Ministry and Human Sexuality

IST2072 Ministry and Human Sexuality: Pastoral Care and Theological Approaches Online Spring 2019

Faculty:  Ruben Arjona, PhD & Carrie Doehring, PhD

Course Synopsis

Using a practical theological approach, we begin with lived experiences about sexual education, consensual and coercive sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, reproductive issues and other relevant topics.  In reflecting on experiences, we compare traditional and contemporary theological and psychological ways of understanding sexuality in terms of theological themes like the nature of creation and humanity, sin, relational webs of violence and webs of life, ethical perspectives that value qualities of intimate sexual relationships (mutuality, equal regard, justice-seeking) rather than forms of intimate sexual relationships (heterosexual, within marriage). This course forms students to be pastoral and spiritual caregivers within a spiritually, socially complex world in ways that deeply engage religious and cultural traditions.

Required textbook:

Ellison, M. M. (2012). Making love just: Sexual ethics for perplexing times . Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Professional Degree Learning Goals  

MDIV Degree: Demonstrate a complex interdisciplinary understanding of theological disciplines, as well as develop and embody a comprehensive range of ministerial responsibilities, skills, and capacities – intellectual and affective, individual and corporate, ecclesial and public – that inform and support a life of religious leadership.

MAPSC Degree: Demonstrate a complex interdisciplinary understanding of the human person in social context, develop and demonstrate an intercultural approach to pastoral and spiritual care[i], and demonstrate personal and professional competencies needed by effective caregivers.

MASJE Degree: Demonstrate a complex interdisciplinary understanding of historical and contemporary social change strategies and movements, develop and practice an inclusive and collaborative approach to social change leadership, and demonstrate the cultural capacity and organizational skills necessary for civic agency and efficacy in diverse social, political, and educational institutions.

Courses in Theology and Religious Practices (PR): Engage in analysis of contemporary religious traditions and institutions in order to assess, design, and perform meaningful leadership practices with sensitivity to contextual realities and relationships.


Intercultural Spiritual Care Competencies

Goal 1.  Critical Thinking Skills: Develop critical thinking skills in religious, theological, and psychological studies of sexuality, drawing upon coursework in all areas of one’s degree curriculum.

  1. In religious studies (e.g., MDiv/MAPSC courses in Comparative Religious Traditions [CR]), become literate in core beliefs about and practices related to sexuality and  religions in the world (; see also Prothero’s Chapter 6 “A Dictionary of Religious Terms” (2007); think critically about how a  search for similarities among religions of the world has historically been a search for the ‘one God’ of Christianity (Prothero, 2010); use particularist approaches to religion that pay attention to differences among the worldviews, beliefs, values, and practices related to sexuality and religions in the world (see footnote 1 below).
  2. In theological, biblical, historical, and ethical studies (e.g., MDiv/MAPSC courses in Sacred Texts [TX], Social/Contextual Analysis [AN], Historical Development/ Expressions of Religious Traditions [HI], and Constructive Theology [TH]), identify the biblical, ethical, historical, and theological ways that religious and, in particular, Christian approaches to religions of the world—exclusivisms, inclusivisms, pluralisms, and particularities[ii]—shape pastoral and spiritual care of sexuality within communities of faith, in religiously diverse settings like health care and military contexts, and in global contexts.  Identify and assess values, beliefs, and religious/spiritual practices pertaining to sexuality—especially related to suffering and hope—using biblical, ethical, historical, theological, and philosophical sources and critical methods.
  3. In psychological studies of religion, know how to search databases to find and use research on how people use religion and spirituality to cope with aspects of sexuality, in order to provide evidence-based spiritual care that identifies and assesses how people draw upon aspects of religion and spirituality to cope with aspects of sexuality in helpful and/or harmful ways.

Outcomes: Students demonstrate critical thinking skills in forum discussions, ethics assignments and final projects using course readings, traveling knowledge from other courses, and literature searches required for assignments. 

Goal 2. Spiritual Integration: Engage in a personal process of spiritual integration by finding and using intrinsically meaningful body-aware practices that

  1. Increase self-awareness of one’s stress-based reactions/emotions that give rise to life-limiting, socially oppressive beliefs, values, and consumer ways of coping, especially for coping with academic stress and also aspects of one’s sexuality.
  2. Increase self-compassion, self-transcendence, and relational systems that support use of meaningful body-aware practices as a basis for searching for meanings about one’s stress responses and life experiences (Doehring, 2018b).

Outcomes: Students become accountable for their use of body-aware practices in weekly posts, helping them experiment with using practices that foster spiritual integration.

Goal 3. Cultural Humility and Intercultural Competence: Develop and demonstrate an intercultural approach to pastoral and spiritual care that respects what is unique and distinctive about each person’s religious, spiritual, existential, or moral orienting system (values, beliefs, practices).

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate their intercultural capacity in the ways they respond to each other’s forum discussions and final assignment.

Goal 4. Self-Differentiation: Demonstrate psychological and theological self-differentiation by (a) tracking one’s personal theologies/orienting systems that arise from stress in the midst of a spiritual care conversation, and (b) using momentary spiritual practices in order to not blur boundaries between self and other, over-identify with the other, or emotionally disengage. 

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate self-differentiation in the ways they respond in forum discussions and final assignment.

Goal 5. Theological Empathy: Demonstrate theological empathy by (1) respectfully stepping into another’s religious, spiritual, existential, or moral orienting systems; (2) imagining how these orienting systems ‘work’ contextually, especially as a way of coping with stress; and (3) using their social empathy and critical thinking skills to understand the personal and cultural contexts of the other’s beliefs and values, especially about suffering exacerbated by injustice and hope for justice (Doehring, 2018a).

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate theological empathy in the ways they respond in forum discussions and final assignments.

Goal 6. Establishing Trust and Searching for Meanings: Understand these two key ingredients of intercultural spiritual care (Doehring, 2015):

  1. Establish trust by (1) respecting care seekers’ values, beliefs, ways of coping and connecting with the sacred, and (2) helping care seekers experience self-compassion and safety by finding intrinsically meaningful spiritual care practices that make them aware of stress in their bodies.
  2. Collaboratively search for life-giving intentional beliefs and values about suffering that arise from experiencing compassion that helps care seekers understand the ways automatic stress responses often make them feel anxious, angry, ashamed and guilty, which in turn gives rise to life limiting values and beliefs and consumer ways of coping shaped by intersecting social oppressions.

Outcomes: Students demonstrate their understanding of spiritual care in forum posts and their final assignments.

Learning Goal References

Doehring, C. (2015). The practice of pastoral care: A postmodern approach (Revised and expanded ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox.

Doehring, C. (2018a). Teaching theological empathy to distance learners of intercultural spiritual care. Pastoral Psychology 67 (5), 461-474. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0812-6

Doehring, C. (2018b). Searching for wholeness amidst traumatic grief: The role of spiritual practice that reveal compassion in embodied, relational, and transcendent ways. Pastoral Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0858-5

Hedges, P. (2010). Controversies in interreligious dialogue and the theology of religions. London: SCM Press.

Hick, J. (1989). An interpretation of religion. London: MacMillan.

Moyaert, M. (2005). Interreligious dialogue and the debate between universalism and particularism: Searching for a way out of the deadlock. Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, 15(1), 36-51.

Moyaert, M. (2012). Recent developments in the theology of interreligious dialogue: From soteriological openness to hermeneutical openness. Modern Theology, 28(1), 25-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0025.2011.01724.x

Prothero, S. R. (2007). Religious literacy: What every American needs to know--and doesn't. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco.

Prothero, S. R. (2010). God is not one: The eight rival religions that run the world and why their differences matter. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Race, A. (1983). Christians and religious pluralism. London: SCM.

Tervalon, M., & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Undeserved, 9(2), 117–125.


[i] Pastoral care historically describes care in Christian traditions/communities, although it has also been used to describe care in Jewish traditions. Spiritual care is now used in healthcare and military contexts to describe care offered by chaplains. Spiritual care within a religion is now described by identifying the religion/tradition (e.g., Buddhist spiritual care).

[ii] A three-fold typology of Christian approaches to religions of the world as exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist was first proposed by Race (1983). Here are simple descriptions of these approaches:

Exclusivisms: Religious sources of authority (e.g., sacred texts, doctrine, religious authorities, religious experiences of, for example, the Holy Spirit) are exclusively true, with literal norms of interpretation (e.g., Christianity is the only truth; confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior is the only means of salvation; the goal of faith is salvation through belief in cornerstone doctrines). Exclusivist pastoral care tries to convert or persuade people through witness to find salvation/fulfillment/faith/healing through singular exclusively true beliefs and/or practices. Moyeart (2012, p. 27) notes that many Christian exclusive theologies emphasize the sinfulness of humanity, a high Christology, and salvation through affirmation of Jesus as one’s personal savior. Those within religious traditions/communities that require literal faith affirmation of exclusivist beliefs may require their religious leaders to provide pastoral care within their communities that is based on exclusivist religious goals, as the only way to save those who are fallen. Pastoral care to those outside one’s community must also focus on salvation, since, in these exclusivist approaches, other “Religions are understood as the expression of human attempts to achieve salvation on their own power, neglecting thereby the fact that salvation comes only through faith in Christ” (Moyeart,  2012, p. 27). 

Inclusivisms: Many religious paths lead to same end, often configured as the ‘one God’ of Christianity (Prothero, 2010). Examples of inclusivist metaphors are the many paths that lead to the same mountain top, or the sight-impaired people touching different parts of the elephant. Inclusivist pastoral or spiritual care accepts a diversity of paths, but sees all paths as leading to the same God/salvation/fulfillment, although professed belief in a singular truth/God may not be necessary for salvation/fulfillment, as it is in exclusivist approaches (an inclusivist belief is that God’s salvation embraces all whether they explicitly confess belief or not).

Pluralisms: Religious diversity is a given and needs to be respected. Those committed to inter-religious dialogue search for ways to talk about universal aspects of religious experiences of transcendence and ineffable mystery, like John Hick’s references to the Real, the Ultimate, or Ultimate Reality (1989). “Faith is believed to be essentially the same for all religious traditions, whereas belief and tradition stand for the historically and culturally determined interpretation of ultimate reality (Moyaert, 2005, p. 42, italics in original). Pluralist spiritual care respects differences yet seeks to find common ways across traditions to spiritually care for people, and to find out, especially through research, how aspects of religion or spirituality help or hinder people, especially in coping with stress.

Particularities: assert that searching for ways to talk about and do research on what is shared or universal across religions of the world inevitably erases what is unique and particular to each religion/culture:

Thus, particularistic theologians state that the differences between the ethics of the religions are substantial and they question the value of global ethical declarations. Of course, one might say that all religions are for peace, love, hope, justice, human dignity and the protection of animals. However, these very formal notions and concepts come to mean very different things within each tradition. The stories, rituals and doctrines of each tradition give particular continence to each of these formal ethical terms, and at the level of the concrete religious and ethical praxis of the religious communities the differences are immense. (Moyaert, 2005, p. 44)

Particularist spiritual care builds trust by listening for and respecting what is unique and particular in the ways persons and communities search for meaning and experience transcendence and mystery (note, however, that the inclusivist terms used in this statement—meaning, transcendence, mystery—assume these are core aspects to each person’s experience of what we commonly call religion spirituality or a way of being oriented to the world.

Hedges (2010, p. 30) summarizes these four approaches to religious truth/difference as follows: “Exclusivist approaches typify ‘discontinuity’, inclusivist approaches typify ‘fulfillment’, pluralist approaches typify ‘openness’, and particularist approaches typify ‘difference’.”

Moyaert (2012) notes that interreligious dialogue is challenging because of potential conflicts between commitment to one’s own religion and openness to the other. Such challenges are often inherent in intercultural spiritual care, especially for caregivers who experience religious, spiritual, and moral struggles about when and how to be committed to particular beliefs within one’s ordaining/endorsing tradition especially in religiously diverse contexts, as Doehring (2018b) notes in describing struggles over beliefs in resurrection.


Intercultural spiritual care begins with particularities by respecting the alterity of care seekers’ orienting systems. Simply remaining in a stance of listening for differences is often not sufficient spiritual care, especially if caregivers are using critical thinking skills and knowledge about what might exacerbate or ameliorate the other’s suffering. If trust is established then spiritual care may move into a collaborative search for practices, meanings, and values that support and help people who are suffering. In healthcare and military contexts, caregivers will need to use research based on pluralism that assesses when and how aspects of religion or spirituality help or harm people, especially those experiencing religious, spiritual, or moral struggles.



Weekly forum reflections and responses on readings (7 points for each for week) for 63% of grade: Class members will be expected to do the readings and reference them in weekly reading forums. Students will post to discussion forums on Mondays by midnight and reply by Thursday, midnight.

Code of ethics assignment (5%): Due Friday, April 26. Students will search for their faith group’s clergy/religious leader professional code, code on sexual misconduct (if separate), and information on state mandatory reporting, as well as any community of faith requirements/resources on safe church/community of faith protocols. Those not pursuing ordination will need to find the code of ethics for their practitioner groups (chaplaincy, license mental health counselor, social worker, military chaplaincy) and information on state mandatory reporting. If needed, refer to Doehring (2015) Chapter 4 The Practice of Pastoral Care (Rev. & Exp). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 5 points.

  1. Identify your faith group/practitioner group. Describe how you found the code of ethics that is binding for you (a denominational/ religious or professional code of conduct), as well as any safe practices for communities of faith that are mandated in your tradition or profession. Provide the online links to your code or how to find it but don’t copy and paste the code/guidelines itself (2 points)
  2. Describe how this code is in conflict or conforms with your state laws on mandated reporting. (1 point)
  3. Describe what you would do if your care seeker is under the age of eighteen, elderly, and/or disabled, and there is a possibility that his or her crisis may involve abuse. (2 points)

This assignment should be no more than two pages single-spaced.

Final Assignment (5 pages single-spaced). If possible, upload as a word file. (32%) DUE Friday May 31; for Graduating students May 24 

 Final Assignment: Chose one of the assignment outlines:  (5 pages single-spaced); graduating students need to submit their assignments one week earlier). The following grading rubric will be used: Grading Rubric based on INTERCULTURAL SPIRITUAL CARE COMPETENCIES.docx

Students must do a literature search in the ATLA and psychological data bases. You will need to substantively use at least 5 references from your search and at least one needs to be from psychological studies, and/or the journal Pastoral Psychology. In assignments like the sermon and educational program, literature search references can be discussed in footnotes that elaborate how these practical projects utilize your critical thinking skills. Here is a guide to how to do a literature search: HOW TO DO A LITERATURE SEARCH

We suggest that students build upon one of our weekly topics, especially for the case study and the self-reflective journal assignment (you may copy and paste from any forum posting you did as a way to begin answering the questions).

CASE STUDY (a good option if you have had IST 2012 Pastoral Theology and Care): Suggestions: You might begin with a case study we looked at in a weekly forum, or your experience of a microaggression in week 3, and elaborate the case study using the outline we will be providing mid-quarter. Case Study Outline-3-20-2019.docx

JOURNAL ASSIGNMENT A self-reflective journal assignment on an aspect of sexuality involve religious/spiritual/moral struggles Journal Assignment Outline.docx

Here is a sample journal assignment Carrie Doehring wrote: Doehring Journal Assignment Revised 1-9-2019.docx

Here is the article based on the journal assignment she wrote

Doehring, C. (2019). Searching for wholeness amidst traumatic grief: The role of spiritual practice that reveal compassion in embodied, relational, and transcendent ways. Pastoral Psychology, 68(3), 241-259. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0858-5

Doehring 2019_Searching For Wholeness.pdf

CURRENT EVENT Current Event Guidelines 3-23-2019.docx

RESEARCH PROJECT A research project (topic needs to be reviewed with faculty at least 3 weeks before due date. This option works best for students already engaged in a research project for an MTS thesis that includes some aspect of sexuality.Research Paper Outline.docx

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM: Outline and teaching plan for an adult or youth educational event focusing on one of our weekly topics (a good option if you have had a religious education course). Religious Education Event Planning 2019.docx

SERMON: Sermon Assignment Outline 2019.docx

Final Grade Scale (Note: at Iliff professors determine grading scales they will use to assign final course grades) A 97-100; A- 93-96; B+ 89-92; B 85-88; C+ 77-80; C- 69-72; D+ 65-68; D 61-64; D- 57-60; F 0-59

Learning Covenant

Students develop critical thinking skills that they use in developing competencies for spiritual care, by integrating theory and practice through experiential learning. The competencies that shape these learning goals are also part of covenants necessary for intentional learning communities.  

Confidentiality: Personal disclosures are not to be discussed outside of class without agreement and permission. Students can talk about their stress/emotional reactions with trusted others, as long as the focus is on them and not the content of what other students share. In case study assignments that are not fictional, students need to disguise the identity of care seekers. Students must be aware of and abide by the mandatory reporting laws of the state in which they provide professional caregiving. If they are designated spiritual caregivers within their religious tradition, they need to also be aware of what their religious organization requires. If students have reason to suspect or have first-hand knowledge of recent, current, or ongoing child abuse or neglect perpetrated on a child currently under the age of 18 years, elder abuse, sexual and domestic violence, or threats of homicide or suicide in any of the pastoral situations they use for fulfilling the requirements of this course they need to seek immediate consultation with supervisors, denominational leaders, and the professor of this course so that proper reporting procedures can be ascertained. State laws on mandatory reporting are available at State Laws on Mandatory Clergy Reporting  Colorado mandatory reporting requirements may be found at Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, 1a, 2(aa, II, III); 13-90-107c.  Faculty will abide by the bounds of professional and Title IX reporting laws rather than absolute confidentiality.

Self-Differentiation: In preparing forum posts and responses, assignments, and spiritual care conversations, students are responsible for (1) tracking how they experience stress in their bodies and stress-related emotions, and (2) using practices that foster self-compassion and empathy, such that their emotional/stress reactions are resources for learning, not liabilities.

Levels of self-disclosure: The purpose of self-disclosure is to develop competencies in spiritual care, especially a commitment to one’s own process of spiritual integration that enhances self-differentiation and a capacity for empathy. The purpose of self-disclosure in this learning context is not for personal healing. In deciding how to use/disclose personal experiences in assignments, students need track their levels of stress as they work on assignments, and to not use/disclose experiences that overwhelm their capacities for self-differentiation, spiritual integration, and critical thinking skills. Students need to use their support systems when they become overwhelmed and in making decisions about what personal experiences to share in weekly posts and journal/case study assignments.

Respect for differences: Students are responsible for using social and theological empathy to imaginatively step into and respect the worlds of those who are different from them in terms of beliefs, values, practices, and social location.

Group and team learning depends upon timely posts and assignments: Every effort must be made to post on time. If posts will be late, faculty, students must notify faculty, forum discussion groups, and/or learning partners. If assignments are consistently late and if late assignment will jeopardize their learning partner’s deadlines, students may be required to withdraw from the course. Normally incompletes are not granted because all learning in the course is collaborative.

Availability of faculty: Faculty will normally respond within 24 hours to emails sent to their Iliff emails (note that emails sent within Canvas are sometimes hard to track amidst other Canvas notifications). Spiritual care faculty offer support but not spiritual care or counseling, and are available to help students with referrals for spiritual care, spiritual direction, and counseling.

Academic standards: In all forum posts and assignments, students need to use academic and professional standards of good grammar, writing skills, and appropriate in-text citation using APA formatting (used through course material; see also writing center resources on APA formatting). Iliff School of Theology uses inclusive language, and language that respects all forms of religious traditions, theological, and political perspectives, and gender and sexual orientation diversity.

Mar 27, 2019WedWeek 1. Post by Monday, Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Apr 02, 2019TueWeek 2 Post by Monday (midnight) 4/1; Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Apr 09, 2019TueWeek 3. Post by Monday; Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Apr 16, 2019TueWeek 4: Post by Monday, Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Apr 27, 2019SatWeek 5 Code of Ethics Assignmentdue by 05:59AM
Apr 27, 2019SatWeek 5 Describe the kind of final assignment you are going to dodue by 05:59AM
Apr 30, 2019TueWeek 6: Post by Monday; Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
May 07, 2019TueWeek 7: Post by Monday; Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
May 15, 2019WedWeek 8 Post by Monday, Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
May 21, 2019TueWeek 9 Post on Monday; Reply on Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
May 28, 2019TueWeek 10 Post by Monday, reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Jun 01, 2019SatFinal Assignment, Due Friday May 31; Graduating students May 23due by 05:59AM