Exploring the value of (Spiritually) Reflexive Groups in the training of ordinands and in supporting ordained persons in ministry

  • Peter Madsen Gubi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In response to the Church of England’s (2014) ‘Formation Criteria for Ordained Ministry’ and to research that indicates the prevalence of poor psychological wellbeing of clergy, this thesis uses Swinton and Mowat’s model of Practical Theological Reflection to explore whether utilising Spiritually Reflexive Groups in the training of ordinands, and in supporting clergy, would be beneficial. A Spiritually Reflexive Group is defined as ‘a non-directive, closed group that aims to offer opportunities for reflection on interactions and processes in which reflexivity can take place at a psychological, relational and spiritual (theological) level’. The research discovers current practice in the use of Spiritually Reflexive Groups in ordinand training and in the support of clergy in the Church of England, and examines how Spiritually Reflexive Groups might be understood theologically. A mixed methods approach is used in three phases. Phase one examines how reflexivity is developed in the Church of England’s Theological Education Institutions through an analysis of narratives provided by Principals of recognised theological institutions (n= 11). Phase two explores current practice in the use of Reflective Groups to support Church of England clergy by interviewing Bishops’ Advisors for Pastoral Care and Counselling (n= 8). These data were analysed through an interpretative phenomenological analysis. In phase three, an online survey of Reflective Group participants’ experiences (n= 37) from three dioceses was analysed. The data from the theological institutions reveal that some group work is used in developing reflexivity, but it is limited in enabling ‘deep learning’. The data from the Bishops’ Advisors reveal that Reflective Groups are psychologically beneficial to clergy, as do the data from the Reflective Group participants. However, the theological/spiritual is seldom facilitated in these groups. The Thesis argues that given the necessity of spirituality in fostering good psychological wellbeing in clergy, Reflective Groups need to recapture this missing element. The research concludes that theological institutions can benefit ordinands through the implementation of (Spiritually) Reflexive Groups as a method of theological reflection, and as a way of developing self-awareness and enculturating attitudes towards resilience and self-care. These attitudes and way of reflecting theologically can then be taken into ordained ministry as psychologically- and spiritually- healthy practice. A ‘foci for reflexivity’ in facilitating (Spiritually) Reflexive Groups and utilising them effectively is offered.
Date of Award11 Apr 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester


  • reflexive
  • practice
  • groups
  • clergy
  • training
  • ordinands
  • support
  • theology

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