Thinking Anglicans

Malcolm Brown and David Porter talk about the Shared Conversations

Updated

Church of England press release: Reflections on shared conversations process ahead of College of Bishops

15 September 2014
In a podcast interview Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, and the Revd Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, talk about the process of shared conversations that has flowed [from] the Pilling report as the College of Bishops of the Church of England gathers for its annual residential meeting in Leicestershire.

The College will conduct shared conversations for the next two days in small groups with the discussions remaining confidential, mirroring the wider proposed process.

In an interview recorded ahead of the meeting of the College David Porter and Malcolm Brown recognised that whilst a uniform view on the issues was highly unlikely, the potential for the Church to model a different and more Christ like way of disagreement would be crucial.

Malcolm Brown said: “There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations about hidden agendas. I hope that we’ve unpacked that sufficiently in the light of Pilling indeed to show that that isn’t the case. There’s a lot of reassurance that says this is what it says on the tin and it’s not something hidden.”

David Porter added: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.….And that we develop that rapport, 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. And that even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.” He adds that he hopes people will see the way the conversations are being held and say: “Look at how these Christians love one another because of the way they disagree well.”

Listen to the interview here:

https://soundcloud.com/the-church-of-england/shared-conversations-discussion

The interview is 11 minutes long.

The Pilling report is here:

https://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/pilling-report.aspx

Update
The Church Times has a report of this by Madeleine Davies headlined ‘No hidden agenda’ behind sexuality conversations

THERE is no “hidden agenda” behind the shared conversations on sexuality that begin this week, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs said on Monday.

In a recording published on the Church of England website, Dr Malcolm Brown spoke of a desire to ensure that “some of the fears that are not certainly intended to be substantiated are dispelled. There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations, about hidden agendas and things like that. I hope we have unpacked that sufficiently . . . to show that isn’t the case.”

Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, charged with overseeing the conversations, said: “It is what it says on the tin. It’s a process of shared conversation. It’s about creating space that they can feel a certain amount of confidence because someone is there helping hold the ring, so that all voices will be heard; that people will be able to engage with each other in a respectful way, to come and talk about the change that we see in the culture around us in relation to questions of human sexuality, and the diversity that exists within the Church, about how we should respond as people of faith to that…

This article also repeats the remarks from the Bishop of Willesden that we reported on earlier here.

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Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

‘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.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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.

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

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… Read more »

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

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.

AndrewT
Guest
AndrewT

“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… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

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… Read more »

John
Guest
John

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.

Roger Antell
Guest
Roger Antell

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… Read more »

John-Julian, OJN
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John-Julian, OJN

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… Read more »

sjh
Guest
sjh

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!

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

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… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

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… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

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… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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*… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“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?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“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… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

‘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 ?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“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).