality, he is likewise scathing of the traditionalist case that

is found to be theologically wanting, and a pastoral disaster.

He gives us a useful summary of the dialogue between two groups of theologians (traditionalists and liberal) on the topic of same-sex relations presented in the December 2011 edition of the journal Anglican Theological Review. Having found the liberal case a disappointment, (and the traditionalists’ case a disgrace!) he then enlightens us with an additional and illuminating critique from a liberal perspective.

 For me, the real ‘icing on the cake’ of this little gem of a book lies in Thatcher’s final section on the fruits of the Spirit, taking each – joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to show how

Life in the Spirit elevates the bonding of shared love into a sacrament of mutual self-giving. It releases love (agape).

 We, as members of CSCS would echo his conclusion.

I long for the day when a robust faith in Christ and a joyful sex life are integrated together for all of God’s children who seek them, irrespective of their status, sex or orientation.”