Reflections on the Shared Conversations

A number of people have commented on the Shared Conversations that formed part of the July General Synod at York.

Madeleine Davies Church Times Synod members thanked for staying on to talk about differences

Mark Woods Christian Today Shared Conversations: Why the Church of England still has a long way to go on sexuality

Lucy Gorman Shared thoughts from the Shared Conversations.

Andrew Dotchin Thoughts on A Shared Conversation:

Ian Paul Synod’s Shared Conversations

Andrea Williams Christian Concern responds to C of E ‘shared conversation’

Stephen Lynas She said “You don’t understand what I said” *


Hannah Cleugh Sharing in Conversations


  • Gary Waddington: “Surely, the sisters liberated from the yoke of patriarchal oppression will rally to the cry of liberation of all similarly oppressed? There of course is the rub. It turns out that some of those who have scaled the dizzy highs of preferment aren’t so keen to publicly cry for freedom for others.”


  • Although I don’t agree with him, Ian Paul’s is probably the most challenging critique, and deserves careful reading.

    He is basically challenging the adoption of a kind of ‘relativism’, where there are many truths (or interpretations) that may be adopted, and tolerated, so that the Church can co-exist.

    This is a complaint I have heard on these boards here at ‘Thinking Anglicans’: that if we are seeking God’s Will, there cannot be multiple truths, there can only be one.

    And Ian Paul’s complaint is that the process of the Shared Conversations implicitly sided with the ‘many truths’ relativistic principle.

    He also (correctly in my opinion) critiqued the popular suggestion that the bible is really only condemning ‘porneia’ (bad sex) versions of male-male activity. And that modern committed gay relationships weren’t known in the ancient world. Both those popular apologies seem in error to him, and I share his view. (Where I differ, is that I’d then ask ‘Well is the Bible always right?’)

    In the end, the logic of demanding the Church enforce only one truth on human sexuality, is – as Ian rightly suggests – the risk and likelihood of schism.

    But shouldn’t the Church stand for something more than uniformity of dogma?

    If we are seeking ‘What the Bible says’… then arguably there are shallow layers (cultural assumptions at the time the Bible was written) and profoundly deep layers (the unfathomable revelation of love and grace, and our opening up to that).

    And in fact, the Bible is pretty strong on that: love always has the primacy. Substantial grace is more important than doctrinal purity and rules. We need to love one another.

    So although I think Ian Paul’s critique of process is worth reading with respect (and reflecting upon), I think the real purpose of the Conversations (‘How do we handle disagreement?’) is actually more about the need for grace towards one another, respect for divergent conscience, and loving one another, even if we have different opinions, because our Unity is not in each other but in Jesus Christ.

    The real test – and why doctrinal relativism is not the ultimate disaster – ‘Can we open our hearts to the love and unity and communion of the Holy Trinity, and love each other *in* our diversity, and seek one another’s flourishing in the household of our God?’

  • Richard Ashby says:

    Has Andrea Williams breached the St Michael’s protocols? The people she mentions can easily be identified from the details she gives.

  • Kate says:

    What is clear is that the present Synod will neither vote to conduct same sex marriage rites nor to bless civil same sex marriages. A significant number would vote against either proposal on principle. Many more would vote against either change because they wish to walk together and would not vote for something likely to precipitate a split.

    At the same time, unless those writing about Shared Conversations are not representative, there is a majority wish to do something, but no idea (let alone consensus) what that might be.

  • Cynthia says:

    Ian Paul lost me when he stated that social science isn’t showing that being gay is a biological thing. Totally wrong. And then when he dismissed what the US theologian had to say on the mistaken grounds of the vast amount of lawsuits going on in TEC. Those lawsuits only happened in a few dioceses, where the schismatics were terribly mislead. They have lost almost every court case. When inclusive marriage came to a vote, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor. If CoE has schismatics, you’re going to let them steal the property? In some places the conservatives changed the locks, locking out members of their parishes that weren’t interested in schism. It was aggressive theft, and they harbored the hope that ACNA would become recognized as the real Anglican church…

    Somehow, I don’t think the egregious and entitled behaviour of a handful of US arch conservatives should be grounds for dismissing a whole line of thought that is far more developed than CoE’s.

    A lot of excellent theology has happened in the US, enough to crush the idea that inclusion is caving into culture, rather than an expression of the radical Gospel of Jesus.

    Christianity is in deep trouble when it acts like gatekeepers, rather than expressions of the Good News of love, compassion, healing, and justice in a hurting world.

    Wake up CoE, look at the agony happening all around you. The gatekeeper theology needs to be tossed into the trash heap of history.

  • Freedom of conscience.

    That is surely the only way to go, allowing individual priests, PCCs, churches, and members of the congregation to exercise sincerely-held conscience.

    We must stop dominating.

    We respect one another’s diversity of conscience, and we pray for grace to love one another, and for the flourishing of each person, even if they hold different opinions to our own.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    What CofE does is CofE’s problem, but TEC should stop these allowances. It is dishonest and unwholesome.

    To make a church within a church and say it is one church is a lie, simply stated. It is, at best, a dead limb on a living body, at worst a sort of abscess.

    To say that we “cast out” and “deny our brothers” by insisting and giving them help to move into other denominations, in which their sticking-points will not hinder either them or cause a stumbling block to others is to deny the belief that the Church, in fact, extends beyond our own denomination. That is the sin of Pride.

    To deny that we can or do work with those outside our denomination, and, indeed, our faith, is to deny that the work of the Kingdom goes on outside our individual selves and our spheres of interest. That is both Pride and *Acedia*.

  • Rather than seeing this as a case of relativism and multiple truths, it is possible to exercise some humility and accept that this is something about which we do not possess a final truth. Since the “truth” about marriage as lifelong and exclusive was for a time in abeyance at God’s ordinance through Moses’ allowance of divorce this need not be seen as an airtight either/or, and a period of ambiguity and reception is appropriate.

    Of course, those who are convinced they know the only truth will not find this acceptable.

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