Training Sessions Held On Curriculum

Episcopal News Service. August 6, 1987 [87167]

NEW YORK (DPS, Aug. 6) -- A new Episcopal Church curriculum addressing spiritual perspectives on sexuality is currently being introduced in training sessions around the country.

Sexuality: A Divine Gift, "A Sacramental Approach to Human Sexuality and Family Life," is the fruit of a 1982 General Convention resolution calling for the development of "ways by which the Church can assist its people in their formative years (children through adults) to develop moral and spiritual perspectives in matters relating to sexuality and family life." It was produced by a task force assembled from Episcopal parishes, schools and national Church staff in cooperation with the National Association of Episcopal Schools and was field-tested in Episcopal parishes and schools.

The first training session for the curriculum was held July 6-10 at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. According to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Taylor, staff officer for ministries with children at the Episcopal Church Center and a member of the task force which designed the curriculum, it drew a very positive response -- on both process and content -- from the 16 participants, most of whom were from Province VIII. A training session scheduled for Aug. 2-7 at Kenyon College had 18 registrants. Further sessions are slated for Sept. 21-23 at the Warwick Conference Center in New York, Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at the Duncan Conference Center in Florida and for Houston during January. Other sessions are being planned, and it is hoped to have at least one training session in each province, with both diocesan and parish leaders encouraged to attend.

According to Taylor, interest in both the curriculum, whose publication date is anticipated to be the first week in October, and the training sessions is running high. She describes the curriculum as "an open program. There's no bias built in, so people can select those topics they want to emphasize, depending on what the parish wants and needs to do, and it's designed to be used for young children through senior citizens, with special material for each."

Based on an historical theological foundation, the curriculum, with its leaders' guide, contains a teaching process based on dialogue, information and theological reflection; a suggested method for deciding whom and what to teach; a guide to help select a leader/teacher for exploring issues of human sexuality and an extensive list of both print and audio-visual resources.

A flyer for the program lays out a framework of five premises from which it evolved:

  • History: Christian teachings about sexuality through the centuries reveal significant change, conflict and confusion that still remain unsettled, requiring continual effort to discern what is truly sound religious guidance
  • Language: We lack a shared vocabulary of human sexuality that is precise and consistent
  • Theology: We need an Anglican focus on God's loving gifts to balance the historic emphasis on human failings
  • Dialogue: Open, candid exploration is possible when we are confident of God's unfailing truth. We can trust dialogue-centered learning
  • Relational Patterns: A relational pattern, whether marriage or single, should not be used to judge a person's worth. Rather, we need to focus on qualities of relationships which provide a basis for one's living a life centered on the Good News of Christ.

In addition to Taylor, members of the Task Force on Human Sexuality are: Susan Procopio Browne, a certified sex educator; Judith Carlson, coordinator, Christian Education, Diocese of New Jersey, and Taylor's predecessor at the Church Center; the Rev. Canon David Forbes, National Association of Episcopal Schools; Ann Gordon, executive director, National Association of Episcopal Schools; the Rev. Canon Robert Hansel, director, Bishops Center, Diocese of Southern Ohio; the Very Rev. William Maxwell, Cathedral Church of St. Mark, Salt Lake City; the Rev. John Palmer, Helen Keller International; Karen Sterbenz, regional religious education coordinator, Province V, and coordinator of Christian Education, Diocese of Missouri; Esther Walter, certified sex educator, Diocese of Iowa; and Anne Wilson, retired educator, Baltimore.

The curriculum may be ordered for $5 per copy, with checks made payable to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church and mailed to: The Rev. Dr. Barbara Taylor, Episcopal Church Center, Ministries with Children, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017. For further information on the curriculum and training events, contact Taylor or Ann Gordon, executive director, National Association of Episcopal Schools, also located at the Church Center. The telephone number is (800) 334-7627 or, within New York State, (212) 867-8400.