Comments: Malcolm Brown and David Porter talk about the Shared Conversations

'the way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ. And that even though we '

This can only be aspirational, as historically untrue.

It inspires no confidence as it is both complacent and out of touch. Not many lgbt people will want to touch it with a barge-pole--- and this is exactly what the church's leaders expect and want.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Monday, 15 September 2014 at 9:47pm BST

Like all management-speak, "shared conversations" sidesteps the realities of power.

This tautology is also patronizes LGBT Anglicans, treating them not as a group to be taken seriously and negotiated with, but an irritation to be indulged, before the bishops retreat and, yet again, make decisions on their behalf.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 15 September 2014 at 10:10pm BST

I sadly agree with Laurie here. This isn't just a process which makes no promise of change, it is a process which promises that there will be no change. Brown and Porter both bend over backwards in the interviews to make it clear that there won't be any change to the status quo.

Disagreeing well cannot be built on continued discrimination against LGBT clergy and ordinands and harrassment and outright abuse of LGBT laypeople in a minority, but not a tiny minority, of C of E parishes. I know, personally, of two cases in 2014 where people have been chased out of C of E churches for coming out.

I won't disagree well with people who think it's acceptable to sack clergy for getting married, let alone removing people from the reader's and worship group rota and treating them as demi-persons because they happen to be lesbian.

Justin Welby is an interesting and complex character but he's, at best, a recovering homophobe, leading an institution which is profoundly institutionally homophobic. In that, the greatest weakness in his theology becomes apparent: reconciliation is vital but it is not a substitute for justice. Indeed, attempts to force a model of reconciliation on a situation which is unjust inevitably compel the oppressed to react angrily and outside the system.

As long as the Lambeth Palace strategy remains to attempt to contain the gay and trans issues by kicking them into endless listening processes and committees, we can expect that Jeremy Pemberton's Employment Tribunal case will be only the first of many acts of resistance and that they will become increasingly acrimonious as time goes on.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Monday, 15 September 2014 at 11:21pm BST

The problem is that quite a few see the Christian, loving way of disagreeing well as separating oneself from the ungodly or expelling the latter from their midst, all very scriptural. Our bishops, God help them, won,t even agree on what constitutes good disagreement.

Posted by Lorenzo at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 7:39am BST

"Good disagreement" isn't always desirable. As others here have asked: what would "good disagreement" have looked like when the church was arguing about the abolition of slavery?

The powers that be, lacking as they are in intellectual rigour, also continue not to recognise that there are two issues here:

1/ The co-existence of two very different sets of theological and moral beliefs in the same church. i.e., those that regard "homosexual practice" as sinful and immoral, and those that regard it as the opposite and as part of created diversity. While it might be difficult, it is possible for people with different beliefs to co-exist in the same ecclesiastical structure.

2/ The co-existence of equal treatment for LGBTI people in the church with unequal treatment for LGBTI people in the church. This is conceptually impossible, of course.

In short, there is a substantive moral disagreement, and then there is a disagreement over what rights people should have. We can agree to disagree on moral questions, but people's rights are either respected or they're not. On that question, which is in fact the one that needs to be addressed, "good disagreement" is literally an impossibility.

Posted by AndrewT at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 9:11am BST

Having followed some conservative blogs, I can see why they felt the need to promise that there would be no change. People have been almost terrified to start talking because they felt they would be forced to think about change.

This process reminds me a little about the Northern Ireland "talks about talks". It seems ludicrous and unhelpful, but it might just be the beginning of proper conversations we need.

Ultimately, lgbt people aren't going to disappear if they don't talk or agree on anything. We won't stop being Christians, priests, bishops, partnered, married... and the church will be able to close its eyes to that for only so much longer.

It would be nice if this process was the start of something credible. But it won't be the end if it isn't.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 9:12am BST

I don't like the language either but I think there is a possibility here of 'two integrities', which, since it would be a lot better than the present situation and since 100% acceptance is not at the moment remotely on the cards, is the option sensible people should be arguing for.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 9:55am BST

The impression that comes across from especially David Porter is that the end game is solely to 'disagree well'. This seems to preclude the possibility that change will happen, and that all that will result is a truce. This is just not tenable as an outcome for a whole series of reasons which people have well articulated, and the whole exercise will be a case of window dressing for external appearances. He virtually admits as such.

A much better model is the Council of Jerusalem in Acts where there was strong disagreement and debate, but the result was an agreement that there was evidence of the Holy Spirit's movement and an agreement that Paul and his companions could go on a new way in response to the Spirit's leading (in contrast, one might remark, to the view that Scripture said XYZ and that was the only truth). I would be far happier if that Scriptural model from Acts could be set before us, with the possibility that God is leading us in a new direction, than this establishment shut-down of considering change right at the outset.

Posted by Roger Antell at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 3:52pm BST

I begin to wonder if one of the requirements for episcopacy in the C of E is that one has no ears—or at least suffers from significant deafness! How else could an entire house of bishops not hear the overwhelming and boisterous conversations that have been going on loudly world-wide for well over thirty years?

And I am truly curious: How is it that in England the secular government is so far ahead of the ecclesiastical bodies in cultural morality—while in the States, the church is strides ahead of the secular government (although the latter now is beginning to catch up)? Ought not the church to be leading in all steps toward greater justice—against poverty, slavery, trafficking, homophobia?

Posted by John-Julian, OJN at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 4:21pm BST

So once again the church's conversations about gay people are not about gay people at all. The point, it seems, is to model good disagreement, it is all therefore about internal politics of the church.

When have you ever heard a discussion in the church about 'how can we further the wellbeing of LGBT folk', 'how can we encourage stable and happy relationships' or 'how can we integrate LGBT people in our communities'?

You sometimes wonder if any of them think we exist!

Posted by sjh at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 4:57pm BST

Mervyn Noote writes: "I know, personally, of two cases in 2014 where people have been chased out of C of E churches for coming out."

I suppose this is inevitable and unavoidable. I left for exactly the same reason. I left my ECUSA church of 35 years. But when with God's grace I landed in a more open-minded church a year or so later, I went to work to see that changes were made: we instituted an annual Matthew Shepard sermon, we had study groups and declared ourselves Open and Affirming.

and it took off: my parish marched in the Pride parade in support of same-sex marriage, straight vestry members insisted that we have LGBT representation on our search committee when we needed a new priest, and one make-or-break question we asked all applicants was whether they would perform same-sex marriages once they became legal, and we have representatives who speak up on LGBT issues a diocese conventions...

My point is this: change will not come from the top, where caution, fear and politics rule and meaningless compromise counts as daring. But it can come from underneath - from the pew up.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 6:55pm BST

Good disagreement would be progress. At present, there is no official recognition of a pro-gay position in the church.
Good disagreement can lead to accepting gay voices and pro-gay theology in the CoE, and to allowing supportive parishes to treat everyone equally at all levels.

There are many voices who don't want good disagreement because they want to continue to discriminate at all cost, regardless of what anyone else might want.
Good disagreement is a real challenge to them.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 7:04pm BST

As others have said, on some things, "good disagreement" is downright immoral.

John Sentamu would, of course rightly, be disgusted by the suggestion that he should practice "good disagreement" with racists, regardless of whether those racists sincerely believed in the Curse of Ham. Yet he, among so many other bishops, expects LGB people (the church seems more confused about transgendered people) to endure discrimination with a smile.

That demand isn't only untenable, it's wrong. These "conversations" are no solution. They ought to be boycotted from the off.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 10:07pm BST

James, I'm confused. A few posts further down in an exchange with Cynthia you support the idea of two integrities. Here you advocate talks that could result in good disagreement, which is nothing more than the first informal step towards two formal integrities, should be boycotted.
If we boycotted these talks, how would we get from here to two integrities and later to full formal inclusion?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 8:04am BST

Erika, in response to your question dated 17th at 8.04.

For me personally, facilitated conversations with no pre-destined outcome are just what we need.

My problem is that, judging by the conversation between Porter and Brown described in this posting, an outcome of "good disagreement" has already been decided on by the facilitators as the target to aim for. If we go into the conversations with the facilitators having that mindset will it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

And in a spirit of reconciliation, will we be asked to agree that "the vicious cycle of shame, secrecy, violence, and silence that demeans, demonizes and kills," (to quote 30 African theologians) will become permanently institutionalised as an acceptable Christian integrity for some people in our church?

Not in my name.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 11:03am BST

David Porter actually said that what was sought was 'that capacity to disagree well, that means that when we get to the process which is beyond the shared conversations when decision will have to be made, the way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ.' Something similar happened in the run-up to the agreement to legislation for women bishops, which I believe was a positive development. In several other churches similar discussions are also taking place including the United Reformed Church, which is ahead of the C of E with regard to inclusion largely because of the efforts made to develop mutual respect among those with different theological convictions and allow space for one another.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 11:08am BST

Erika, according to their organizers, these conversations aren't a step towards anything: at the end of two years, there'll be no change in policy. All that'll happen is that both "sides" will, supposedly, learn to empathize with their opponents.

Problem with that is that it draws a false equivalence between equal treatment and homophobia. It's like asking the civil rights movement to learn to empathize with the pain their demand for equality caused segregationists.

Above all, it's a delaying exercise, that'll freeze current policy for the foreseeable future. It's not a stepping stone, but a wall. The church hasn't *got* two years to navel gaze. Every month its current policy drags on, its reputation suffers further, along with its LGBT members.

The alternative I'd suggest is getting affirming candidates elected to General Synod, and, finally, addressing this properly in that forum.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 6:46pm BST

"The alternative I'd suggest is getting affirming candidates elected to General Synod, and, finally, addressing this properly in that forum."

That takes me back to my question of a couple of days ago about process, which I don't think anyone answered.

What is the formal process for the CoE to become inclusive, including to change the Canons so that Parliament can remove the fourth lock?
Is it really just bishops talking behind closed doors?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 18 September 2014 at 9:39am BST

"Something similar happened in the run-up to the agreement to legislation for women bishops,"

It appeared to me that WB happened because of intense pressure from the PM and Parliament. It does not appear to me that it happened because of amiable talks. The anti-women rhetoric was horrific.

I suspect that a multi-pronged approach is needed. But it appears that some in CoE hierarchy will only respond to raw power. Since the PM and Parliament aren't going to pressure CoE on equal marriage at this time, those intransigent bishops will need to see that their position is untenable. If suicidal teens haven't opened their hearts by now…

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 19 September 2014 at 6:31pm BST

'Is it really just bishops talking behind closed doors?'

In the NT the disciples were hiding behind closed doors out of fear - this broke open when the risen Christ came among them.

The bishops need the risen Christ to penetrate their closed doors, minds -- and hearts....

Public school, Oxbridge and privilege may not be the best preparation for such encounter ...

Are the bishops more like the Sanhedrin than the disciples ?

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Friday, 19 September 2014 at 9:17pm BST

"Are the bishops more like the Sanhedrin than the disciples ?"

Yes.(At least the ones who wrote and signed on to the February document and the teaching on marriage document last year).

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 6:29pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.