Tag Archives: sexuality

A Lesson from a Real Life “Pastoral Encounter”

At the CSCS “Embodied Ministry” conference, the final plenary session dealt with “Gender and Sexuality in the Pastoral Encounter”, in which three panellists each contributed a short personal perspective. Rev Carla Grosch – Miller focused on the words, “pastoral encounter”:

Carla Grosch - Miller

The word “encounter” is provocative. It suggests the possibility that we will change each other, that our conversation will be converting.

I want to take note of the opportunities inherent in pastoral encounters that touch on gender and sexuality, and then tell a story. My particular interest in pastoral encounters is in enabling a personal encounter to impact the larger setting in which we operate, perhaps to stimulate other encounters and conversations that move the body of Christ towards greater wholeness.

Opportunities in Pastoral Encounters:

· Surface the feelings and truths in the situation

· Affirm a person’s reality and make the space for them to work with it

· Equip and enable the right response for the person and the situation

· Constructively engage all the sources of theology – scripture, tradition, reason, experience

A story:

It was the beginning of the second day. I hadn’t slept well. The first day had ended with a strong statement by a participant that sex belonged only in marriage, God-ordained between one man and one woman. No one had risen to articulate a different view. A heavy silence hung over the class as we disbanded.

I had laboured to make the space safe and open. The participants held diverse theological viewpoints; I had hoped that we could teach each other as we explored this sensitive topic. As I tossed and turned that night, I wondered how, in my striving to make the space safe for all, I had empowered primarily those who kept to the party line.

At breakfast “Michael” approached me. “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,” he said. “Can you say more?”, I asked. He then told me his story: the 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. Michael became strident in his opposition to homosexuality, until he couldn’t bear the dissonance between what his heart knew and what his tradition taught. He went to his pastor and confessed his struggle. The pastor promptly removed him from all church responsibilities. Michael left and continued to wrestle issues of sex and faith. He came to accept his sexuality 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. He said “Yes.”

I began the class (after psalm and prayer) with a statement that at the conclusion of class 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. Michael raised his hand and told his story.

The impact of the story was to transform the space, opening and warming it. Some thanked him for his courage. People who held the heterosexual marriage only viewpoint acknowledged that, while their opinions were strong, there was a need for pastoral sensitivity when dealing with this subject. (Indeed, the two most vocal protagonists of that view approached Michael during the tea break to speak with him.) The remainder of the course was marked by great sensitivity, which enabled others later to speak openly about struggles with internet pornography.

Michael later described the experience of the first day as extremely painful, triggering all the hurtful, destructive, unloving things he had heard as a young man. He knew he either had to live with the anger and survive the rest of the course or say something. He would have wanted to say something judgmental and angry, engaging with the issue theologically, but with my encouragement decided he would just tell his story. He couldn’t have done that on day one because “it would have felt like I was playing the victim, changing the discourse to a different, emotional level which didn’t seem fair”. But that second morning, he felt he could offer it in the structure of a conversation about the sources of theology.

When he opened his mouth to speak to the group, he thought “Oh my God, what am I about to do?” He knew that people would see him in a different light forever after. But once he began, the atmosphere in the room changed. He got visual clues of support around the room: thumbs up, smiles, tears. He immediately felt relief – having said all that was on his heart, not repressing or bottling anger. The man next to him, who was theologically more traditional, put his arm around him when he finished.

“The best thing”, Michael said, “was the spirit of generosity, openness and honesty –real listening to each other– treating each other as sisters and brothers, once we got over the hurdles of fear, doubt and hurt…. ‘Hearing’ each other into speech’[1] summed up the whole experience of the course……the Holy Spirit was definitely there.”

2014 July 10 14:45

© Carla A. Grosch-Miller, 2014


[1] I had titled one of the sessions “hearing each other into speech”, a feminist strategy (Morton, 2001, 178 n.1, 209-210).

(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, available from  Canterbury Press Ifollow the link).

Contact Rev Grosch – Miller at cagroschmiller@yahoo.co.uk

 

Catholic Bishops’ “Working Document” on Marriage, Family

In preparation for the October “Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family”, the Vatican has released an “Instrumentum Laboris” (or working document), bringing together the submissions from national bishops’ conferences on their findings from the global consultation on marriage and family that was conducted during 2013. The actual conduct and quality of that consultation varied widely across the world. In the best examples, such as the Swiss, it was conducted by expert practitioners in social research. In the worst, lay people were not in fact consulted at all, with the bishops alone responding on their behalf, in consultation only with their priests. In between, bishops simply asked the people to answer the questions that had been prepared by the Vatican, questions that were not designed for lay people, and that many people in fact found confusing or impossible to answer. Nevertheless, Catholics around the world responded with enthusiasm, and questionnaires were completed in vast numbers.

bishops

When the bishops in some countries began to release their own results, it soon became clear what was already known from prior secular research: in general terms, Catholics as a whole simply do not agree with or comply with Catholic sexual teaching, on a wide range of issues, and particularly not on contraception.

The working document just released, largely corroborates that view – but draws from it the rather simplistic conclusion that the reason is that Catholics don’t understand the teaching, and that the Church must find ways to present its teaching more effectively. There is no recognition at all, that the real problem could be quite different – that perhaps there might be flaws in the teaching itself.

For the full text, see the Vatican website:

For news reports and commentary on the document, see:

New Issue: “Theology & Sexuality”.

Just published is Volume 19, no 1.

Theology & Sexuality

8 Articles in this issue are:

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 18, no 2

7 articles this issues:

Theology & Sexuality

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 18, no 1

6 Articles in this issue:

Theology & Sexuality

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 17, no 3

7 Articles in this issue:

Theology & SexualityEditorial Kent L. Brintnall
The Rainbow Connection Patrick S. Cheng
In God’s House Michael Sepidoza Campos
Balanced Genitals Joseph N. Goh
How Religious Communities Can Help LGBTIQQ Asian Americans to Come Home Gina Masequesmay
Coming Home/Coming Out Su Yon Pak

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 17, no 2

11 Articles in this issue:

Theology & Sexuality

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 17, no 1

5 Articles in this issue:

Theology & Sexuality

Reclaiming the Heritage of Saints Serge and Bacchus: Towards a Quixotic Gay-Affirmative, Pro-Animal, Vegetarian Christianity

Ronald E. Long

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

A Poem: Calling (or how to internalize oppression)

Heather Janet Barfoot 
With your orientation, you have to be celibate.

Who says?

God.

In the Bible? Where?

I’m not quite sure.

My parents are still hoping for grandchildren

and Michael (to my parents ‘Lizzi’)

wouldn’t understand.

What to do?

Celibacy makes me think

of RC priests.

Well, I could wear skirts.

and Michael wouldn’t be so hurt

and the parents would think it an honourable calling.

(“Sad about the grandchildren though”).

I suppose I’d better start studying.

Well, I won’t be alone,

they say there’s quite a lot of us –

don’t tell the Pope…

                               December 2012

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“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 16, no 2

9 Articles in this issue:

Theology & Sexuality
Editorial Gerard Loughlin and Elizabeth Stuart
Judaic Perspectives on Pornography Jonathan Kadane Crane
Bodies Bound for Circumcision and Baptism: An Intersex Critique and the Interpretation of Galatians Joseph A. Marchal
An Interpretation of Evangelical Gender Ideology: Implications for a Theology of Gender Thomas V. Frederick

Acting Out Abstinence, Acting Out Gender: Adolescent Moral Agency and Abstinence Education Melissa D. Browning
Isherwood, Lisa, and Mark D. Jordan (eds). Dancing Theology in Fetish Boots: Essays in Honour of Marcella Althaus-Reid (Book Review) Kent Brintnall
Blyth, Caroline. The Narrative of Rape in Genesis 34: Interpreting Dinah’s Silence (Book Review) Deryn Guest
Scholz, Susanne. Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible (Book Review) Timothy J. Sandoval
Books Received

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.