Thursday 7 May 2009

The Listening Process on Human Sexuality – Canon Phil Groves reports to the ACC in Jamaica

As I refer to my notes, I realise that Canon Phil Groves packed a lot of information into his half hour presentation to the ACC meeting this afternoon. He briefly outlined the work done and the nature of the process he advocates – to encourage trust and transparency, providing wider resources for listening and dialogue, seeking to reflect the Anglican way.

He referred to the book he edited prior to the Lambeth Conference – The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality – which is not an answer but a representation of the diversity of opinion in the Communion.

Don’t Throw Stones
For the first time, the “Don’t Throw Stones” initiative, of which I have been a founder member, was introduced to the delegates It is a practical outworking of the Dromantine Communiqué statement that ‘the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us’.

Phil Groves asked how we welcome lesbian and gay people, how we show love, how we create a safe space for gay Christians?

Table discussion
At this point he asked the delegates to hold a brief table discussion, sharing their impressions of whether listening has happened in their Province, what might help it to happen and whether it should or shouldn’t happen. After 5 minutes he tried to continue but lively conversations were still taking place. Five minutes later, delegates were still reluctant to stop their conversations. A few delegates I asked after the session said the conversations had barely scratched the surface but were revealing. Clearly there is an appetite to talk more, but I don’t think they will be given the opportunity.

Windsor Continuation Group recommendations
The Windsor Continuation Group has made two recommendations:
24. Only if the dialogue is seen to continue, and if there is an all-round readiness to engage in conversation and discernment on this issue, is there a hope of persuading the advocates of revision in the teaching of the Anglican Churches on this matter to remain committed to the period of "gracious restraint", in which mutual conversation can take place. On both sides, we need to move from intransigence and the conviction that "our" interpretation is the right one to a shared waiting upon God. There is something profoundly important about the Anglican way here - a readiness to acknowledge that Christian disciples discern God's truth by learning to wait upon one another, and that it takes the whole Church to know the whole truth.
25. We request that the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.

Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Project
Phil Groves proposed opening up new ways of moving forward.

The first is a continuing Indaba process from the Lambeth Conference 2008, a process of seeking a common mind drawing upon non-western cultural models. An adversarial model, for or against motions, is not always helpful. He seeks trust and transparency in face to face encounters.

Trust has to be continually worked at to avoid the feeling of being manipulated. There also needs to be trust that we are not trying to alter the gospel.

Indaba takes time and is designed to move beyond mutual listening to synthesis a common purpose. How long does it take? “Enough” is the answer. The continuing Indaba process will seek to:

• Use theological resources to inform the process of seeking a common mind by the utilisation of theologians around the world reflecting on Scripture and the traditions of the church in the context of diverse cultures, with an emphasis on non-western cultures and to publish them in culturally appropriate forms.
• Develop and publish training material for the convening and facilitation of Anglican Indaba processes.
• Run five pilot conversations, typically each one involving three diverse dioceses. They will focus on mission issues for each diocese and not avoid hard questions – not only related to sexuality, but also to the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect of the dignity of all. The hope will be that the result of the conversations will be a depth of agreement and the clarification of disagreement resulting in positive missional relationships.
• Run theological and process evaluation groups to see if the process is faithful to the Anglican way, valuable in enabling mutual mission and replicable across the Communion.

Funding from Moorhouse School of Medicine
Perhaps the most dramatic revelation us that funding is being provide by Dr David Satcher former U. S. Surgeon General and Director of the Sacker Health Leadership Institute at the Moorhouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. The funding, for 2.5 years, is part of the School’s work in consensus building processes among leaders.

A time for questions followed, which often reveals the thinking of particular delegates, and this occasion was no exception. I’ll post in a separate blog.

1 comment:

  1. Colin---thank you so much for your witness at the ACC meeting, and your courage.

    David Satcher is a wonderful man! I had the privilege of working at HHS while he was Surgeon General, and I think the world of him. (Just FYI, it is Morehouse...)