Tag Archives: Brendan Callaghan

Guided Examen

(Workshop to be presented by Revd Dr Brendan Callaghan SJ at the “Embodying Ministry” July 2014 conference of the CSCS Theological Educators Project).

This 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.

Brendan Callaghan, Guided ExamenRevd 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.

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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.


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.


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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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


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


- Accurate self-knowledge

- Empathy

- Interpersonal Sensitivity

- Trust

- Equality

- Capacity for Self-Disclosure

- Spontaneity


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 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’1I 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 individualThe 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.