• 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.
    • 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.
    • Working with the wisdom of the congregation: Theology, learning and organizing in the local church

      Baker, Christopher; Impey, Richard (University of Chester, 2013-05)
      This thesis contends that a pattern of training entitled Parish Development devised by the author in the course of his professional role as a training officer in the Church of England is a new, versatile and valuable training resource for training and development in the Church of England (and potentially for other churches too.) This pattern of training engages with the congregation as a whole, unlike traditional training methods which focus on the individual who is being prepared for, or supported in, a leadership role within and on behalf of the local church. Parish Development enables a congregation to discover important aspects of its own wisdom by constructing an account of its story, size, purposes, outlook, stage on a life cycle and shared values in belonging to this particular congregation. The resulting account will have implications for the way the congregation organizes its life and activities which usually imply that some improving or developmental action can be taken. The account is also relevant to several issues facing congregations both in the normal course of change, like the appointment and induction of a new vicar, or in more substantial change like merging with another parish or sharing clergy. This new pattern of training has been constructed from insights to be found in Congregational Studies and turned into exercises designed to enhance the self understanding of the congregation as a whole. It employs a pedagogy which draws inspiration from Freire, Vella and Wickett in focussing on dialogue and conversation designed to reveal the wisdom already present within the congregation and to build on that. The notion of the wisdom of the congregation has roots in Aristotleʼs use of phronesis, a concept familiar to practical theologians through the writings of Browning and Graham, but just as importantly, it makes sense to congregational members themselves. The theological purpose driving this pattern of training is the desire to build up the local church as the body of Christ. This accords with the congregation as koinonia, an important ecumenical understanding of the church, which is always in need of oikodome or building up. The research interprets data about the impact of this training on four selected case studies. The data consists of locally published reports of the training events, interviews with participants looking back on what happened, and the results of a questionnaire designed to explore the status of contrasting accounts. It also uses eight metaphors for organizations identified by Morgan to provide further insights into the complexity of what is happening. The method is shown to be versatile enough to respond positively to difficult decisions and changes in parish life. It harnesses a hitherto largely ignored resource to explore and contribute to solving significant problems facing the contemporary church. To demonstrate its implementable validity the thesis concludes with a practical proposal for employing this method to address the challenge of declining clergy numbers. An Appendix offers a theological commentary on Parish Development showing that this proposal is in line with contemporary Anglican ecclesiology.