Thinking Anglicans

listening in Worcester

Here is one Church of England diocese that is taking seriously the request of the Lambeth Conference and other bodies to engage in listening:

Listening for the Truth in Love, which was launched on 13 July, is a listening process. It was set up by the Diocese of Worcester Board for Social Responsibility. It is the result of a resolution passed at the Diocesan Synod meeting of November 2005 which set up a group to provide opportunities and materials to enable conversation about the homosexuality debate.

A pack has been produced that covers the topic from a number of viewpoints and is designed to encourage people to hold meetings to listen to each other’s experiences and opinions. The pack includes leaflets setting out different interpretations of Scriptures, personal experiences and materials for worship.

The individual elements of the pack are PDF files which can be downloaded from this page.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Right Revd Dr Peter Selby commented:

“This pack is designed to enable real conversation around the issue of human sexuality. This means a willingness to listen to different views and be open to new ways of thinking and new possibilities of understanding. We’re not expecting people to suddenly change long-held convictions, but we do hope that through listening there might be healing and learning for us all.”

What are other dioceses doing?

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Merseymike
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Merseymike

Liverpool did something similar, but I think it was an opportunity lost. A group of us, from very different backgrounds, met over a two year period, and produced a report at the end of it. Frankly, the report itself was nothing spectacular, but it did at least raise some points which could be future ways forward. What I think would have made more impact were the pen-pictures or personal statements which were included – but which were removed from the final document for a number of entirely unsatisfactory reasons The publication of the document, itself much delayed, was then followed… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I like what the souls in Worcester are trying to do. I agree with their comments about sometimes plain nastiness on Thinking Anglicans (and this charge can sometimes be applied to myself as well as others). The difficulty is that there are souls who are actually nasty, but only show their nastiness when their more covert methods of repression no longer work or at risk. That is my continuing fear with this period, that the conservative repressors will be “charming” and “co-operative”, but in reality are waiting for a shift in the winds so they can revert to a more… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Cheryl is referring to this document
http://www.cofe-worcester.org.uk/work_of_the_diocese/documents/Usefulresources.pdf
which lists TA among the resources.

I hadn’t read that document before I wrote the article. 🙁

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

Western Newfoundland has been engaging in a dialogue process. About half the parishes did it as a Lenten study program, and some are doing it at other times. And of course there are a few who don’t want to touch it.

There have been some charges (from both sides of the spectrum) about the materials being biased.

I had a dozen people participate in my parish. No minds were changed, but there was a good, healthy conversation, and a variety of viewpoints.

davew
Guest
davew

Surely Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and through Jesus we know what love is (1 John 4). If we are ‘Listening for the Truth in Love’ sueely we are not listening to each others ideas about the truth but to the One who is the truth and what He says? As we already know what the debate is about. When I see “a lesbian/gay affirmative reading of Scripture” that suggests the Anglican churches reading of scripture is somehow not right or sufficient. It also suggests that people are somehow classified by their sexual desires in order to be able… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

With some hesitation, given how quickly this debate usually heats up, I offer a few comments on one of the leaflets in the pack: “A lesbian/gay affirmative approach to Scripture”. I have read this (and the leaflet of personal stories) because I want to listen. This is what I hear: “In the Old Testament…the love of David and Jonathan, and of Ruth for Naomi … provide for male / male and female / female relationships models of fidelity, commitment and self-sacrificing devotion.” Amen to that – without reservation. As for “sexual connotations” in these relationships – may depend on what… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Part of the challenge of any listening process is demonstrated by TEC/ECUSA listening over the past 30 years or so. Many, many, many believers participated. Some did not. Of the TEC folks who opted out of all or part of that long-term listening process, some folks withdrew, some folks sat on various sidelines, some folks were sincerely ambivalent in their own minds and hearts, and some folks attended a few meetings only to confirm their earlier suspicions that listening would involve some sort of unwelcome and forbidden conversation across variant frameworks. At first, the TEC conservatives were content to sit… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

A big thank you to Thomas Renz for detailing those lesbian/gay views to references. Sadly all those views are assumptions and merely part of the existing debate and not new evidence against the church’s view. That would leave the whole argument based on David and Johnathan having had sex. The problem with this assumption is that David also had sexual relations with many women but as we know Jesus said that this was not God’s purpose in creation either Matthew 19, Mark 10, 1 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 5 and Hebrews 13 all reference Genesis 2. The lesbian/gay assumptions look to… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Dave W. – “a lesbian/gay affirmative reading of Scripture” is an attempt to read Scripture in such a way that same-sex lovemaking (in the right circumstances) can be affirmed as good without being unfaithful to God’s Word. Anyone can engage in such a reading regardless of sexual orientation. While “a lesbian/gay affirmative reading of Scripture” can be an exercise in rebellion against God, it does not have to be. Such attempts are heuristically useful when our experience or gut feeling or whatever else suggests that there is something wrong with the traditional reading. Of course, it may turn out that… Read more »

Abigail Ann Young
Guest

Simon asks what other dioceses are doing. The diocese of Toronto began holding our version of the listening process, the Same-sex Consultations, in 2004. The materials and some explanation of the process is linked at http://www.toronto.anglican.ca/index.asp?navid=149. This is part of a wider consultation in the Anglican Church of Canada, leading up to a major discussion of the issue at the next General Synod (2007). In the wake of the decision by the diocese of New Westminster to allow for a “local option” for parishes to hold blessings for same-sex unions, several other dioceses considered the same sort of resolution. In… Read more »

John-Julian, OJN
Guest
John-Julian, OJN

Oh, drdanfee, you are so right on every single point. Someday someone will get around to pointing out that the problem is not one of theology or morality or even Scripture. It is a problem of psychology! And of the projections and “ick”factor that underly virtually all opposition to gay unions. It is simply psychologically clear that opposition to gay unions NEVER starts with Scripture or classical morality or Christian tradition. It starts with socially-justified homophobia in some form which is then further “justified” by pleas to Scripture and tradition. (Literally no one is committed to following Scripture by the… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
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J. C. Fisher

I participated in a “Listening Process”-type event in a nearby (TEC) diocese, about 3 years ago. (It took the form of a debate, “Pro” and “Con”, between two priests, neither of whom was himself gay). The thing that was striking to me, was how the “Con” priest said nothing that actually *engaged* what the “Pro” priest said (close readings of Scripture, mainly, combined w/ a little bit of social-psychology vis-a-vis “sexual orientation”). Instead, Father Con just offered patently *pseudo*-science (e.g. “Most of those who described themselves being unhappy being gay, and therefore tried to change, then reported that they did… Read more »

Mark
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Mark

In response to exegesis of Mt 8.6 – aside from the fact that Thomas’s claims are claims for the authority of the lexicon to which he refers rather than to scripture directly (and this is often missed in analysing the sources of authority on which we rely in interpretation) – I wish I could be so certain. The sentence ‘I went to a gay party’ known to come from the 20th century and written in English is ambiguous, though all the words in it are short and straightforward. Add to that the human tendency to euphemism, not absent from Greek,… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I agree with both JJ and drdanfee.

I think the problem is already being seen. There isn’t really any intention to listen.

Perhaps the question is more, that, knowing each others perspectives, is there any way we can co-exist alongside one another, accepting that neither ‘side’ is prepared to change their view?

We can argue about the substantive issue forever and get nowhere.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Perhaps I should remind those present about the German Lutheran 1580 Books of Concord, namely the Formula concordiae, article V. On law and the Gospel. Status controversiae: “The issue here is whether preaching the Holy Gospel really is simply the preaching of Grace for the Forgiveness of Sins or, equally, the preaching of Repentance and Punishment, punishing unbelief, as if this would be punished not by law, but only through the Gospel.” * Positiva: particularly points 1., 2., 6., Negativa: particularly point 1. * (roughly rendered from the 2nd edition of the 1944 Swedish unofficial (= Pietist) translation from the… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Mark – my appeal is not to the authority of “the lexicon” but to the evidence itself (how the term is used) which is conveniently summarised in a dictionary such as BDAG. The Greek word in question is indeed very common and its meaning is not considered uncertain. General terms can of course take on special connotations if used in specific contexts but the Gospel of Mark does not signal such a specific context. The authors of the leaflet make two claims: first that the Greek term means “beloved boy” (i.e., is a term of endearment) and secondly that the… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Re: “There isn’t really any intention to listen” Merseymike: You are right and the situation works both ways. The reason is that both sides are already apprised of the chief points of the other’s cases and have found them unconvincing. I, for one, find the “evidence” (and I use the term lightly) adduced by the “reappraisers” to be insufficient, misconstrued and/or completely and patently absurd. Never was so much made of so little, Biblically speaking. This twaddle is ludicrous. On the other hand, “reappraisers” act and respond exactly the same way to anyone who tries to convince them that their… Read more »

simon dawson
Guest

J.C. Fisher writes

“I participated in a “Listening Process”-type event in a nearby (TEC) diocese, about 3 years ago. (It took the form of a debate, “Pro” and “Con”, between two priests, neither of whom was himself gay).”

So in fact this was not a “listening process” event. The listening process involves listening to the lived experience of lesbians and gay men. But what J.C. Fisher describes is a debate betwem two straight male priests about homosexuality and theology – which is something else entirely.

Why were gay or lesbian Christians not on the stage being listened to?

Simon

Doug Chaplin
Guest

If I might, as one of the team that produced the pack, offer some comments, they would be these: First, just to clear it up, TA gets praised as a resource, but people are given an “advisory” warning about *some* of the comments, even so, debate here is a lot less virulent than in many places, and more open-minded. On that point (and partly in response to Cheryl) I think there is something about both the lack of face-to-face and the ability to respond speedily (and posibly unthinkingly) about the web that promotes the quick dissing of other people and… Read more »

RMF
Guest
RMF

If I understand Thomas Renz’s point re: Mark, it is that Jesus never corrected a point that nobody raised therefore we can be sure that He clearly thought it essential and about it, said exactly _________. This is a bit absurdist; but perhaps I have just failed to understand. In light of Goran’s responses however I don’t see how that is. We have had this exchange before and I am surprised that the argument about Mark is so weak. A better approach might be to answer why we mustn’t suggest that the Lord Himself said not one word about this… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

Good question, Simon D (unfortunately, I don’t know the answer)

John-Julian
Guest
John-Julian

The proposed “listening” is rather like intentional non-violence. Both Gandhi and M.L. King, Jr. based their ideas on the concept that all people have somewhere in their make-up an inclination to goodness, and if their “foes” refuse to fight or even use violent language, that inherent goodness will be tapped, and sympathy result. The same idealism lies behind the idea of “listening” to gays and lesbians. It is based on the belief that if virulent anti-gays can actually hear the personal pain and personal despair (and even suicide) that gay-bashing produces in real brother/sister Christians, they will back off and… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Doug ; I hope that you find that you can engage those people – that wasn’t the experience here. I think, frankly, that the issue seriously bothers only a small and vociferous minority with others willing to live and let live. I think that having a bishop who is known for a non-orthodox view may make the process easier in terms of opening up debate. Steven ; as you know I agree with what you have said from the opposite perspective, as I find the ‘reasserter’ evidence simply outdated and unwilling to accept the limitations of the authors and cultural… Read more »

Laurence parod Roberts
Guest
Laurence parod Roberts

Forget the Bible for 5 minutes, will you and your hermaneutics. (I always wonder whats going on when anglicans start quoting the Bible 🙂 There are real people out there with lives to live and stories to tell. Listen maybe to these living epistles. Engage with people for Christ’s sake – and ours. I say ours because we and I include myself in this, are real people, not abstractions, or theories. If your Bible reading can’t fit me in or us in–what do you expect me to do ? I rather suspect that if only we would suffer in silence,… Read more »

Peter O
Guest
Peter O

I can’t find any reference in the Worcester Diocese pack, especially in the “Songs of Experience” paper, to anyone who, like myself and many others, has exited homosexuality. Frankly, I find *that* lack of listening disturbing.

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

To Göran Koch-Swahne Dear Goran, Thomas Renz made a good point > Why would one read the Bible from one’s point of view, surely we read the Bible to get God’s point of view and we have the Holy Spirit to help. When you say “Sexual immorality” is a false and misleading rendering of porneía, I am afraid I think that’s way out and goes against almost all scholarly views. In fact Jesus makes it clear when He refers to a man woman union as God’s creative purpose Genesis 2, Matt 19, Mark 10, and the breaking of that by… Read more »

John Richardson
Guest
John Richardson

A simple question about listening:

First, hands up all those ‘reappraisers’ posting here who are prepared to become ‘reasserters’ if persuaded by the listening process.

My question: Who is listening to whom?

Steven
Guest
Steven

Merseymike: In terms of the polarizing of views–agreed. To this I would add–increasing of hostility and bad attitudes. After a person has given it their best shot, with all reasonableness, and the other side continues not only to disagree, but to disagree vehemently and call you names in the process, something snaps. This is just human nature. “Reappraisers” get more unhappy with the folks who continue to think their position is a crock. Likewise, “Reasserters” get increasingly unhappy with the folks that won’t “listen” to them. For the majority “listening” is merely one more source of continuing exasperation and irritation.… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I don’t really think we should be giving space to those who glorify lies and repression, Peter. I think it vital that people are encouraged to be themselves, not attempt to be something they are not. There are people who are bisexual who are able to sublimate part of themselves which in terms of monogamous and faithful relationships generally doesn’t cause a problem, but as Jeremy marks pointed out, the number of people who genuinely ‘change’ orientation is marginal – he never came across any in his many years of working in the ex-gay movement. As much as they may… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Yet again the conservative discussion boils down to: My way – which is God’s way – or the highway. From any of the available alternative points of view, there is more than one strictly conformed way to read scripture. That is what makes inquiry and discernment into our, yes I said that on purpose, our readings of scripture so very, very important. The moment that one claims to have gotten a final, complete take on scripture as God wrote it – one is treading on risky ice floes, indeed. On the surface one seems to claim that one is finally… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

No Steven, it’s not over. You forget the forged translations. It will be long and painful.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Over the last 500 years or so, we have had the gradual acceptance of solutions to the question of Usury or Interest and to “the particular problem” of Slavery – with that of the position of Women (horizontal or vertical) well under way. The one on human sexuality (sodomia) slowly starting – and indeed experiencing some outreach from Ecumenism towards other religions (Jews, Muslims). The only thing lacking in order to complete the full reversal of the 6 Phantom-categories of Laterans I-IV are the Lepers – and very few Christians today argue that the sick are Sinners who enjoy their… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Merseymike: I disagree with your post to Peter. It is true that the viewpoint of ex-gays is often suppressed in this age of political correctness, but that doesn’t mean they have any less right to express their views and be “listened” to than anyone else in a church-wide process. After all, isn’t that what this “listening” is all about?–compassionately letting everyone have their say, and have their say, and have their say, and have their say . . . . . ad infinitum (or ad nauseum as the case may be). Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander… Read more »

Lois Keen
Guest
Lois Keen

Dear friends, Since when did “listening” become “people are expected to switch to one side or the other”? My understanding of listening is to get us all to come back to the table together, appreciating (not tolerating, appreciating) the giftedness of one another as we are, and to remain at the table, unchanged perhaps in our points of view, but changed inwardly in unconditional love, through the power of the Holy Spirit. If, in listening, someone “converts” to a side different from the one from which they began, fine. I’ve been present twice when just such a conversion happened to… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Steven, listening is not relativism.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Goran:

It will only be long and painful if liberals (excluding hopefully Merseymike and any others who are ready for a fair and gracious parting) make it so.

Steven

Steven
Guest
Steven

Lois: I could probably find something in your post that did NOT “require switching from one side to the other” if I looked long enough, but not much. However, what is astonishing to me is that you don’t seem to have any insight into the fact that most of what you are asking for IS the very switching we are talking about. Thus, if this is the goal of “listening” or if we have not “listened” unless we have adopted the attitudes you specify you have created a goal oriented process that is only accomplished when the outcome of “listening”… Read more »

John-Julian
Guest
John-Julian

Lois is exactly right! “Listening” does not necessarily change minds (in fact, it SELDOM changes minds), but it can change attitudes and behavior. It is only to recognize the commitment, the faith, the sincerity, and the integrity of someone else’s faith experience, and to stop calling them heretics or monsters or “cancerous lumps” (or, on the other side, rigid, mindless, anti-intellectual compulsives). And that SHOULD be enough to bring everyone to the same Table, presided over by the same Lord, sharing in the same Salvation, longing to share the same Faith with others. I have shared communion in Methodist and… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

John Richardson put forward this request on 18 July 1:15 bst: “First, hands up all those ‘reappraisers’ posting here who are prepared to become ‘reasserters’ if persuaded by the listening process.” I will put my hand up as one example. Working in the Sydney Diocese, it was seen as the only way to be legitimate in terms of understanding the bible. Even though I felt bad that there was a lack of compassion or empathy or tolerance I was doing that for the sake of the church. My open position changed when God kept sending confirmation after confirmation. After the… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Since making this posting, I have been thinking about the common rebuttal by the conservatives that Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more. My thinking is what would Jesus have done if she had been brought back for stoning again? Would he have done anything different the next time to the first time? I then started to think about Jesus’ exhortations regarding forgiveness and thought about the parable Jesus gave when Peter asked “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”. Jesus made it clear that forgiveness… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I believe the relevant section of the visceral Lambeth 1.10 says “We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ” Now I don’t mind listening to “ex-gays” or even ”ex ex-gays”, goodness knows I listened to many of both and find their stories fascinating and deeply moving, I don’t mind listening to anyone, but that does not seem to be what is on offer here –… Read more »

k1eranc
Guest
k1eranc

“I would rather be dealing with an openly gay couple than a pair of serial down-low men who repeatedly commit adultery against their wives when no human is looking.”

Here, here, and well-put, Cheryl.

Flossie
Guest
Flossie

Peter O has already pointed out that people who have broken free of their homosexual lifestyle have not had their voices heard.

Another group of people also needs to be heard: those who suffer from same-sex attraction but have submitted their lives, at personal cost, to God by adhering to the clear teaching of scripture by – along with others who are not married – living chastely.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Clear teaching of the forgers of our Holy Scriptures from 1200 onwards.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Again, why should those who suffer from internalised homophobia be ‘heard’ – other than to help then recover from it?

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Looking through the literture I see the mention of sexual fulfillment. Surely our fulfillment is first in and through Christ. Surely we think of ourselves in terms of being in Christ, not Christ in terms of our sexuality. You see we know there are sexual acts that gratify us and fulfill us sexualy but we as Christians also know that apart from within a man woman/marriage, which we know is God’s purpose in creation sexual acts are not countenanced. So to discuss sexuality is an assumption. But what sexual fulfillment does a celibate have? Someone who has not found a… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Why is it that so many of the unpleasanter postings here are anonymous or semi-anonymous ? I guess it frees folks to say what they like without ever being held responsible for it, or even ever k n o w n . To me knowing implies relationship, and none of this listening and stuff can ‘work’ without relationship. I have found it also needs a temenos or container, a safe place, and a mutual agreement as to the boundaries and work in hand. This is something the churches are poor at, and have been reluctant to learn and practice, down… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Flossie Yes, it is good to hear of the souls who experimented with homosexuality and chose/were able to “break free”, and those who live celibate lives. Their lot is actually happier than those who are unable to put aside their orientation or suppress their drive. One of the problems is that homosexuals are told they are forgiven if they are chaste, and the apostle Paul is quoted against them. But this ignores the subtlety of Paul’s advice in that Paul suggests that celibacy is better because there are less distractions or obligations to impede one’s work for God. However, where… Read more »

Peter O
Guest
Peter O

Mike, I’m not going to thrash over old ground. I just want you to consider that whenever you describe people who share their experience of God’s power in their lives as “those who glorify lies and repression” you set back the whole listening process. Whenever you decide that the ex-gay you are hearing from is actually a “bisexual who is able to sublimate part of themselves” and not someone who was exclusively homosexual in their orientation as they have honestly told you, you are rejecting them as much as the closed-ear orthodox rejects the man or woman with their story… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

RMF – I did not claim that opposition to same-sex lovemaking was “essential” to Jesus. I sought to argue that to say that Jesus did not mention same-sex lovemaking, implying that he was not opposed to it, claims too much because it depends on what he meant when he spoke of porneia. It would be hard to find any Jewish voice of the time which did not declare all sexual intimacy outside marriage wrong, using porneia (“sexual immorality” or for those who have a problem with modern terms: “fornication”) or moicheia (“adultery”). I am not at my desk (and won’t… Read more »