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Might women-only spaces in the curriculum for ministerial training better prepare women for future ministry?

Liz Shercliff, Luther King Centre

Initial Description

This project addresses a critical gap in understanding inclusion of women in ministerial training and examines a potential opportunity for overcoming barriers in theological education. The project will also investigate issues of intersectionality. The Luther King Centre is a natural choice as lead partner for this research because of its reputation for inclusion and enthusiasm for innovation.

It has been acknowledged that new pedagogies are needed if Theological Education Institutions are to become fully inclusive (Parker, Decolonising the Curriculum Resources). Proposals such as dialogical teaching methods, a focus on community and decolonisation of the curriculum have been made. Such pedagogies, however, rely on students speaking in the classroom. Recent research argues that ordinands have been socialised to respect fear more than their own need for language (Parker, 2022 Trust in Theological Education, esp. p183; Shercliff, unpublished doctoral thesis). Because there is no discussion of women’s issues in TEIs, women students tend to assume that failures and negative experiences are their own problem. Other research supports this conclusion (Shercliff, 2023). Data shows that women feel enabled to speak about ministerial and training problems in women-only groups. These groups act not only to bring to the surface issues for women in ministry, but also to prepare them for ministry in a church that remains largely patriarchal (Blue, 2012; Parker, 2022). Countering oppression requires oppressors to identify with the oppressed, but this cannot happen if the oppressed are not enabled to speak.

This project explores whether the inclusion of an optional module, ‘Issues for Women in Ministry’ might enable oppressed women to address issues of gender oppression, to speak in the wider classroom context, and might better prepare them for authorised ministry.