• Making sense of sex and faith: An exercise in poetic practical theology

      Graham, Elaine L.; Grosch-Miller, Carla A. (University of Chester, 2013-09)
      The aim of this research is heuristic, seeking andragogical strategies that may facilitate sexual-spiritual integration in ministerial training. The lived experience of sex and faith of seven Christian ordinands and a newly ordained minister was collected by interview and examined. Sex (sexuality and sexual expression) was revealed to be an arena for the development of identity, moral agency and the capacity for relationship, all of which are components of spirituality. Sex and sense-making about sex is a liminal space in which personal sexual experience, the Christian tradition, and other knowledge are wrestled and a “faithfully realistic” personal sexual ethic is created. This is the creation of practical wisdom, a poetic phronesis. The phenomenology of sexual-spiritual integration through poetic phronesis is theorised to be inherent in the moral creativity of human beings. Personal sexual knowledge is tacit and subjugated, and there are significant barriers in the Church which disable sexual reflexivity. The argument is made for an intentional andragogy that creates and resources the liminal space in which sexual phronesis takes place. The features of such an andragogy include: the bounding of sacred space, critical engagement with all four sources of theology (scripture, tradition, reason and experience), attending to the ethos of the training institution and the classroom, invitations to engage personal sexual experience through oblique methods, and opportunities for respectful conversation. Ordinands should be encouraged to cultivate a habit of sexual reflexivity and equipped to manage the sexual power and vulnerability inherent in the ministerial role. It is further theorised that the personal sexual sense-making of poetic phronesis is a micro-example of how lived experience may develop Christian tradition through poetic practical theology. Experience is reclaimed as a potential source of theology, validated by its fruits. Poetics as an emergent method and model of practical theology is posited as a means by which experience may enter into critical-liminal conversation with other sources of theology, advancing the tradition. The thesis is written so as to evoke personal sense-making, the medium echoing the message. Metaphor, poetry and story leaven more traditional academic prose to create liminal space in which the reader may be invited into sexual reflexivity.