• 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.
    • To what extent is George Lindbeck’s ‘Postliberal’ approach to doctrine helpful for the resolution of contemporary Christian controversies?

      Fulford, Ben; Rodgers, Alasdair M. (University of Chester, 2019-01-15)
      The extensive critical response to George Lindbeck’s book, The Nature of Doctrine, has frequently overlooked the author’s own primary intent to propose an innovative ‘grammatical’ approach to the function of doctrine (or ‘rule theory’), which would explicate, and replicate, observed ecumenical instances of doctrinal ‘reconciliation without capitulation’. This current research evaluates and tests, in a way which has not previously been undertaken by either Lindbeck or his critics, the extent to which a regulative approach to doctrine can provide a fruitful model with which to approach current ecclesial conflicts. This will be achieved by applying a modified version of rule theory within the case study of a contemporary ecclesial conflict. Following a clarification and modification of Lindbeck’s rule theory, I undertook a qualitative analysis of Christian liturgies, autobiographical accounts and position statements in the context of a single controversy (Church of England debates concerning same-sex relationships), to assess the extent to which a modified version of rule theory would provide a useful model with which to approach similar contemporary ecclesial conflicts. An analysis of the beliefs and practices of representative groups (as evident within their liturgies, autobiographical accounts, and descriptions of ‘faithful discipleship’) was undertaken, to ascertain whether operative regulative principles, akin to ‘grammar’, could be identified, and to test whether a comparison of identified ‘grammars’ would prove reconciliatory. The research discovered that the operative ‘grammar’ of different representative groups could be identified and compared, and that the modified version of rule theory had the ability to: disentangle debates about apparently inexorably conflicted positions over particular practices or beliefs; and facilitate a deeper understanding of the regulative principles which shaped interlocutors’ practices and beliefs, which would make a valuable contribution to the debate, but not necessarily in an immediately reconciliatory way. Consequently, this research has discovered that a modified version of rule theory does provide a helpful model with which to approach contemporary controversies, offering the potential for both the discovery of ‘grammatical’ coherence where it is present, and the identification of the true location and extent of ‘grammatical’ differences if they are present. Therefore, the modified version of rule theory under consideration is shown to provide a basis for dialogue which may variously lead to: a recognition of previously obscured ‘grammatical’ coherence; a form of reconciled diversity; the identification of promising areas for the negotiation of a new shared ‘grammar’; or the recognition of the presence of irreconcilably divergent ‘grammars’, which may, in some instances, lead to a degree of ecclesial separation.
    • Towards a Narrative of Hope and Resilience: A Contemporary Paradigm for Christian Pastoral Ministry in the Face of Mortality

      Smith, Alexis (University of Chester, 2014-10)
      Analysis of current pastoral care practice, particularly of Christian pastoral care providers and chaplains, reveals a contemporary lacuna in Christian theological frameworks which contributes to North American Christians’ inability to connect a theological understanding of death with the experience of their human finitude despite the presence of considerable literature on death and dying. This gap deprives many Christians of the possibility of finding a unique and specific source of hope and strength within their own faith tradition for facing crisis. This thesis provides a methodology and theological foundation for a uniquely Christian contribution for facilitating hope, resilience--even transformation--throughout the various stages of life until the time of death. Extensive analysis of Christian views of death, as contrasted with non- Christian views, examined through early Christian writings, late Medieval and early Reformation texts, and the late twentieth century work of Moltmann contributed insights into theological frameworks to remedy the gap and also uncovered themes, metaphors, and language that could be important as Christians interpret life experience and dying. The thesis then utilized three contemporary fields of study to apply the insights into a practical ministry model: (1) research in resilience; (2) Narrative Therapy as developed by White and Epston and utilized by Christian therapists; and (3) hermeneutic theory from Capps, Browning, and Gerkin. Insights from these sources were critically evaluated for application in pastoral counselling, support, and education to help people, both in crisis and when facing death, find a substantial hope that transcends the reality of what they are experiencing. This thesis proposes a distinctively Christian response to death that enables people to retain a sense of their own worth and dignity in order to live meaningful lives until they die. Many people find 21st Century healthcare impersonal and non-empathetic; the work of this theses is intended to be important for helping people regain their sense of self and identity, thereby supporting healing and resilience. In addition, the thesis proposes pedagogic and theological reflection methods that would enhance the practice of chaplains in a rapidly changing healthcare environment that will increasingly require them to demonstrate how their practice enhances the wellbeing of those they serve and provides a contribution that is unique and has value to the healthcare system.