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Facing down the accuser: an autoethnographic deconstruction of LGB shaming in the Church of England

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posted on 2024-01-29, 16:17 authored by Brenda Hopkins

This thesis sets out to answer the question “How is toxic shame constructed for LGB Christians in the Church of England?” Research indicates that institutional, faith-based shaming is an abuse of power. The aim of my research is to expose shaming narratives and practices in the Church of England, taking up Pattison’s call to critically re-examine and accordingly modify theological ideas that contribute to shame. In my research I utilise a shame nexus proposed by Creed et al., (2014) to expose the systemic and episodic shaming narratives and practices which both construct and maintain felt shame. I wanted to identify how shame takes hold and how it might be deconstructed. There is an absence in the literature of the lived experience of toxic, faith-based shame, particularly concerning the depleting and psychologically harmful nature of this type of shame, which can lead a person to doubt themselves as moral beings and rupture their sense of belonging to a faith community.

My research engages in critical conversation between the person-centred tradition (Rogers, 1959; 1980; 2001a; 2001b), particularly ideas of the actualizing tendency and unconditional positive regard, and the Christian notion of recapitulation as a less shame-inducing theological anthropology. The research also utilises Gendlin’s (1961; 1964; 1969;1996; 2003) focusing techniques as a vehicle for autoethnographic writing and inquiry. My research reveals how the present experiencing of past shaming events has helped to disempower and reconfigure shame. Researching shame through focusing methods has deepened my spiritual practice, thereby demonstrating the relevance of person-centred practice for practical theology.

Through the methodological approach of focusing-oriented autoethnography and the theological method of critical conversation, my research found that negative theological anthropology is a key contributor to the construction of toxic shame for LGB Christians. I concluded from this that the reframing of theological anthropology in positive terms was a powerful means by which shame might be deconstructed and disempowered for LGB Christians.



Anglia Ruskin University

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  • Professional Doctorate

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  • Doctoral

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Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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