Thinking Anglicans

College of Bishops – shared conversations

The Church of England started its series of “shared conversations” on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission this week in the College of Bishops. The College has just finished its meeting and published this press release.

College of Bishops Meeting
17 September 2014

The College of Bishops of the Church of England has met for three days. Two of the days were devoted to the first of a series of shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The context and process for the conversations were set out in a paper to General Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield on 26 June 2014 available here which also identified two outcomes for the process.

The first is to enable the Church of England to reflect, in light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church “proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation” as a missionary church in a changing culture ?

The second objective is to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another. Recognising that this was the experience of the first disciples and apostles who went on to proclaim the Gospel across the world, how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?

As part of the conversations the college shared the different responses being expressed in the life of the church and the deeply held convictions and experiences that inform them. In this the college reflected the diversity of experience and view held by the country as a whole. The college also acknowledged that at this stage it was not seeking to achieve consensus nor to make any decisions but rather the purpose was being open to see Jesus Christ in those who took an opposing view to their own position.

The resource materials and process prepared for the college will be further developed in the light of the experience there before they are rolled out in regional conversations early next year.

In addition to participating in the shared conversation process the college received presentations on a wide range of issues including Iraq and the Middle East, Science and Religion, Discipleship, Resourcing Ministerial Education and other matters.

A podcast interview with the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Manchester reflecting on the shared conversation process is available here.

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Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

It seems to me that we are too far down the road towards equality for this approach to lead to anything terribly helpful. As ever, just substitute the race issue for the gay issue and see how it looks. To those completely convinced that gay people akin to the way other people should be treated, it looks like this process is heading towards something akin to this: “…how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on racism continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?” Living together peaceably with those who have different views,… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I almost didn’t listen, it seemed like such drivel for a long time, how to disagree [about my very being]. But after a polite warm up +David talks about how the current conversations are necessary for the next one, which is “how to speak the truth in love.” He had my attention at that point. Further, he went on to speak about how we have different traditions of reading Scripture – I let out a Hallelujah worthy of G.F. Handel at that point (I’m so tired of “traditionalists” clobbering me and my being with their interpretation of Scripture, disallowing that… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

So, did they create a ‘safe space’ ? Did any bishop feel confident enough to ‘come out’? And if not why should the rest of those involved in the ‘conversations’ be more likely to be able to contribute positively to them?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Inevitably this particular demographic group – predominantly heterosexual men in their 50s/60s -was never going to come up with anything particularly radical. What’s needed is an intake of forty-something women as diocesans in positions of power in the Church with an informed view of gender and sexuality. Once the Church has accepted women in absolute authority in their dioceses, and marriage vows post-ASB 1980 (ie equality) the rest falls into place, from a biblical, tradition and reason perspective. That’s if we continue to adopt the three-legged stool approach. The facilitated conversations are then about the inevitable legislative changes and liturgical… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

For the church to get to where it is now on race equality took a lot of conversation at a local, regional and national level in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and even now things are not perfect. What is more, I think unexamined racial prejudice sometimes plays a part in ethical reasoning among Church of England members on a range of issues from immigration to war – but if I want to change people’s minds, simply denouncing people as racist if they do not (yet) agree with me would not be particularly effective!

aldwyn
Guest
aldwyn

I can’t believe it, I was expecting to listen to a “conversation” on gay issues and yet the word gay was never mentioned and the LGBT word I believe was only used once.

Ben
Guest
Ben

It came across very clearly that this conversation is all about them and very little about gay people. Which, of course, it is. How they can try to cling on to status and privilege in politics and society generally without having to compromise more than they would like on the homophobic doctrine.

Words, words words ….. Comparing their difficulties with those of the early Christians. It sounded awful.

The reality is that they have no choice but to move forward and modernise. The only question is how much damage they choose to inflict on their Church before giving way to the inevitable.

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

‘the college reflected the diversity of experience and view held by the country as a whole’. Somewhat coded, but I take that as the agreed answer to ‘did anyone come out?’ and ‘did anyone speak up for change?’

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

Thanks Cynthia for your kind words about the podcast. I read pretty well everything here, but comment only occasionally. To build on Andrew’s comment, it is important to note that our eight women participant observers played a full part in the event. Also that when I nominate 15 people for the regional conversations they have to include GLBTQI voices and a good proportion of participants aged under 40. Thank you Savi for the wisdom and graciousness that you always bring to the table. And to Kelvin (who I should have tried to make time to see when I was in… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Well, it’s hard to find a parallel, but if the Klan were having a series of meetings because there was a move from within to recognise black people were deserving of full equality, then I would be encouraged. But the problem remains that without rejecting black people the Klan has no raison d’être and for some it seems that a Church that accepts gay equality has also lost its purpose. However one suspects that most people like myself feel completely unconnected to what is happening within the CofE. Unconnected that is apart from a sense of distaste or dismay. As… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

>in those who took an opposing view to their own position.<

So ‘they’ have one position, do ‘they’ and go looking for acceptance of those who have the other view.

I rather think ‘they’ have several opinions and positions, and deceptions.

Other than that, the statement reads ‘bland’ to this outsider. ‘We don’t have to move, yet, so we are not moving, but listening to those where we might have to move, as well as to those where we are anyway, seeing if we have to move, but not yet if we did.’

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Savi Thank you for your really helpful post here

John
Guest
John

‘But if I want to change people’s minds, simply denouncing people as racist if they do not (yet) agree with me would not be particularly effective!’ Absolutely agree with this. I’d go further: many people who think homosexual behaviour wrong aren’t homophobic. I know people like that – and I bet everyone else here does too. My personal view is that there’s too much ‘unpacking’ to be done here (of the value of the Bible, how to interpret it, what the disputed passages imply, etc. etc.) for there ever to be theological ‘agreement’, but there might be ‘agreement’ to differ… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

‘For the church to get to where it is now on race equality took a lot of conversation at a local, regional and national level in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.’ Although fashionable here, to compare racism with homophobia,that it is an inexact analogy is often over-looked. The Church of England has not, as far as I know, ever legislated against the solemnization of holy matrimony on racial grounds. It has never Regulated against the ordination of certain racial groups, or their admission as Readers, Wardens, pastoral assistants and so on. Please remember this as it is surely pertinent ?… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

‘Homosexual behaviour’? Please!

I find terms like these offensive.

Just think, how would we receive an expression, such as ‘Black behaviour’ (in an already negative context.

While on linguists, so : ‘many people who think homosexual behaviour wrong aren’t homophobic.’

What are they then ? What word shall we use for them ?

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

Meanwhile, in RL while the bishops stage their Conversazzioni, a priest is backed by the bishop of Leicester and the archdeacon, for his forthcoming service of thanksgiving for his relationship.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/09/17/bishop-and-archdeacon-back-gay-priest-in-commitment-ceremony-row/

John in another thread had challenged us to foucus on the good lgbt news in the church–and here is ome.

This is the (near) future !

And I have only had to patient, ‘gracious’* and all the other buzz words for the past several decades ! Why the wait ?

I am sir,

an ungrateful pensioner (!).

* words so beloved of the bishops and the conservatives *

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I’m perhaps most guilty of being direct about naming bigotry for what it is. What I find interesting is the willingness in CoE discourse to talk in the abstract about the very being of real people. I find that many feel absolutely entitled to impose their [bigoted] view, in law and policy, on the very real lives of others. I find that there is much more talk of and about the status quo rather than about Jesus and justice. I find that there is not nearly enough emphasis on the moral question of the fruits of homophobia, as if the… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I’ve detected no mainstream media coverage of this announcement so far, but would be happy to be corrected.

This report has appeared on the Church Times website:

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/19-september/news/uk/setting-an-example-bishops-spend-two-days-talking-about-sex

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Contra Savi, I think that someone has to call out the bigots and discriminators in those terms. If we are trying to shift the Overton window in our direction, we need not only to make our own views more acceptable, but to make the opposing view less acceptable. I also find it a bit contradictory to urge politesse on LGBT issues and to acknowledge, as we must, that we’re still working on racism. One of the reasons that we’ve come this far on race matters is that some beliefs and terms are simply off the table–are socially unacceptable, and if… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

“many people who think homosexual behaviour wrong aren’t homophobic.”

But many people are homophobic even if those they dislike aren’t doing “homosexual behavior.” Exhibit A about this is Jeffrey John.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

It can be difficult for people to recognise the injustice of, and harm caused by, forms of discrimination that do not negatively affect them so that, for instance, some well-meaning Christians may not even be aware of the racism that their neighbours have experienced. Achieving meaningful change may involve challenging people in ways that open up, rather than shut down, the possibility of dialogue.

MarkBrunson
Guest

I find the idea that people who have no emotional reaction to homosexuality, but are quite content to condemn homosexuals to misery and despair based on the cold concept of “just following orders” to be absolutely horrific.

Homophobes, at least, have some human failing of fear to excuse them. These “not homophobe” anti-gay crusaders are simply dreadful and destructive.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Well said Laurie, and Cynthia is right. We have never yet discussed the morality of homosexuality. We have focused on what the bible does or doesn’t say about it, buy there has been no conversation about the why. What is immoral about it and why is it immoral? Why is the suffering and loneliness the church officially demands from gay people necessary?
It is high time we discussed the morality of our respective views.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

No, John. As Laurie says, offensive and simply wrong. The UK Supreme Court trashed that scurrilous proposition when the government suggested gay people should be repatriated to countries where they might be executed as they simply had to be celibate to avoid persecution. An argument the Church too has pretended to use. What shocks me, and should shock us all is the “tone” of these reports. How does it take this sort of intervention to get bishops to talk to each other. Even accepting that this might be necessary how come they are only doing it now? Some eleven years… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I have made it clear several million times on TA that I don’t myself think homosexuality, including actual homosexual behaviour, is wrong and that that those who think so are wrong. However, although many of that group are homophobes, many are not. Help, please, from James and rjb.

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

Bishop David, Thank you for your thoughtful and gracious post. I’m sorry to say, I have real misgivings about the Diocesans choosing just 15 people or so people in each Diocese for these conversations. How will you ensure that the people chosen to represent LGBTQ+ people do indeed represent these communities? How will you do so when the church does not collect data on sexual diversity, so does not have any reliable way of knowing the demographic makeup of sexual minorities in the church? How will you do so when we are talking about a very diverse demographic, both in… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John,
how do you define homophobe?

And what do you call a person who lives in a country that has debated homosexuality for decades until it finally introduced marriage equality last year, in which gay people are prominent in all walks of life… and who yet clings to the idea that there is something so wrong about them that they must not be allowed to lead normal lives? That their own views about their lives don’t matter but that they have to be compelled by the church to be celibate?

What do you call that kind of thinking?

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

What Erika said, again. I’ve been beating this drum for years. Why is it immoral even if the Bible damns it as it damns so many innocuous things or things we would now deem quite virtuous.

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

John, it may be true that some of these people have no personal animus against gay folks and yet hold blatantly homophobic positions. I know quite a few very friendly racists.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Achieving meaningful change may involve challenging people in ways that open up, rather than shut down, the possibility of dialogue.” Good luck with that. In political movements, the most effective major change has come about with nonviolent resistance promoted by Gandhi and MLK. In TEC (probably Canada, but I don’t want to speak for them) the change is coming about via dialogue, but TEC puts a high value on listening and the CoE leadership most certainly does not. CoE is only getting WB’s because of the pressure exerted by your PM and Parliament. It took an outside force, threats from… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“It is high time we discussed the morality of our respective views.” Erika, I haven’t really been talking about the morality of being gay. I kind of go with the “I’m OK, You’re OK” philosophy on that. Theologically, we are all created in the Image of God and she did not make LGBT people lesser. We are a part of a beautiful and diverse creation. If one explores the “why” of the clobber passages, I’ve heard some excellent possibilities that place them in the context of their time and/or challenges the translation. The moral standard I’ve been using centers on… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Of course, John.

But the story runs a bit like the more liberal end of the SA Dutch reform who saw complete equality of the races but there could be no inter-marriage.

I think we would be comfortable to name that as racism ……

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Cynthia, yes, I completely agree.
Add to that the psychological benefits to gay people when they lead normal lives, and the lack of harm to anyone else.

My problem is that those who oppose gay equality have nothing to say about the why. And I wish they did. Because for to present hard data and our own experience only to be met with “God says no, no reasons given” is a deeply unsatisfactory conversation.

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

” the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church “proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation” as a missionary church in a changing culture ?” Perhaps by becoming part of that changing culture, perhaps by choosing leaders who are unafraid to lead and speak out? Looking in from the outside (ECUSA) all this just seems like one more dreary “conversation” where everyone will go home feeling so good about being nice to each other. How one longs for a Runcie, or a Ramsay. If one may… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

Cynthia, surely it is not a case of either/or but both/and re direct action and discussion? Gandhi and other leaders of the Indian independence movement did talk with British government representatives and Martin Luther King and other civil rights movement leaders talked with people holding positions of power in the US state. Indeed refusal to live our lives, or conduct ourselves as local communities, by rules which we regard as wrong can open up opportunities for dialogue. To quote Gandhi on Satyagraha: ‘Supposing a landowner exploits his tenants and mulcts them of the fruit of their toil by appropriating it… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

Anti-gay words- no matter how ‘gracious’ and genteel lead to terrible violence in the real world.

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/philadelphia_archbishop_statement_of_gay_attack_offers_no_support_for_victims

Those who act this way and condone it do not know Jesus- do they ?

How many Church of England bishops have not accepted Him ?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Great story, Savi. I did say something about a multi-pronged approach. My approach is to speak the honest truth of injustice. The change in TEC has come from listening to people’s stories. The stories of our hurt, and of the Grace of inclusion. MLK did not get those conversations (that you and I both treasure) by ringing up the secretary and making an appointment. Those opportunities only came as a result of his civil disobedience work. Without pressure, MIK would not have gotten those conversations. I believe that it’ll take significant pressure to bring to the table the writers of… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Again, if they still oppose gay equality on the basis of some cold, rationalizing “belief system,” that makes them *worse*, not better, than someone who fears or is disgusted by the idea of homosexual relations. Someone who will literally love you to death is severely deranged, lacking in empathy, unable to relate to humans.

It’s like saying HAL 9000 is basically a good guy because he’s following programming, and Darth Vader’s a bad guy because he embraced hate.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Cynthia We share a great deal of the concerns and frustrations expressed on this thread. But I struggled with this comment of yours …’It took an outside force, threats from a higher power, to effect that change.’ I accept that the presence and pressure social and poetical change can (and should) trigger fresh theological reflection and change in the church. That is one reason I am an Anglican. But secular political policy is not the same as Christian theology. In history and in parts of the world today political policy and threats leads to martyrdom not theological change. It must… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

I shared this though wit friends a few days ago and would like to add it to the reflections on this thread. ‘Acutely aware of the Bishops of my church meeting this week in facilitated discussions on sexuality. I am so gratitude that they are discussing this at all and in this way. Has the senior leadership of the church ever made themselves vulnerable to each other and worked together in this way before? I am blessed with wonderful friends but I cannot imagine easily talking personally about sexuality, longing, desire in such a close and focused context – let… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Savi and others, ref the discussion about the balance between direct, forceful action or gracious conversation; I would argue that it not simply a case of “both/and”, but that timing is important, it is one followed by the other. If someone is in a state of settled conviction, gracious conversation by itself will struggle to move somebody. It often needs some form of existential crisis to unsettle the person, and then the person will cast around in anxiety and uncertainty to find somebody who can provide a safe space within which to explore what is going on. And that’s where… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Continued from previous post…… So yes, gracious conversation is a necessary part of a process of change. But by itself it is rarely sufficient. What is that crisis or existential challenge that will cause sufficient members CofE to want to change, and want to engage in conversation? From my own position of wanting to move the church in a more gay friendly direction, I have no problems with the idea of gracious conversation. It is a good thing. But I want to keep up that simultaneous pressure for change. My fear is that there will be pressure to move towards… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Erika, I use the word ‘homophobe’ because it’s common parlance. I don’t personally like it, because negative attitudes towards/reservations about/thinking wrong/ homosexual sex don’t necessarily include ‘fear’, though they can do, of course. But let it stand. As used, it is pejorative, unlike, for example, ‘arachnophobe’. I believe it is possible to hold people objectively wrong in their beliefs but morally innocent. People who regard homosexual sex as wrong are in my view wrong in their opinion, but if they don’t regard homosexual people as intrinsically sinful, don’t shudder at them, don’t discriminate against them, etc., they are not ‘homophobes’.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I agree that it is possible to hold people objectively wrong in their beliefs but morally innocent. And I also agree that “if they don’t … discriminate against them… they are not homophobes.” In the church context, however, we are talking about people who do discriminate. The whole structure of the church is discriminatory against gay people and the conservatives we argue with here and in an official capacity do their very best to keep it that way. So I think that in the context Simon describes above, it is right not to call people homophobic. But in the… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Simon Dawson has put the matter far better than I could. Conversation and pressure are two sides of the same coin, and they both have their place.

Obviously Gandhi was against violence. I am not aware, however, that he was at any time against speaking loudly in the public square, identifying specific wrongs, and holding the people who perpetuate those wrongs publicly accountable.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

Cynthia, it is indeed important to keep mentioning LGBT teen suicide and homelessness, hate crimes etc – they are part of the reality which the church must confront and, on the part of its LGBT members, sometimes experiences. Simon, you raise the issue of incentives for change. The fact that, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, just 21.3% of Anglicans in Britain today think that sex between adults of the same sex is always wrong, compared to 50.9% in 1983, shows the extent to which change has been taking place among church members, though a higher proportion disagree with… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I too am completely in favour of ‘pressure’, as I have said several times. In particular, if the other Jeremy wins, there will be huge consequences. Erika, Of course I think your argument doesn’t work. When I wrote ‘do not discriminate’ I was referring to life in general. Those who hold homosexual sexual activity to be intrinsically wrong – and unbefitting to priests as models etc. – can argue for such ‘discrimination’ in a non-pejorative sense of that term within the church. Again, I think they’re wrong, but their position is not necessarily ‘homophobic’ (the point here at issue). It… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, “Those who hold homosexual sexual activity to be intrinsically wrong – and unbefitting to priests as models etc. – can argue for such ‘discrimination’ in a non-pejorative sense of that term within the church. Again, I think they’re wrong, but their position is not necessarily ‘homophobic’ (the point here at issue)” But the same people argued (and voted!) against civil marriage equality. The church deprived Jeremy Pemberton of a job although they did not have to do so. I don’t know if you follow the Diverse Church tweets or are one of the Friends of Diverse Church, but what… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Threats from a higher power and coercion is not how Christians do business or belief is it? So I do not expect a thoughtful but conservative bishop or any church member to change their theological convictions on the basis of government policy.” David, when I talked about the higher power forcing change, I wasn’t speaking of an ideal. I was speaking the truth that it was pressure from David Cameron and Parliament that forced CoE to accept women bishops in short order. People were being rather congratulatory and holding up the conversations around WB’s as a model for dealing with… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Simon Dawson, you are awesome. You certainly articulated the need for both pressure and gracious conversation. Savi, it doesn’t seem like the statistics move the hearts of the conservatives. We constantly hear some say that culture is the problem and the church should be counter-cultural in maintaining traditional bigotries… This, Savi, is a huge moral problem for me: “We may have to learn to live with diversity of belief and practice on this as on various other important issues until a greater degree of consensus is reached.” You are asking the hurting and vulnerable to continue to carry a costly… Read more »