Friday, 27 June 2014
Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission
The House of Bishops’ plans for Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission in the Church of England were issued today in a paper (GS Misc 1083) circulated to General Synod papers. I have made a webpage version available here.
These conversations are what the Pilling Report called “facilitated conversations”. They will start in the College of Bishops in September, then move to groups of dioceses and end with two days of conversations in General Synod in July 2016. The paper gives full details of who will be involved and how they will be supported.
The Church of England has issued this press release.
Posted by Peter Owen on
Friday, 27 June 2014 at 11:37am BST
Next steps in shared conversation process published
27 June 2014
The Church of England has today published the next steps in its process for shared conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.
A short paper from the Bishop of Sheffield outlines the next steps for the Church following the publication of the Pilling report in November 2013 which recommended that the church’s internal dialogue on human sexuality might be best addressed through a process of conversations across the Church.
The outlines of the process were approved by the House of Bishops at its meeting in May and are published today.
The document has been sent to members of the Church’s General Synod ahead of its meeting in York from 11 -15 July.
The document can be found online here.
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Church of England
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First of all, a "conversation" is always shared. So the phrase "shared conversation" is a redundancy, and shows muddled thinking.
So too does this:
"11. Dioceses will look at ways to use their relationships with their companion links to involve participants from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion."
Without knowing who all the "companion links" are, it is hard to know whether this "involvement" would tip the scale in a liberal, or more likely conservative, direction.
Fortunately the commitment is very weak. ("Dioceses will look at ways.")
We can infer that Canterbury and York tried to globalize the process, and that the House of Bishops stoutly (and rightly) resisted this.
So this paragraph is the fig leaf that resulted.
And like most fig leaves, it's silly. As most of the Bishops know, there is no need to involve other provinces in the Church of England's self-governance.
The Anglican Communion is a family of churches. Nothing more.
Perhaps the C of E is simply plotting to bore us all to death, thus stifling those wild souls who believe in acceptance of People Who Are Different?
More "conversations"? More "compassionate listening"? More committees, that's for sure.
I hope good things flow from this.
Every ounce of me wants the CofE to set aside the darkness that besets it over gay matters and to be a place of good news for my community, I do hope for the best.
Can anyone say if the HofB or Lambeth Palace's reconciliation team have been in touch with any of the LGBTi groups as part of the preparations for this?
Yes. David Porter has had two meetings so far with representatives of the LGBTI Anglican Coalition, the most recent one earlier this week.
I have a strong suspicion that the HOB will set up a Committee in 2016 to consider the conversations the Dioceses have had. Their considerations will be brought to General Synod which will recommend that the conversations have had lttle impact, so further listening will be required - to be completed preferably before the Parousia.
It is a sad comment on the present state of the C of E when there are 54 comments on the Bishops Monitoring Group on Clergy who enter into same sex marriages, and 4 comments on the Wonga/Bank/Pay day lenders thread. It is clear where our sad priorities are - may we be forgiven!
A more significant question is whether anyone met the LGBTI Anglican Coalition before the process was devised and before the significant decisions about its shape and scope were made and following any such meeting, were there any process changes as a result of that meeting.
Yes, all conversations are shared, but I had thought the language was to draw a distinction between "private" and "shared."
One may well wonder: Is there any modern hearing aid that will facilitate a better hearing environment for the Church of England on matters of gender and sexuality?
It would seem that the hierarchy has become more hard of hearing at every new step along the way of understanding. Perhaps a little ear irrigation process needs to be engaged in, just so that the poor and marginalised might be heard.
Perhaps a little judicious head-banging might do the trick!
In answer to Frank Nichol's point, the number of comments on Wonga versus the Bishop's Monitoring Group has little reflection on priorities.
It is a reflection of concern. If the Church of England was itself lending at absorbent rates of interest or proposing to invest more money in Wonga, there would rightly be a large amount of negative comment and discussion.
However, the CofE stand on Wonga is widely supported and uncontroversial. People are not leaving the church and losing their faith because of it.
However, the CofE's official stance on LGBT issues is a disaster, and a total mess. It is causing huge hurt to loyal members of the church. LGBT clergy spend most of their time helping the sick, the needy, the poor. Not campaigning on LGBT issues. But, this is the area which is destroying the church's witness to the nation.
Indeed, my sad thought is: why should the country care what a nasty, homophobic organisation has to say about Wonga, or any other of other people's sins?
Perhaps it needs to remove its own plank first?
I am wondering how this somehow reminds me of the Foreign Office response's Four Stage Strategy in time of crisis in "Yes Prime Minister"?
"In Stage One we say nothing is going to happen.
Stage Two we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
Stage Three, we say maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we 'can' do.
Stage Four, we say maybe there was something we 'could' have done, but it's too late now."
FrankN: I'm just an Ignorant Yank here, so I really don't want to wade into matters (Wonga) w/ which I am completely unfamiliar.
But it has long been the wish among many of us in the LGBT community to ***hurry up and put discrimination behind us*** PRECISELY so that we may turn full-force to the thornier issues of economic justice [Thornier, because our fallen human natures lead us ALL to "what's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable" selfish agendas. Kyrie eleison.]
"It is a sad comment on the present state of the C of E when there are 54 comments on the Bishops Monitoring Group on Clergy who enter into same sex marriages, and 4 comments on the Wonga/Bank/Pay day lenders thread. It is clear where our sad priorities are - may we be forgiven!
Posted by: Frank Nichols on Friday, 27 June 2014 at 7:01pm BST"
Perhaps the commentators here think it goes without saying that the Church's position on payday lenders is self-evidently a 'good thing' - so they don't say it?
Or, just maybe, Mr Nichols, that everyone is in agreement that usury is awful. The topic is much less contentious. Have you met anyone who'd argue the CofE should keep its shares in Wonga?
Who is in *control* of the facilitated conversations, and who gets to represent what was said?
And who gets to participate in the conversations, and get a hearing?
And who doesn't get to participate, or get a hearing?
Will there be an open, transparent website for contributions to the conversation, for all to read?
Who will set the agenda for the conversations, if any?
Will LGBT Anglicans (and non-Anglicans, and non-Christians) be able to contribute to the agenda, raise important themes, or generally participate?
Will be able to *hear* the opinions and views of non-Christians, on the impact C of E policies have on them, and their view of the Church?
Will the voices of young people (Christian and non-Christian) be heard?
What I feel guarded about is any attempt by the Church establishment to write its own agenda, to managerially attempt to control and limit damage, to close down conversation, or limit participation, or to avoid the kind of open forum and consultation, that advocates of the truth should champion.
And I honestly feel that LGBT people themselves (whose lives are impacted by church policy) should be part of the write-up team afterwards, who analyses the comments, and proposes actions.
I agree the English is flabby but this process is surely likely to yield 'an agreement to disagree', which should imply gay people can act according to their consciences.
"The choice of diocesan participants will rest with the diocesan bishop." So the men in purple who think they've the right to force gay people to suppress their sexuality for life are to be in charge of deciding who can speak?
Please tell me that liberals will boycott this farce from the off?
"why should the country care what a nasty, homophobic organisation has to say about Wonga"
The problem is that I'm not entirely sure what the CofE ever hope to achieve by talking about Wonga in the first place. Is short-term, high-risk lending to people whose credit-worthyness is marginal at best a pretty scuzzy business? Yes. Is it legal? Yes. Are the alternatives (loan sharks, mostly) better? No. Are high street banks going to get involved in short-term, high-risk lending? No. Would it be a good idea for credit unions and the like to displace payday lenders? In principle, yes, but they'll go bust: small credit unions just couldn't survive in the face of widespread default by borrowers (Wonga reject something like 50% of applications but still have a default rate close to 10%). Wonga can do this because they aren't playing with depositors' money at all, they're only lending equity, so if they get their default rate wrong, it's their shareholders that pay, not depositors. A credit union has to remain solvent to repay depositors, and if it tried lending to high-risk borrowers, without Wonga's risk stratification and financial resilience, it would simply fold.
All that said, Welby's intervention was bound to end badly, even without the minor problem of the CofE owing Wonga shared (ie, being a lender at high interest rates, albeit at arms' length). Church-based credit unions can't possibly intervene in this market, unless the Church is willing to put its own capital on the line, which is why all the talk about "competing with Wonga" is hot air that has come to nothing: in order to play in that market, you need sophisticated modelling, the willingness to refuse a lot of business and the willingness to risk a lot of capital.
Simply waving your hands and saying it's wrong to lend money on such terms is unhelpful, because it's easy to say that people shouldn't borrow sort-term if you always know where the money for your children's next meal is coming from: almost by definition, Wonga's customers are people that banks and credit card companies have refused to lend to, so where else, precisely, does Welby think they should go? Wonga make a decent return on their capital, but (last time I looked at their accounts) nothing amazing, so they are lending at high rates to reflect the high risk. Think you can lend to the same people at a lower rate? Knock yourself out, but you'll need to be able to do a better job of credit scoring than Wonga manage themselves. That's not easy.
Hurrah for the Methodist Conference decision to open up their Church to the blessing of Same-Sex Unions - whether Civil Marriages or Civil Partnerships.
Might this just offer another reason why the Church of England should seriously consider reconciliation with the Methodist Church in Britain? It might be good for the justice record of both Churches. It might also help the C.o E. to move a little more quickly on the issue of Same-Sex relationships.