What is the gift of spiritual direction for women going through a season of dissidence, of deconstruction and reconstruction of faith?

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Connolly, Susannah
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Master of Professional Practice
Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga
Malcolm, Margaret
Franklin, Trish
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
spiritual abuse
role of spiritual director
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Connolly, S. (2021). What is the gift of spiritual direction for women going through a season of dissidence, of deconstruction and reconstruction of faith? (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Professional Practice). Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga, New Zealand. https://doi.org/10.34074/thes.6352
My purpose and motivation in this research are to reveal what Spiritual Direction is and how and why it is a gift. In my professional practice a rising number of women going through spiritual abuse, trauma and misunderstanding from Christian pastoral leaders and personally in their faith are coming to a place described as a deconstruction. I ask, how might I speak into this arena? I needed the voices of others as well as my own, to confirm and support this work. Therefore, I invited six women to turn a light on their experiences to answer the question: what is the gift Spiritual Direction offers to women going through deconstruction of faith, what supports this process and how? I entered this process as an insider researcher in an autoethnographic field of study. I take the reader on a journey into SD, and into the deep waters of spiritual abuse, neglect, labelling and ostracizing that goes on in Christian churches. I am working with a feminist theological underpinning in this work, within an expansive Christian faith. I desired a conscious prophetic voice to bring change. The study revealed how traumatic the issue of abuse is, how debilitating being treated like a second-class citizen can be in a religious setting, and how painful leaving or changing one’s theology is within Christianity today. These women speak with their poetic and creative metaphors, truths, and offerings for the future. The concluding potential of this study supports my quest to contribute to the faith lives of women and men of all ages and the need for Christian institutions to grow in understanding faith stages, human development and women. The results have answered the question about the gift of Spiritual Direction and offer the opportunity to support change in the practice fields of pastoral care work, Spiritual Direction and counselling.
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