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“
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
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