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Mind the Gap? Perceptions and realities of sexualities and diversities education for ordinands

David Nixon, SWMTC

Initial Description

This project aims to build on work already begun by both main researchers in the area of sexualities and diversities' education and theology, with a particular reference to how such education is both conceptualised and delivered within the Common Awards framework, and in view of further potential changes in ministerial formation. This work has revealed a gap between theory and practice which may disadvantage particular groups of staff and students, at the same time as sharpening their reflective practice skills. This area of research remains a ‘live issue’ in the Church of England, which would benefit from further qualitative study, informed by established academic methodology. Having made contact with other TEIs, we have assembled a small research team consisting of staff from South West Ministry Training Course; Westcott House, Cambridge; and Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham; we will also be working in partnership with the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

Our overall aim is twofold: to investigate current thinking and practices in a small number of TEIs sufficiently robust as to be able to inform stakeholders; and to use such research as a pilot to support a more extensive research bid which examines all Church of England TEIs, and possibly includes educational colleges/seminaries of other denominations

Having reviewed current research literature and adult teaching material, we propose to engage qualitative methods to discover what is occurring in College and Courses at the level of students and staff. Online questionnaires will be used to encourage as many staff and students as possible to respond, with the possibility for a smaller number of a focussed interviews to develop a deeper understanding of attitudes, experience and feelings. We have budgeted for 16 interviews across partner and participant institutions. Given the relatively small nature of this grant and the high cost of transport, this research will be undertaken entirely via email, telephone and Skype. While we recognise that this limits our scope for participant observation, the partnership with other TEIs should be some mitigation for this; additionally, since we are able to engage a reasonable number of participants, our findings will carry some weight in on-going discussions.

Our analysis of literature review and survey/interview data will lead us to draw working conclusions about the nature and development of theological education in respect of sexualities and genders. We intend to disseminate these in two main ways: conference presentations for Common Awards and other relevant groups, and academic articles in specialised journals. We would also anticipate more informal feedback between partners and participants, who may wish to develop institutional and curriculum changes as a result of such research.


David Nixon and Susannah Cornwall, 'Mind the Gap? Perceptions and Realities of Sexualities Education for Ordinands', Practical Theology 10.2 (2017), 147–159;