Few topics provoke such heated debate as sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity—particularly in faith communities. The Episcopal Church is developing resources to help navigate potentially difficult conversations on the subjects of sex, sexuality, and spirituality, as well as the impact of a shifting theology of marriage. Recently, General Seminary professor Westina Matthews received a grant from The Episcopal Evangelism Society to develop a program and workbook that uses contemplative practices to explore issues of human sexuality. As part of its pilot, the program was offered as a one-day retreat at Trinity Wall Street in October 2016 and as an intensive weekend and practicum spiritual direction course with the Center for Christian Spirituality in April 2017. Tommie Lee Watkins Jr. (’16), the Associate Rector and Associate Chaplain at Canterbury Chapel, Tuscaloosa, AL, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Alabama School of Social Work, is assisting as a guest lecturer and subject matter expert.
“In this workbook, we will not attempt to convince others to adopt any one view, but rather provide guideposts on how to provide a sacred and safe space to share knowledge, and to facilitate open and honest discussion,” says Matthews. “By doing so, we hope to bring new life and members to the mainline church and to work toward greater reconciliation of those who hold different or even opposing theological ideas.”