Rethinking Church and Sexuality: London Conference

One of the features of last year’s extensive publicity over sexual abuse and Catholic clergy, was the appallingly inadequate preparation that priests received in their training for matters of sexuality – their own, or that of others in their pastoral care. To some extent, the attention given to sexual abuse over the past few years has dramatically improved the position for those currently in training, but much remains to be done. For evidence of this, we need only consider the response of some bishops to works such as “The Sexual Person” (by the lay Catholic theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler), which the US Bishops attacked simply because its findings conflicted with Church teaching – without any serious attempt to engage in the evidence and thoughtful reasoning the book presented. We can also point to the ignorance displayed by others who casually cite “nature” as support for Church teaching, when the overwhelming weight of evidence from the real world, whether in the animal kingdom or from human anthropology, flatly contradicts it, or who argue against “redefining” marriage, with no recognition at all of how marriage has been constantly redefined over the centuries, often directly by the church itself.

It is obvious to a careful observer that there are many signs of renewed attention being paid to rethinking several aspects of sexuality. One of these is an upcoming London conference on the preparation of priests and pastoral workers for dealing with matters of sexuality.  (Full disclosure: one of the speakers, and one of the organisers, are friends and colleagues of mine through the Soho Masses). I will e booking my own place soon, and hope to report on the proceedings later.

For information meanwhile, here is the full press release for the event:

The Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality

Britain’s only inter-Church organisation dealing with the broad range of human sexuality issues, The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality (CSCS), has been exploring how clergy and pastoral workers across the denominations are being prepared, personally and academically, to respond to concerns related to sexuality, faith and spiritual growth. Lack of formation in sexual maturity and related issues have also been highlighted in various reports dealing with sexual abuse and the Church, including the Ryan and Murphy Reports in Ireland.

CSCS’s 2011 Conference: Celebrating our Sexuality: Preparing Future Church Leaders for Pastoral Care, 12 February 2011, brings together two speakers who have contributed to the project over the past 18 months. Brendan Callaghan SJ, a Catholic priest and psychologist, is Master of Campion Hall, Oxford, and has facilitated workshops around sexuality and spirituality for various Christian groups, including those in formation for ordination. He appeared in the recent BBC2 series, The Big Silence. Carla Grosch Miller, ordained in the United Church of Christ (US), ministers  to United Reformed Church congregations in the Oxford area. A former civil rights attorney in Alaska, she lectures in the theology of sexuality, sexual ethics and sex in ministerial training programmes. She is currently doing doctoral work on the link between sexuality and spirituality.

This ground-breaking conference takes place on Saturday 12 February 2011 at URC Church House, 86 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RT. The Conference cost is £25.00 (£20.00 – unwaged), including lunch and refreshments. A deductable £10.00 deposit is required and the balance may be paid on the day. Booking forms are available from Martin Pendergast, CSCS, PO Box 24632, London E9 6XF. Late bookings by phone: 0151 6300749.Cheques payable to ‘CSCS’.

The day includes CSCS’s Annual General Meeting which non-members are welcome to attend in a non-voting capacity. Registration and refreshments are available from 11.00 am  and the conference ends at 16.00 pm.

Further details: Martin Pendergast, CSCS Chair – 020 8986 0807

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