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US clergy not being trained to deal with sexual issues, says report

World News

Despite high-profile debates about sexuality within their denominations a new study has found U.S. theological students preparing for the ministry are not being adequately prepared to deal with sexual issues.

The report, entitled "Sex and the Seminary", released on 8 January, says that U.S. theological education schools must do more to prepare their graduates so that they can better minister to their congregants about sexual issues.

In one of the study’s key findings, nine of 10 U.S. schools of theological education do not require their students to take full courses dealing with sexuality. The study evaluated the curricula, academic and administrative profiles of 36 leading seminaries and rabbinical schools.

"With so many congregations embroiled in controversy over sexual orientation issues, or struggling to address teenage sexuality, or concerned about sexual abuse, there is an urgent need for ordained clergy who understand the connections between religion and sexuality," said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, which conducted the study with Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Among the study’s recommendations are that both seminaries and U.S. denominations require course-based competencies dealing with sexual issues before prospective ministerial candidates can be ordained.

"Sex and the Seminary" also recommends that the accrediting body for U.S. theological schools include sexuality education as part of national standards for ministerial formation.

As it stands now, most U.S. denominations do not require ministerial candidates to demonstrate any academic knowledge or competency in sexual health and education issues beyond those pertaining to the prevention of sexual harassment, the study said.

The Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, noted, "Is there any subject more important and more on-the-ground crucial than sexual health and human flourishing?" 

The report available at: www.religiousinstitute.org/SeminaryReport.html 

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