Comments: Opinion - 5 March 2016

Andrew Lightbrown, in answer to the question in the title of your post, I'd say the primates' sanction of the Episcopal Church, was part of a strategy of "putting facts on the ground". The "facts" don't need to be true, but the theory is if you state something over and over, it will come to be seen as true. Of course, this is the outcome to be hoped for, and things don't always go as expected. In this instance, if TEC, as the "sanctioned", had decided to stand down, rather than assume their proper place at the ACC meeting, then the primates' expectations would likely have played out to their satisfaction. TEC chose not to play.

The strategy is nothing new. Remember how the Windsor Report, which was just a report, came to be seen as a sort of rule which bound the member churches of the AC?

Posted by June Butler at Saturday, 5 March 2016 at 11:25pm GMT

I often struggle with Andrew Lightbrown but this time I agree. There is further evidence for his assessment in the appeal of the communique to tradition.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 6 March 2016 at 2:13am GMT

Andrew Lightbown's piece makes the salient point; that the Chair of the ACC believes that the Primates' Meeting at Canterbury overstepped the mark in expecting TEC not to turn up and vote at the next meeting of ACC in Zambia.

The fact that ++Uganda will not be there was surely not entirely unexpected. After all, he had probems with pronouncement at the Primates'Meeting of a culpability in his province in the matter of aiding and abetting a culture of homophobia, which is a direct negation of the ABC's declared policy for Anglicans around the world. He would not want to face the same problem at the ACC.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 6 March 2016 at 9:22am GMT

Justin Welby clearly stated his view on the authority of the 'sanctions' in his presidential address to Synod:

'This decision binds the Primates as a group, but not any Province or other Instrument of Communion. It is a powerful and morally forceful guideline[...].'

The phrase 'powerful and morally forceful guideline' implies to me that he doesn't see a fundamental moral obligation for people or groups to only speak within their authority. That is in general reasonable; it's common for groups to write open letters containing 'demands' even though there's no legal framework that lets the group 'demand' things from the recipient.

So, legally this does apply in some really odd situations that I can't see happening. (since approximately no decisions are made by 'the primates as a group') but we should pay some attention to the fact that these eminent people think this way.

Now we all need to decide whether we agree with the chair of the ACC about the power and moral force of the words and how much our behaviour should change once we've paid attention.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Monday, 7 March 2016 at 10:52am GMT

Here's a question I don't think has been answered: Did the primates even intend for TEC not to come to the ACC meeting?

I think that is how people have interpreted this phrase: "while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity." But this does not preclude some sort of participation in the ACC meeting, and, perhaps more to the point, I am not sure that "internal bodies of the Anglican Communion" refers to the ACC.

So, I'd add this issue to Andrew Lightbown's list of questions in need of answers.

Posted by Jim Naughton at Monday, 7 March 2016 at 9:36pm GMT

I find it odd that the Bishop of Jerusalem is quoted in the Church Times article as saying what he does.

The Diocese of Ottawa (ACofC) is one of the most liberal dioceses on the gay issue in Canada. Our bishop, John Chapman, has authorized the blessing of same-gender marriages. It is also a companion diocese to the diocese of Jerusalem. And, so we read in local church journals, our bishop has a close and friendly relationship with the Bishop of Jerusalem. I'm not aware of any fundraising here specifically for Jerusalem, but weekly prayers in most parishes should count for something. And delegations back and forth with, I presume some financial benefit to Jerusalem, happen several times a year.


Posted by John Holding at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 12:37am GMT

"I find it odd that the Bishop of Jerusalem is quoted in the Church Times article as saying what he does." - John Holding -

Have you not thought, John, that the Bishop of Jerusalem is being a wee bit selective in whose financial support he elects NOT to accept?

It could be that he only finds the US Dollar a problem to be seen as acceptable for the work of the Diocese of Jerusualem and the Gulf. Whereas the Canadian Dollar - desipte its association with Same-Sex Marriage in Canada - could be OK.

As far as I know, the work of Jerusalem and the Gulf has always been a traditional recipient of giving by many Churches of the Communion - especially at Holy Week and Easter.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 9:44am GMT

I'm not sure that any question beginning "Did the primates intend ..." can be answered because I now doubt they were sufficiently in agreement as to have a common intent.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 10:24am GMT

JohnH, I'd guess DioOttawa is not perceived to have those Icky Yank Cooties. }-X

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 11:54am GMT

I think it is important to remember that the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East is different from the Archbishop of Jerusalem - the diocesan bishop of Jerusalem, which is a Diocese within that province.

Posted by NJW at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 1:14pm GMT

Can Bishop David - or any member of the House of Bishops - espouse Good Disagreement without dissociating themselves publicly from the 2014 "Pastoral Guidance"? Or is that an unreasonable demand and, therefore, bad disagreement?

Posted by Tim M at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 6:04pm GMT

I am pleased to read (Wyn Beynon) that I am not alone in noting with some apprehension the influence of john Spence. I sense a bit of a cruel swagger there.

Posted by Fr William at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 7:09pm GMT

Good disagreement = fudge...... No integrity..... Leads to dean John being asked Not to be a bishop even by liberal Williams..... Poisonous fudge

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 10:44pm GMT

Is not the bishop of the diocese of Jerusalem styled Bishop, while the President Bishop of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, etc. styled Archbishop?

Posted by Richard at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 11:16pm GMT

So, what is the polar opposite of "good disagreement"?
As the "Facilitated Conversations" reach their inevitable conclusion then the General Synod must come to some conclusion following these very expensive discussions. I fear that the outcome of the General Synod deliberations may well merit another label that of "bad agreement". If this proves to be the case then the editors of TA must be prepared to be on the receiving end of a shed load of "Fresh Expressions".

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 5:52am GMT

Surely after the summer Synod there may result one of three ways forward:
I. Status quo = bad disagreement = injustice = unChristian
2. Two options available, as for women bishops = so called good disagreement = pragmatic
3. Same sex marriage imposed by legislation and requiring all clergy to conduct sacrament or blessings = bad disagreement but just.

Posted by Malcolm Halliday at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 9:03am GMT

Father David,
I think most TA regulars see Facilitated Conversations as a delaying tactic. I suspect that the official line will be that they have revealed no consensus and, in the light of the Primates' communique, it would be wrong at this time for the Church of England to take any unilateral steps to change the status quo. We will all then need to agree to disagree IE enter a period of "good disagreement".

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 1:46pm GMT

Those photos by Jim Grover are very moving.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 5:42pm GMT

I think you misunderstand the Shared Conversations if you believe that there will be an "official line" about them having achieved "no consensus".

They are not intended to deliver a consensus. They are intended for participants to explore their difference, whereby the fact of the difference is taken for granted. The question is how one can engage with that difference, and the emphasis is on the relationships that are being formed in the course of the three days.

I hope very much that the general feedback was that people realised the value of that relationship and that they were far less happy to consider a split, although some said with regret that they saw no alternative.

I am greatly encouraged that the next General Synod meeting in July will benefit from 2 days of Shared Conversations. I don't know if this was part of the original plan or if it arose from the success of the Diocesan conversations, but it is excellent news and the best possible starting point for the subsequent discussion in Synod.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 7:26pm GMT

What, no doubt clumsily, I have been trying to test out, is that "good disagreement" has at its heart a process that builds and strengthens relationship, and even love and respect, between those who are disagreeing. Real relationship building in that sense may contribute to diminishing the impact of the power imbalances in a situation, rather than being just another tool in the hands of the dominant.

And rather than let the term be defined by the sexuality discourse, I would like to see if we can ground it elsewhere, and then use those external insights to identify a better way forward on the matters presently being discussed.

But maybe that's a conversation I'm only sharing with myself, at least on TA.

Posted by David Walker at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 10:46pm GMT

The Bishop of a Manchester has helpfully clarified what he intends to mean by the phrase "good disagreement", a phrase which seems to be an oxymoron, hence the "good disagreement" on this Blog over the meaning of the phrase.
This is altogether helpful and greatly assists in the discussion for any society, including the Church, is judged by how it treats its minorities - be they those within the Church of England who uphold the Traditional understanding of Ordained Ministry or those who are attracted to their same gender.
I do hope that the good Bishop of Cottonopolis isn't actually just holding a conversation with himself for what he writes is actually highly insightful.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 5:10am GMT

Well, David, I don't mind sharing conversation with you, and I'd be grateful to (and appreciate you posting here and engaging).

What I'd really like to understand, is why we can't have 'unity in diversity' in the Church of England.

You talk about 'grounding it elsewhere' (than, for example, just on sexuality). And I should have thought that, as Christians, that grounding for unity and 'good disagreement' should be founded on our unity in Jesus Christ. And secondarily, on respect for diverse consciences.

You mention 'power imbalances' but if church leadership (and I'm referring in this instance to you and your fellow bishops, one of whom is my much-respected cousin) wants to resolve those imbalances, and strive for unity... is the imposition of uniformity (as posited by the Anglican Covenant, by the Bishops' Pastoral Letter, and the recent Primates' meeting) a respectful, 'good' way of disagreement? Should it be 'My way or the highway'?

If we are one in Jesus Christ (and I truly believe that) then why can't we agree to disagree on issues - and, for example, allow parishes and church communities and priests and PCCs who - in good conscience - truly believe in Christ and believe in affirming and celebrating gay sexuality and relationships, to do so.

Why should 'good disagreement' not be built, not on uniformity, but on our good consciences and our lives in Jesus Christ?

Is power imbalance and tendency to enforce a uniform view a true expression of the diversity we share? Isn't the real challenge, not who is 'right', but the grace and hard work necessary to co-exist, with all our differences of conscience and individual uniqueness?

That is a conversation I should love to share and develop with you, here on TA.

God be with you.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 9:43am GMT

It seems to me that +David and Susannah are both advocating "good disagreement" but disagree what "good disagreement" means. To my mind, that alone makes me doubt whether "good disagreement" - as either of them sees it - is a productive way forwards.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 1:26pm GMT

The church has been plagued by disagreement -- good and bad -- from the days of Peter and Paul. Ultimately it is the object of (dis)agreement that represents whether it can be a peaceable willingness to bear with difference or a cause for schism. "It seemed important at the time" is the watchword for any church tempted to divide over what may turn out in the long run to have been a minor point of dispute. Remember the common cup, and vernacular liturgy? Or circumcision? The church's history is draped with conflicts that in retrospect have quite faded and lost their color. What matters is Christ, and him crucified, died, buried, risen and ascended. All the rest is gloss...

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 3:03pm GMT

it doesn't really matter what anyone means by "good disagreement". It combines the facts of disagreeing and of finding a non-destructive way of doing that. What it will mean in practice remains to be seen - it is a process as much an outcome.

At best, it will result in a form of "unity in diversity" or "living side by side in tolerance". But it can also be a positive way for some groups to split and walk away without rancour.

A bit like Relate counselling, it doesn't necessarily have a prescribed outcome, but it is aimed at finding an amicable resolution.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 5:18pm GMT

I've been thinking about "good disagreement" extensively, +David. I don't have a lot of time, I'm off to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, but here are some initial ideas.

Good disagreement is a clear winner when the issue is something administrative, and even major. Like merging congregations so that that they can thrive better than going it alone. Not everyone will agree, but getting everyone onboard to make it work would be important.

Inclusion issues are moral issues. TEC is not wrong about that. "Good disagreement" about the inclusion of women, LGBTI people, immigrants, people of color, etc., is really problematic. For example, while a lot of people seem happy about the WB situation in CoE, it has actually given license to a some to be more openly discriminatory than ever - a message that will not be lost on girls and will attack their self-esteem. A whole alternate episcopacy is formed to keep the girls out. It's a hurtful message that girls and women are not fully accepted as created in the Image of God as completely as men, and called be loved just as we are called to love one another. Someone is being loved less here, and there's no escaping that fact.

I could go on similarly about exclusion for LGBTI people. And in CoE, gay clergy and lay readers who marry are actively persecuted. That is very, very distant from "good disagreement."

"Good disagreement" is likely in the eye of the people who hold the power. And declaring "good disagreement" could be misused as a PR tactic.

Disagreement is only good when those who don't hold the power say that it's good, and that likely won't happen until power is shared. And that is the fundamental problem.

Some of this drive for "good disagreement" is cultural. But the power issues are the same in all cultures.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 10 March 2016 at 11:54pm GMT

What does "good disagreement" look like to an LGBTI teen on the verge of suicide because of bullying and from not being made to feel that s/he is a Child of God? What does it look like to a gay man imprisoned in Nigeria or Uganda for who God created him to be? What did it look like to Matthew Shepherd beaten and let for dead, alone on the vast and cold Front Range of Wyoming, tears frozen to his face?

What would "good disagreement" look like if we were talking about race?

In moral and justice issues there is justice, partial justice, or no justice. "Good disagreement," to me, sounds like trying to make a majority happy with partial justice, and of course, it's the minority that suffers. It sounds like straight people deciding what's good for gay people, or men deciding what's good for women, or white people deciding what's good for black people.

With justice there is "justice" and "not yet justice."

It's justice when the LGBTI teenager feels loved, affirmed, included, and treated with dignity and respect. If it doesn't pass the hypocrisy meters of LGBTI teens, it isn't justice.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 11 March 2016 at 3:15am GMT

"it doesn't really matter what anyone means by "good disagreement". It combines the facts of disagreeing and of finding a non-destructive way of doing that. What it will mean in practice remains to be seen - it is a process as much an outcome."

Most LGBT don't believe the church is following the teaching of Jesus. How can that not be destructive? How can a church encourage mission, call for a great wave of prayer but then tell LGBT trying to be missionaries to their own church that the church not following the teaching of Jesus is "good disagreement".

Because, let's not mince words and hide this behind saying it is a discussion on sexuality, or that it is tiresome how often people want to raise this. LGBT people have a mission to the church to get it to follow the teaching and love of Jesus.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 11 March 2016 at 11:59am GMT

Cynthia: I'm off to the UN Commission on the Status of Women..

Look out for Rachael Fraser who is attending as part of the Anglican Communion delegation representing the Scottish Episcopal Church.


Posted by Kennedy Fraser at Friday, 11 March 2016 at 2:13pm GMT

Thank you, Kennedy, I'll keep an eye out for Rachael. We have a lot of joint activities in the diary this week.

It's Day 1 and I have to say that the talk here reinforces my belief that equality is a prerequisite for peace and reconciliation, for living in a just and compassionate world and church.

That just seems to be a moral fact in God's creation. It may not bode well for "good disagreement." At the end of the day, equality is a matter of inclusion without caveat, or it isn't equality. MLK wrote on this.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 13 March 2016 at 2:48am GMT


You nailed it, straight on!

This "good disagreement" is, in the end, destruction and ungodly game playing.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 15 March 2016 at 4:12am GMT

When all the conversation is said and done, what really is at stake here is: whether or not, the Church of England wants to reach out pastorally to those of its members who are in a loving, monogamous same-sex relationship wherein they have already experienced the love and mercy of God.

They now wanting to celebrate that with others of their sisters and brothers in their Church, who recognise their desire for a public Blessing of their already legal relationship as a couple.

This sounds rather more like a pastoral ministry than a spiritual revolution. Anyway, it could encourage more heterosexual couples to get married in Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 16 March 2016 at 11:16pm GMT
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