• Professional Practice and Pastoral Care: A Critical Analysis of the Manchester United Schoolboy Scholarship 2007 – 2012

      Whelan, Anthony M. (University of Chester, 2014-12)
      The Manchester United Schoolboy Scholarship is a comprehensive football and education programme allied with residential provision. Education takes place at a local High School, and the boys are accommodated with families who are carefully selected by the Club. Thus, talented young players between the age of 12 and 16 receive fulltime coaching and education in preparation for a career in professional football. The research will critically evaluate and assess a football programme for gifted young footballers with a view to constructing an holistic model of player welfare which seeks to address their sporting (football), educational, physical, psychological emotional and spiritual needs. This research will also explore the relevant theological, social and child rights issues relating to this sphere of professional practice. Oral data was assembled by conducting a series of semi-structured interviews with key personnel involved in the scholarship: players, coaches, teachers, parents and house-parents. The transcripts were then evaluated using the qualitative technique of thematic analysis from which five major themes emerged: leaving home, holistic development, life skills, mentoring and pastoral care. Thus the primary issues the thesis is concerned to explore unfold. This includes the sensitive nature of ‘inside’ research at a professional football club. The research discloses evidence of ‘best practice’ and the subtle management of the players’ physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs. In short, the boys’ progress at football was not to the detriment of their holistic development as human beings. However, the data also shows that the collaboration between the coaching and school staff could be further developed and improved for the mutual benefit of both parties. Another important outcome of the research has been my personal and professional development as a reflective practitioner. The multi-disciplinary approach to this investigation has undoubtedly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of how concepts and themes from practical theology and other academic literature have informed my professional practice. The thesis also explores how a ‘child centred’ practical theology within youth sport contributes to the field of pastoral theology as a whole.
    • The human face of God: notes on a journey through practical theology

      Graham, Elaine; orcid: 0000-0002-0358-0624 (Informa UK Limited, 2020-02-23)
    • Micah, Pesher of (ESTJ)

      Collins, Matthew A.; University of Chester
      Encyclopaedia article on the Pesher of Micah.
    • Spiritus Contra Spiritum: Spirituality, Belief and Discipline in Alcoholics Anonymous.

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Equinox, 2020-03-15)
      The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) suggest that the solution to alcohol addiction may be found in ‘a power greater than the self’. Carl Jung, who engaged in a correspondence with one of AA’s founders, asserted that medicine, even analytical psychology, could be of limited use to a sufferer. He agreed with AA that the problem was of a spiritual nature and a solution was to be found in a spiritual awakening. This chapter explores the ways in which members of Alcoholics Anonymous identify their recovery as ‘spiritual’. It demonstrates that much contemporary AA engagement deviates considerably from its Christian theistic roots and sits more comfortably within the holistic milieu. However, the practice of ‘spiritual discipline’ central to the Twelve Step programme captures an easily overlooked feature of AA, and one which also sets it apart from self-soothing and happiness-seeking features of contemporary well-being spirituality.
    • "I should like to learn to have faith," (Bonhoeffer) moving towards a theology of learning

      Robinson, Linda A. (University of Chester, 2014-09)
      This thesis arises from the researcher's experience as a facilitator of adult learning and Professional Doctorate student in practical theology. Its purpose is to contribute to a theology of adult learning.
    • Barth and Hans W. Frei

      Fulford, Ben; University of Chester
      In this chapter, I will summarise the development of Hans Frei’s reading of Karl Barth in order to contextualise his own Christology as an attempt to learn from Barth yet think beyond him on the locus central to all his theology. While we can trace significant lines of continuity between Frei’s Identity of Jesus Christ and Karl Barth as Frei understood him, we can also see it as a bold, risky essay in pursuit of an even more focused attention to the concreteness of God’s presence in Jesus Christ given us in the text of Scripture.
    • A Teleological Mode of Conditionality in Early Buddhism

      Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester
      In addition to the twelve links (nidānas) of dependent arising (paṭicca-samuppāda), early Buddhist texts record a series of stages of the path to awakening, called “preconditions” (upanisās), which in the Pāli Upanisā Sutta (S 12: 23; pts ii.29–31) are joined in one series. Modern western Buddhists take this one series to imply that nidānas and upanisās exemplify an over-arching principle of conditionality. In this article I argue that the upanisās exemplify a distinctively teleological mode of conditionality. I investigate (i) the images of a tree coming to full growth and rain flowing to the seas used to illustrate the upanisās, (ii) the distinctly goal-directed language used in relation to the stages of the path, and finally (iii), I propose, via a discussion of Aristotle on teleology, that the upanisās represent a teleological mode of conditionality, such that each stage of the path becomes the condition for the next, in relation to an aim or goal of awakening. I argue that the series of upanisās has a normative, rather than phenomenological, character, and I compare the series to a recipe. I conclude with the suggestion that the similarity between upanisās and nidānas lies in their being necessary conditions, and that this similarity constitutes a “family resemblance” (in Wittgenstein’s phrase). The over-arching principle of conditionality is not a feature of reality over and above such a family resemblance.
    • “The Great Story on Which the Plot Turns”: Cruciformity in C.S. Lewis’ Narrative Spiritual Theology

      Dickieson, Brenton (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-05)
      This thesis presses in on C.S. Lewis’ extremely diverse corpus to explore his integrative narrative spirituality of the cross. Chapter one argues that Lewis’ concept of spiritual self-death and resurrection is lacking critical treatment despite the spirituality of the cross that I argue is deeply woven into the fabric of Lewis’ poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and letters. This cross-shaped spirituality, what Michael Gorman calls “cruciformity,” is central to Lewis’ understanding of Christian life. Though neglected because of readings of Lewis that reduce him to the role of an apologist, chapter one surveys occasional notes about this death-and-resurrection motif in Lewis scholarship and provides definitions for methodological approaches to the study. Following definitions of spiritual theology by Eugene Peterson, chapter two turns from systematic theological explorations of Lewis to consider him as a spiritual theologian, a move that is organic to his theological enterprise, his epistemology, and his fiction. Chapter three explores Gorman’s biblical-theological approach to Pauline cruciformity, arguing that there is a six-point Logic of Cruciformity in Lewis’ so-called apologetics writings that moves past and refocuses Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. As Lewis’ spirituality is embedded in narrative form within poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, chapter four explores “The Shape of Cruciformity” in Lewis’ œuvre, using Northrop Frye’s narratology and J.R.R. Tolkien’s theory of eucatastrophe to argue that there is a comedic, U-shaped pattern of cruciform imagery in Lewis’ fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Chapter five interrogates Lewis’ integrative, normative narrative cruciformity with feminist theological critique, provoked by Anna Fisk’s concerns about cross-shaped spiritualities in women’s experiences. A response to this problematisation reveals an inversive quality inherent to Lewis’ thought that is itself U-shaped, comedic, and eucatastrophic. Chapter six explores this inversive U-shaped thinking central to Lewis’ theological project, arguing that the shape of cruciformity in Lewis is the shape of his spiritual theology. I conclude the thesis with “sacred paradoxes” in Lewis’ thought that invite further work and deepen our understanding of Lewis’ concept of spiritual life, thus inviting a prophetic self-critique for Christian believers.
    • Ministry Patterns of Clergy Married to Clergy within an Ecosystem of Power in the Church of England

      Collingridge, Susan, R. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-07)
      There have been clergy married to clergy (CMC) in the Church of England for over thirty years yet their ministries are little understood and there is limited consistency of practice regarding CMC in the church. This work aims to address both problems. The thesis argues that CMC patterns of ministry are formed during their careers within an ecosystem of power: a complex network of elements and forces acting on and in reaction to each other. The CMC ecosystem of power is akin to ecosystems in nature. It includes dyadic dynamics and extends to family and local ministry contexts, diocese and wider church. CMC are subject to various types of power and can also exert influence. For this study 15 CMC individuals were interviewed from a range of dioceses, ministry contexts and life-stages. Each interview was structured by constructing a timeline of ministry/job changes and key personal and family events. The emerging picture of CMC patterns of ministry from qualitative interview data was enriched by quantitative data from participants’ timelines to illuminate factors influencing their ministry patterns. My research indicates that CMC experience the effect of the church’s authority in negative or positive ways, most emphatically during the early period of selection, initial training and curacy. CMC are doubly vulnerable to external constraints from the institution because both spouses are dependent on the church for work, home and income. Further constraints come from liabilities, responsibilities and expectations within family and wider social networks. CMC moderate their vulnerability through adhering to ‘independent’, ‘tangential’ or ‘integrated’ models of ministry. In the light of such choices they make decisions about applying for jobs, leaving posts and engaging in part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid, parish or non-parochial ministry. Within CMC ecosystems of power, support and competition influence how CMC ministries develop, notably within the CMC dyad (couple), the most distinctive feature of CMC ministry life. CMC spouses offer reciprocal support through understanding, practical and professional help, echoing the mutuality in natural ecosystems. CMC also decide whether one partner’s ministry has priority and which one takes precedence at different times. I argue that competition between CMC partners has the potential to create a positive outcome of growth and development for CMC by creating awareness of asymmetry and encouraging development of their personal and professional relationship. I make suggestions for future research and indicate limitations to this study. I propose recommendations for improved practice with CMC in the Church of England such as greater openness about diocesan policies and more consistent training for senior clergy.
    • Book review: Jürgen Moltmann, Ethics of Hope

      Clough, David L.; University of Chester
      The review surveys the four parts of Moltmann's book. It concludes that the book leaves the reader in no doubt that an ethics of hope that attends to the significance of Moltmann’s eschatological and ecological insights would be a very valuable contribution to theological ethics, but in no less doubt that, in order to do justice to this task, more needs saying with more deliberative care than has been possible here. Moltmann’s clear continuing passion for Christian engagement with God’s transforming of a world in which so many of God’s creatures stand in need of release from injustice and oppression should be ample inspi- ration for such an endeavour.
    • A Christian Case for Farmed Animal Welfare

      Adam, Margaret B.; Clough, David L.; Grumett, David; University of Chester; University of Chester; University of Edinburgh (MDPI, 2019-12-11)
      It is now common to blame Christianity for broader society’s general inattention to the needs and comfort of animals in general, and farmed animals in particular. This critique of Christianity claims that certain biblical themes and biblical passages form the foundation for an anti- animal position that Christianity has imposed on Christians and on wider Western society. This article concedes that Christianity has often been used to justify exploitation of animals, but argues that it is a mistake to consider Christianity inevitably opposed to concern for animals. After reviewing the views of critics such as Lynn White Jr., Peter Singer, and Tom Regan, the article demonstrates the complexity of interpreting biblical passages and the possibility of readings that affirm the importance of treating animals well. It shows that Christians have indeed been advocates animals, notably in relation to the first legislation against animal cruelty in the early nineteenth century and the formation of the RSPCA. Finally, it proposes a constructive framework for a Christian ethics of farmed animal welfare that could provide the basis for Christian action to reduce consumption of animals and shift to higher welfare sources.
    • ‘Preconditions’: The Upanisā Sutta in Context

      Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester
      The Upanisā Sutta (Saṃyutta Nikāya 12: 23) has been interpreted as presenting an overarching account of conditionality, joining the twelve nidānas of paṭicca-samuppāda with a further series of positive factors (upanisās) leading to awakening. The discourse has a parallel preserved in Chinese translation. A close reading of these versions shows how the series of upanisās belongs to a ‘family’ of upanisā discourses. The connection of the series to the twelve nidānas appears rhetorical rather than doctrinal. The concept of upanisā in Pāli literature is related to the concept of upaniṣad in Vedic literature, and upanisā was also a topic of debate in the ascetic milieu of ancient India. The Buddhist concept of upanisā emerges as that of a supportive inner state that is a necessary condition for achieving the aim of liberation. I propose to translate upanisā as ‘precondition’.
    • Diverse Excellencies: Jonathan Edwards on the Attributes of God

      Rigney, Joseph, J. (University of Chester, 2019-03-03)
      This thesis explores Jonathan Edwards’s view of God’s attributes in light of his Trinitarian theology. In particular, I argue that, contrary to the claims of some Edwards scholars, Edwards clearly affirms the doctrine of divine simplicity throughout his writings as it was held among the Reformed scholastics. Through an exposition of his Discourse on the Trinity in light of its historical and polemical context, I demonstrate both Edwards’s orthodoxy and his distinct innovations in expressing the orthodox view of the Trinity. Notably, I show that Edwards distinguishes the persons of the Godhead by means of a strong psychological account of the Trinity positing that the only real distinctions in God are those of being, understanding, and will, which correspond to the three persons of the Godhead. Additionally, Edwards maintains the unity of the Godhead by appeal to divine simplicity, whereby “everything (real) in God is God.” Finally, Edwards upholds the personhood of each person through the biblical doctrine of perichoresis. This exposition enables me to respond to a variety of criticism of Edwards’s trinitarianism. The second part of my thesis unfolds Edwards’s attribute classification system as it proceeds from his trinitarianism and his account of the God-world relation. Edwards distributes attributes in two primary ways. First, he distributes attributes into real attributes, which simply are the persons of the Godhead, and modal or relative attributes, which are real attributes in relation to creation. Second, he distributes attributes into natural attributes and moral attributes, based on whether they are reducible to God’s being and understanding on the one hand, or reducible to God’s will on the other. Within relative attributes, I demonstrate further distinctions such as capacity attributes, which are sufficiencies in God to certain effects and which are relatively dormant until God wills to create, and negative attributes, which Edwards surprisingly includes within relative attributes on the basis of the fact that they deny some creaturely quality to God and thereby depend upon creation’s existence for their intelligibility. I conclude by bringing Edwards’s taxonomy of attributes to bear on the question of divine freedom and creation’s necessity, showing that while Edwards does differ in some ways from his Reformed forebears, he does not hold, as some scholars claim, that God is essentially creative and that creation is necessary. Rather, Edwards employs the category of “fitness” to describe God’s acts of communicating his glory and the employment of creation as a means to that end.
    • Rethinking our treatment of animals in light of Laudato Si’

      Clough, David L.; University of Chester (Routledge, 2019-09-19)
      The encyclical Laudato Si’ builds on and extends previous Roman Catholic church teaching on animals to affirm their value as beloved creatures of God and reject anthropocentric claims that they were created merely to provide for human needs. It draws on the Franciscan tradition to affirm other animals as our sisters and brothers, and notes that these relationships have implications for our treatment of animals. The encyclical fails to connect concern for other-than-human animals with critiques of industrial animal agriculture, however, which is an odd omission given its consideration of other practical issues such as the genetic manipulation of plant and animals, its express concern for biodiversity, and its call for an ecological conversion in the context of climate change. This chapter begins by surveying the valuable framework the encyclical sets up for understanding the place of animals in Christian theology and ethics. It then describes how we are using animals for food today. Finally, it makes the case that the encyclical’s framework demands obvious and urgent changes in the way we make use of other animals for food.
    • When the personal Call to Ordained Ministry is not recognised by the Church: Implications for Selection and Pastoral Care

      Routledge, Robin; Dyer, Anne; Gubi, Peter M. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-05-01)
      The effect of not being recommended for ordained ministry when a person is convinced of their personal Calling can be devastating, and it is a phenomenon that is under-researched. The research question is: ‘How does having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impact at a psychological and theological level?’ The aims of the research are: To explore how having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impacts on individuals at a psychological and theological level; and to better understand the implications for selection and pastoral care. The core purpose of this research is to enable better pastoral care during and after the discernment and selection processes. Structured by Swinton’s and Mowat’s (2006) Practical Theological Reflection model and contextualised within the Church of England, eight Diocesan Directors of Ordinands (DDOs) [Stage 1] and nine non-recommended applicants (NRAs) [Stage 2] were interviewed to determine their experience of selection and how they theologically and psychologically made sense of non-selection. The data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In Stage 1, four superordinate themes emerged: Vocation; Selection processes; Theological perspective; Pastoral care; along with thirty-seven subordinate themes. In Stage 2, four superordinate themes emerged: Pursuing ordination; BAP experience; Pastoral care; Making sense; along with twenty-three subordinate themes. The thick data reveal the lived experiences and ‘sense-making’ of the participants from psychological and theological perspectives. In reformulating revised practice, a number of recommendations are made, that: a) the way that vocations are ‘marketed’ and encouraged needs refocussing; b) the vulnerability surrounding the process of responding to Calling to ordained ministry is akin to a ‘coming out process’; c) appropriate training is provided for incumbents and congregations to raise their awareness of the issues surrounding non-recommendation; d) incumbents be in Pastoral Supervision; e) training be given to Vocations Advisors, DDOs and Bishops which highlights the ways that spiritual abuse and inappropriate behaviour can occur in the discernment process; f) dioceses work more coherently to establish ‘best practice’ in the discernment process; g) safeguarding systems be put in place centrally to which candidates can complain/appeal when perceived spiritual abuse or inappropriate behaviour occurs; h) there is greater transparency in the sharing of reports and references with applicants; i) Canon C4 be reassessed; j) counselling be offered to candidates throughout the process of discernment, and after, as needed; k) the value of the BAP process be re-evaluated; l) opportunity for debriefing immediately after the BAP be offered; m) the wording of reports consider the impact of the words on the recipient; n) the discernment process pays attention to other forms of vocation than ordained ministry; o) issues of sexual discrimination are mitigated against and prohibited.
    • Salvation as Praxis

      Morris, Wayne; University of Chester (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014-01-02)
      Will people of other faiths be 'saved' and to what extent should the response to this question shape Christian engagements with people of other faiths? Historically, the predominant answer to these questions has been that the person of another faith will not be saved and is therefore in need of conversion to Christianity for their salvation to be possible. Consequently, it has been understood to be the obligation of Christian persons to convert people of other faiths. More recent theologies of religions for the past half century and more have sought to reconsider these approaches to soteriology. This has sometimes led to a reaffirmation of the status quo and at other times to an alternative soteriological understanding. In seeking to articulate soteriologies that make logical and doctrinal sense, too often these new approaches to salvation and people of other faiths have paid little attention to questions of practice. Drawing on alternative understandings of soteriology as deification, healing, and liberation, each perspective having ancient roots in the Christian tradition, it is argued that salvation can be understood as form of concrete earthly practice. Understood in this way, this book considers how these alternative theologies of salvation might shape Christian practices in a way that departs from a history in which the person of another faith has been perceived as a threat to Christianity and therefore in need of conversion. Further it asks how the complex multi-faith world of the twenty-first century might better inform and shape the way in which Christian theologies frame soteriological understandings.
    • The Gift of Leaven: A new feminist theological praxis for urban church

      Dawson, Claire L (University of Chester, 2019-09)
      This thesis documents my research quest into the post-regeneration community of Bootle, North Liverpool. A Housing Market Renewal Initiative had decimated the area. As a Church of England minister, I was struggling to find signs of life and had no theological paradigm in which to situate my ministerial practice. My argument is that the current arborescent theology and practices of the Church of England have excluded the phronēsis of white working-class women and have failed to deliver a life-sustaining praxis for urban church. I argue for a reprioritisation of the poor and the inclusion of marginalised voices; allowing these voices to shape and define the academy as opposed to letting the academy shape which voices are to be heard. I came to this research holding a feminist and liberative theological standpoint: prioritising and privileging the voices of women and those on the margins. My research design adopts a feminist and narrative methodological framework in its quest to uncover the hidden phronēsis of the Bootle women. The transcripts of their lives are analysed using a thematic network analysis which generates three global themes: hope; placed and particular; and the death space. This thematic network is the main finding of my research quest and is the Gift of Leaven: the distilled phronēsis of the Bootle women. This research project is multidisciplinary. The Gift of Leaven is brought into conversation with voices from social science; public urban theology; feminist theology; and urban geography. Through a spiralling process of theological reflection the strands of a new feminist theological praxis for urban church are defined. What I produce in this thesis is a new feminist praxis for urban church from the underside of life and from voices that are notably absent from academia and ecclesiology. This new praxis is not a carefully-crafted mission action plan of how the Church should engage in urban life. What is offered instead is a new way of seeing and feeling the urban. This is situated within the lo cotidiano and objects of the ordinary and is revealed through fragments; it is new women’s knowledge coming to birth in women’s story and women’s song. It does not readily offer quick social or theological fixes to life’s fissures. It provides a way of flourishing and life from a different paradigm, and that paradigm is the phronēsis of the Bootle women. It is the women themselves who become the heralds of good tidings and the God bearers. They bring the Gift of Leaven for the whole community so that bread may be baked and the wounded body fed. The task is now to make space so their voices can be heard.
    • Seeing and Showing the Unseen: Towards a Methodology of Utilizing Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Preaching that Employs Metaphors and Images

      Szumorek, Adam P (University of Chester, 2018-12)
      This thesis suggests ways in which Cognitive Linguistics can be employed in hermeneutics and homiletics to enhance the methodology of using metaphors and images in sermons to convey the meaning of biblical texts in general and biblical metaphors in particular. Considering the fact that Cognitive Linguistics is a secular and pragmatic science, I begin my study with providing a theological framework for applying it to hermeneutics and homiletics by referring to the idea of God’s revelation. In order to justify using metaphors and images in sermons I show that biblical revelation abounds with images because God revealed himself creating people in his image, that Christ is the perfect image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ. In order to show how Cognitive Linguistics can contribute to preaching, basic assumptions of this theory are presented. Some general heuristic principle for the interpretation of biblical metaphors seen as a part of wider discourse are formulated. Finally, the thesis shows the practical implications of applying Cognitive Linguistics to preaching which can be seen in the proposed methodology of reworking existing biblical metaphors and creating new metaphors that convey the meaning of biblical texts that might be non-metaphorical. The whole thesis concludes with a practical scheme of developing macro and micro sermon imagery.
    • Sermon listening among the Croatian Baptists: A New Approach Based on Congregational Studies and Rhetoric

      Seba, Enoh (University of Chester, 2019-04)
      The recent homiletical literature reveals the 'turn to the listener' as a widespread trend of attempting to minimize the gap between the pulpit and the pew and indicates the increase in the reappropriation of various rhetorical contributions. At the same time, the development of congregational studies has encouraged practical theologians to conduct empirical studies in order to explore the highly contextual nature of sermon listeners' involvement in the practice of preaching. The investigation of my immediate context, however, proves that preaching holds a precious place in the theology and life of Croatian Baptist churches, but also identifies the absence of empirical research that probes their preaching practice from the hearers' perspective. These are the reasons why this study is motivated by the following research question: What are the real expectations and receptiveness of the Croatian Baptists as sermon listeners, and how can these findings be utilised to improve the quality of preaching? To become able to articulate dependable answers, I conducted a qualitative field study based on a phenomenological approach, using semi-structured interviews with eighteen members of five local Baptist congregations located in four Croatian towns. The gathered feedback was interpreted by means of three rhetorical modes of appeal (logos, ēthos, and pathos) which served a purpose of identifying their actual expectations and (dis)engaging factors that direct their listening participation and sermon reception. The same data was submitted to critical theological reflection, aiming at the theological warrants for the constructive suggestions for the transformation of preaching practice. The findings from the research demonstrate that participants tend to hold a high view of preaching, and yet many of them report the unmet expectations which may lead to lowering their expectations. Among the most prominent interviewees' expectations are: hope that the sermon will provide direction in their everyday life, desire to meet God during the sermon and to have their devotional reading of the Bible enhanced by sermon listening, a longing to have their spiritual batteries recharged, and anticipation that preaching should question their status quo and challenge them to change themselves. Also, the study indicates that triggering the listeners' identification boosts their reception of the message and promotes their engagement. Although these particular findings are not generalisable, they nevertheless point to the possibility of an important implication: backing up the listeners' expectations with their active responsibility for the preaching may transform the entire practice into a constructive enterprise that bridges the gap between hearers and preachers. The specific suggestions, based on the study findings, to the preachers and listeners in Croatian Baptist churches may serve both as an illustration of how preaching can be reestablished as a truly congregational practice and as an impetus for further studies in different contexts.
    • What is the meaning of equal marriage in the Church of England?

      Henwood, Gillian (University of Chester, 2019-01)
      The Church of England’s traditional theology of marriage between one man and one woman is protected in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 from reforms to civil law to include same-sex couples. Within the Church of England, same-sex couples who enter civil unions (of partnership or marriage) are not permitted to have a service in church to celebrate with prayer for God’s blessing. Clergy in civil partnerships are not permitted by the Church of England to convert their union to civil marriage if they hold a bishop’s licence to practice. This research questions the meaning of equal relationships, both marriage and same-sex unions, to test three of the benefits of marriage asserted by the Church to the UK Government: mutuality, fidelity, and the biological complementarity of the couple with the possibility of procreation (Church of England, 2012). A methodology of practical theology, where my practice-based research leads to theory that reforms practice, fosters dialogue among voices of theology within the context of the Church of England. A postliberal interdisciplinary approach recognises plural meanings within my research field and adopts narrative methods for data generation, analysis, interpretation and presentation. Theologies of equal marriage and union, interpreted from narratives co-constructed with my participants, are brought into conversation with premodern liturgies for blessings of unions of Christian harmony and peace, seeking a fusion of horizons expressed through performed ritual. This research argues that two of the Church’s benefits of marriage, mutuality and fidelity, are embodied in all participants’ marriages and civil partnerships, but challenges the Church’s third benefit, because it is stated as derived from acknowledgement of an underlying biological complementarity of the couple. Changes in the legal and social contexts in England, academic research literature in the fields of gender and sexuality, and evidence from research participants’ lived practices lead to reinterpretation of the third benefit as responsible choices for parenting and the nurture of children in a pro/creative relationship. Implications for the Church of England are that emerging theologies in this research mandate policy changes, to lift the Church’s prohibition of services in church after same-sex civil unions and to pilot new liturgies of blessing. For mixed-sex couples to marry each other in a liturgy of Christian equal marriage, this research offers two areas for light revision of the Church’s contemporary liturgy to provide alternative options: gender-neutral language and rubrics, and nuanced language expressing loving intimacy rather than specific emphasis on sexual union. These changes will enable the Church of England to renew Christian marriage based on a recovered and reinterpreted theology of Christian unions of harmony and peace, so that couples can celebrate in church with prayer for God’s blessing either through marriage or a service after their civil union.