In response to the group of 72

The letter from the group of 72 to the College of Bishops makes interesting reading. The letter can be read in full on the Thinking Anglicans website:  The signatories suggest that the Church of En…

Source: In response to the group of 72

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While on holiday in Cairns, Australia, with my wife, Diana, taking refuge from the wintry South Island of New Zealand (the temp in N.Z. – last heard of –  was minus 4.C., while here we rejoice in an average of +25.C) though still keeping in touch with goings on in the Anglican blogosphere around the world; I had decided to take a break from full-time blogging on ‘kiwianglo’.

However, the latest news from the Church of England – that a group of 72 members of its General Synod have written to the House of Bishops, begging them not to move any further with legislation that would allow more liberal parishes to provide pastoral amenities for the Celebration of Same-Sex Unions – has stirred me into action. I am, therefore, spending an hour or two analysing the reports and projecting my own thoughts about the situation:

This eruption of an orchestrated letter of opposition to any forward-looking action being taken by the C.of E. House of Bishops seems counter-productive to any positive outcome from the much-heralded ‘Conversations’ on human sexuality that have now come to a close.

The veiled threat of a possible schism – if the bishops do not do as the 72 signatories have advised – must not be overlooked. The presence of a group calling itself AMiE (Anglican Mission in England) already threatens the authority of the State Church – on more or less identical grounds with those postulated by the ’72’ in their letter of protest.

One wonders why, in fact, these 72 people – who obviously feel that the Church should not be allowed to be hospitable to those who wish to publicly celebrate and acknowledge their monogamously faithful same-sex relationships in their own congregational settings – do not simply and quietly join up with AMiE; the foreign outreach, in England, of the dissident GAFCON sodality which has its own House of Bishops and jurisdictional provenance – separate from the rest of Anglicans in other situations around the world.

The grounds on which these protesters base their homophobia and sexism are a few passages of Scripture that are taken out of context and can hardly be applied to the exigencies of our modern world-view. Jesus took great pains to disabuse those Scribes and Pharisees who held sexuality to be the primary battleground for pastoral recrimination. Similarly, if Jesus were around today, perhaps He would be advising the bishops of the Church to be a little less judgemental of people who are doing their very best to deal with the circumstances of the sexuality that has been dealt to them – not by any fault of their own , but because of the infinite diversity of God’s creation.

After all, even Saint Paul said “It is better to marry than burn”. Was that only for heterosexual couples, I wonder?

One wonders whatever happened to the explicitly Dominical Sciptures that descibe the eirenic ministry of Jesus, the Son of God himself, who said “They will know you’re my disciples by your love” – not by your pharisaical judgmentalism.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

(temporarily in Cairns, Australia)

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A response to ‘The Andrews:’ Atherstone and Goddard.

Theore0

I enjoyed reading ‘the Andrews’ (Atherstone and Goddard) in the Church Times and, agree with much, perhaps even all, of what they write.

I appreciate their sense of realism:

‘Disagreement is an indelible fact of life.’ 

It is from this straightforward statement that they are able to draw the question:

‘Can it be transformed for good?’

Andrew and Andrew are also correct when thy point out that ‘good disagreement’ is a slippery term. For some it is not just slippery, it is also vacuous a bit like ‘virtuous sin.’

I am in the ‘camp’ that regards good disagreement as a real and distinct possibility, but not at this stage a probability. For good disagreement to become a probability flexibility and creativity will be required along with an acceptance that most of those with strong views, liberals and conservatives alike, are probably going to have to give a little. (Liberals – on this issue…

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Bishop of London to Retire in 2017

/ 19 JULY 2016

Bishop of London announces retirement in 2017

Bishop Richard Chartres on the Little Venice Canalway Cavalcade 2016

The Bishop has written to clergy and parishes across the Diocese of London to share the timetable for his retirement, with his last public engagement as Bishop of London being Candlemas at St Paul’s Cathedral on 2 February 2017. The Bishop, who has held the post for over twenty years, will continue his work and engagements as normal until Christmas and will continue to hold the post of Dean of HM Chapels Royal until the appointment of the 133rd Bishop of London.

It has been a privilege and a delight to serve in the Diocese of London as priest and bishop for well over thirty years. I have seen confidence return and church life revive. The recently circulated progress report on Capital Vision 2020 is an eloquent testimony to a renewed confidence in the gospel, more strenuous compassion and more extensive service of our neighbours in the most diverse city on earth, together with burgeoning creativity. At the same time the annual accounts reveal that we have ended the financial year in balance for the tenth year in succession.

No bishop could wish for more inspiring partners in the gospel, both among the clergy and laity of the Diocese. Regular visits to St Mellitus College are also a huge encouragement. There are more than 200 talented candidates for the priesthood training in the London centre of the college, with flourishing work on Merseyside and other places in England and even overseas. Work begins on a hub in Kuala Lumpur this September.

It has been a blessing to serve with a diocesan team of bishops, archdeacons and those who work at Causton Street, whose gifts are so diverse but who are united in their zeal for generous orthodoxy.

For my part, I have tried to follow the example of St Augustine who said, “For you I am a bishop but with you I am a Christian”, and in this spirit I hope you will forgive my many shortcomings in office.

After consultation with the Archbishop I am writing to let you know about the timetable for my retirement. It is business as usual until Christmas, after which I shall hope to clear my desk of more than twenty years’ worth of accumulated debris. The intention is that my last public engagement as Bishop of London will be in the Cathedral at Candlemas, February 2nd 2017, the day when Simeon was granted a vision of Christ in the Temple and prayed “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” My formal resignation will be dated from the end of the month on Shrove Tuesday.

Her Majesty the Queen has graciously indicated that I should remain as Dean of HM Chapels Royal until the appointment of the 133rd Bishop of London.

I have received so many signs in prayer and in the life of the Diocese that my period as Bishop of London is drawing to a close. I have every confidence in the Diocesan Team, and in the leadership of our Archbishop in the challenge of renewing and reforming the Church as a servant of reconciliation in these turbulent times.

I look forward to continuing to serve in other roles but it is right that someone who began as a primary school ink monitor should give way to a new Bishop of London more at home in the digital world, and with sufficient time to be able to play a constructive part in the Lambeth Conference planned for 2020.

The important things, however, do not change and I shall be praying for you as you seek to navigate into God’s future under new leadership.

In the meantime I continue to give thanks for our partnership in the gospel.

Photo credit: Stephen Bruce Photography

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The Rt.Revd. Richard Chartres, Lord Bishop of London, an outstanding Anglo-Catholic leader in the Church of England, is about to retire. It has been said that, if the timing of the election of the current Archbishop of Canterbury had been different (the C. of E. has a habit of electing alternate Archbishops of Canterbury from the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of the Church, so that when the current Evangelical ABC, ++Justin Welby, was elected to follow the A.C.  Archbishop, ++Rowan Williams) Bishop Richard might well have become the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

One of the problems, though, might have been the fact that Bishop Chartres has not been known to actively participate in the ordination of a woman priest – despite the fact that there are women clergy within his diocese. As an Archbishop of Canterbury in the present constitution of the Church of England, that could have proved a stumbling block.

A deeply pastoral bishop, +Richard has gained the respect of all of his clergy (including the women) in his large diocese. His celebration of important State and Church liturgical functions has alway been impeccable. His wise leadership in the stewardship of the Church’s financial situation has reaped its own rewards, with the Diocese of London remaining ‘in the black’ for some years now. Also, the number of ordinands proceeding through the diocesan campus of st. Mellitus’ College is living testimony to his careful pastoring of vocations in the Church. Here is his own statement on the basis of his episcopate:

“For my part, I have tried to follow the example of St Augustine who said, “For you, I am a bishop but with you, I am a Christian”, and in this spirit, I hope you will forgive my many shortcomings in office”.

The London Diocese has always been something of an Anglo-Catholic citadel in the Church of England, so there will already be some speculation as to who might be capable of filling the role, walking in the footsteps of this outstanding Bishop of London.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

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Shared thoughts from the Shared Conversations.

Having just returned from General Synod and the final round of Shared Conversations, I’m left with mixed emotions. I should think some of that has to do with being rather tired still. Although you’…

Source: Shared thoughts from the Shared Conversations.

 


Tonight, before going off on a much-needed holiday, my wife Diana and I were struck by this record of the feedback from the C.of E. General Synod’s recent informal meetings around its shared ‘Conversations on Human Sexualty’ process, just completed.

What did strike me about this report was that it soon became obvious that it was from the point of view of an LGBTQI person – a member of General Synod and a woman. Her experience, at one point, was of some confusion at being bombarded with literature of a conservative nature that was trying to press a particular point of view – quite in contravention of the ‘St. Michael’s Protocol’, which all Synod members had agreed to observe. That such material was even allowed to be distributed does seem a breach of the protocol and must have been upsetting to at least some of those present.

Our hearts go out to this Synod member. We pray that her own testimony might have helped someone to understand why people in her situation still claim full membership of the Church, willing to co-exist with those of different views from herself, but wondering whether she can live any longer with the hostility that some have towards her and her innate sexual make-up.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Canadian Primate on S/S Marriage

Canadian Primate acknowledges “deep divisions” over same-sex marriage

Posted on: July 18, 2016 3:02 PM

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
Photo Credit: Anglican Church of Canada

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake]The Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada has acknowledged the “deep divisions” in the church about same-sex marriage. The Most Revd Fred Hiltz made his comment in a pastoral letter (see below) following last week’s decision of the province’s General Synod to give first reading approval to an amendment to the marriage canon to permit same-sex marriages.

The Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada has acknowledged the “deep divisions” in the church about same-sex marriage. The Most Revd Fred Hiltz made his comment in a pastoral letter (see below) following last week’s decision of the province’s General Synod to give first reading approval to an amendment to the marriage canon to permit same-sex marriages.

But the Archbishop said that this was a time “not to turn away from one another but rather to one another, not to ignore but to recognise one another, not to walk apart but together.” And he said he was praying that the Church’s witness would “not be marred by the fraction and breaking of communion with one another”, but rather that in “forbearing one another in love” (there might be an) “eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.

He said: “We have been deeply divided over the solemnising of same-sex marriage for a very long time. That has not changed. In the midst of this division, I need to take to heart Paul’s counsel and I encourage our whole Church to do the same.

“‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,’ writes St Paul. He reminds us of our fellowship in Christ Jesus, through our baptism, and in the eucharist. He reminds us that we are ‘the Body of Christ, members one of another’ and that we, in fact, need each other, and need to find ways to make room for one another.”

Seven bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have publicly dissented from the General Synod’s decision. In a statement, they warned that the decision “imperils our full communion within the Anglican Church of Canada and with Anglicans throughout the world.” And they call on Archbishop Fred Hiltz and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “to seek ways to guarantee our place within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.”

Other bishops took a radically different view. When it was first reported that the proposal had failed, a number of bishops, including John Chapman of Ottawa and Michael Bird of Niagara, said that they would allow their clergy to perform same-sex marriages. Following the recount, they said that they were standing by their decision, despite the fact that the proposed canon change requires a second-reading vote when the Synod next meets in 2019.


“Forbearing one another in love”
By Fred Hiltz,
Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

In light of decisions made at General Synod 2016 concerning the solemnising of same-sex marriage, I pray our Church can and will take to heart Paul’s plea with the Christians living in Ephesus, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Going into General Synod, the delegates knew there would be pastoral implications whether the Resolution to amend the Marriage Canon passed or not. In order to pass it would, according to the Declaration of Principles (General Synod Handbook), require a two-thirds majority in each of the three orders voting: bishops, clergy, and laity.

On Monday, 11 July the result of the vote was that in the orders of bishops and laity there was the required two-thirds majority but not in the order of clergy. The vote was very close. The pastoral implication was that LGBTQ2S [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Two-Spirited] persons and those who have accompanied them were disappointed and saddened. Many wept. The Synod sat in silence.

Because the vote was so very close, on Tuesday morning there was a request that the record of this vote be made public and Synod concurred. Analysis of the actual vote revealed that one clergy member’s vote was not properly recorded. The Chancellor then advised the Synod that “according to the numbers we, in fact, did have a two-thirds majority vote in the order of clergy, and I announced the resolution had therefore passed in all three orders”. The pastoral implication was that a number of members of Synod were disappointed and saddened. Many wept. The Synod sat in silence.

We have been deeply divided over the solemnising of same-sex marriage for a very long time. That has not changed. In the midst of this division, I need to take to heart Paul’s counsel and I encourage our whole Church to do the same. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” writes St Paul. He reminds us of our fellowship in Christ Jesus, through our baptism, and in the eucharist. He reminds us that we are “the Body of Christ, members one of another”, and that we, in fact, need each other and need to find ways to make room for one another.

In keeping with the theme of Synod, “You are my witnesses” the question with which we must now wrestle is this, “For what kind of pastoral and prophetic witness can and will we be known?”

I pray that witness be not marred by fraction and breaking of communion with one another, but rather that “forbearing of one another in love” that “eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. More than ever we must make efforts not to turn away from one another but rather to one another, not to ignore but to recognise one another, not to walk apart but together. We need as a Church to work hard at maintaining our communion in Christ, for in his reconciling love is our hope and our life.

The Synod passed on first reading an amendment to the Marriage Canon to allow for same-sex marriage in our Church. Because it is a Canon about doctrine, consideration of the matter is required in “two successive sessions of the General Synod”. So the matter will be before the General Synod in 2019. In the meantime, it is referred “for consideration to diocesan and provincial Synods”.

I call the Church to seize this opportunity. I commend the General Synod’s reaffirmation by resolution of the 2004 General Synod Statement on the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships, and its call for a much wider and deeper engagement with the report, “This Holy Estate”. I will ask the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to give immediate attention to the matter of translation, at least of the executive summary of the report and frequently asked questions. I will ask CoGS to consider what other resources might be helpful. I will be asking the House of Bishops at their [Autumn] meeting to consider how we encourage “further consideration” of the matter, and to show strong leadership in their dioceses in hosting events, dialogues, and studies.

In all these conversations I want to encourage much more engagement with people who identify as LGBTQ2S. We have spent a lot of time talking about them. I believe we need to take much more time to talk with them and to learn of their lived experience of covenanted love in relationships that are monogamous and life-long. I know that will require of all of us a good deal of courage and grace.

Finally, I ask that without ceasing, we pray for one another, mindful always of the counsel of Paul.

“I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 1-3)

+Fred Hiltz

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Despite initial problems with the electronic vote-counting system, The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada +Fred Hiltz, has now confirmed that the First Reading on the ‘Amendment to the Marriage Canon’ in the A.C. of C. was affirmed by the requisite number of Votes (2/3 in each House (Bishops; Clergy and Laity) of the General Synod), so that the matter will go forward for the requisite Second Reading at G.S. 2019.

While acknowledging the disappointment of those who expected the Motion to be defeated – especially after the initial (incorrect) announcement of its defeat by one vote in the House of clergy – Archbishop Hiltz drew attention to the fact that the 2004 General Synod had already looked forward to a more generous view of the LBGTQI community, and urged Synod members to listen to one another, in preparation for the next Synod in 2019:

“I call the Church to seize this opportunity. I commend the General Synod’s reaffirmation by resolution of the 2004 General Synod Statement on the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships, and its call for a much wider and deeper engagement with the report, “This Holy Estate”. – Archbishop Hiltz

In some ways, the situation of the Anglican Church of Canada is in a somewhat similar situation to our New Zealand Provincial Church (ACANZP) – except for the fact that our concern is strictly about Same Sex Blessings, whereas the Canadian Church goes one step further – towards the celebration of Same-Sex Marriage in its churches.

Both Provincial Churches will have time for further discussions before their next meetings of their General Synod; we, in New Zealand, until 2018; and the A.C. of Canada, in 2019. In the meantime, much soul-searching will need to be done by all members of both Churches

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Giles Fraser – on Theresa, the Vicar’s Daughter

Theresa May arrives at 10 Downing Street.
Theresa May arrives at 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters

@giles_fraser

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Father Giles Fraser, one-time  Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and director of the St Paul’s Institute from 2009 until his resignation in October 2011., and now Priest in Charge of St. Mary’s, Stoke Newington; compares the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, with the mediaeval Saint Theresa of Avila – a noted eccentric among the Saints of the Church.

Theresa May, on the other hand, is the daughter of an Anglo-Catholic priest of the Church of England and obviously influenced by her father’s take on the world in all its complexity, from the point of view of a ‘catholic’ understanding of salvation and redemption.

Giles compares the life of his own daughters – as children of a priest – with that of the new British Prime Minister, and how it affects one’s view of the world from the inside of a vicarage. Let’s all hope that this clerical upbringing will bring out in the new P.M. the attitude of service that this faithful member of the Church ought to render to God in the real world of her new political office and responsibility. After Brexit, she will surely need out prayers!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

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Summary of experience at C.of E. G.S.

Synod members thanked for staying on to talk about their differences

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies – CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 12 Jul 2016 @ 06:28

Click to enlarge

It’s good to talk: Members of Synod chat outside the chamber, on Friday, before the beginning of the Shared Conversations

 

MEMBERS of the General Synod praised the Shared Conversations on sexuality as they emerged from more than two days of these private talks in York.

The culmination of a two-year process involving more than 1300 members of the Church, the conversations were designed to map out a “relational road” forward, on an issue viewed as divisive (News, 24 June).

A statement issued by Church House, Westminster, at the close of the talks on Tuesday, said: “Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. . . It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the Church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.”

In comments to Synod members at the end, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness and grace.

“That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming. Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence — confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”

After emerging from the conversations, Synod members gave their impression of them.

The Revd Dr Sarah Brush (Worcester), assistant curate of Halas

Before we started, I worried I would struggle to disagree well if someone expressed a view I find difficult to accept. I wondered how well I’d listen respectfully when the words I heard seemed not respectful towards other people.

Had we talked about the subject in the Synod chamber in the usual oppositional debate, it would have been intense. However, the Shared Conversations were a radically different experience to the timed speeches in a full Synod chamber. Instead, our small-group conversations were guided by mutual protocols which enabled deep listening and dialogue.

We were able to walk alongside each other, share our own stories of faith, and listen to the stories of others. We explored scripture together, and listened to the experience of theologians, young same-sex-attracted Christians, and guests from the wider Anglican Communion.

I was conscious of particular pain for some members of Synod. For some participants, it was a personal lived experience under discussion. For others with deep convictions, it was difficult hearing views so different from their own.

Personally, I was blessed to deepen relationships with fellow Synod members not just through the conversations themselves, but through reflecting on our shared experience, at mealtimes and over drinks. I have hope for the future of our walking together as a Church as we balance the moral convictions of some with the pastoral need of others; and also a hope for the future of Synod itself that it may grow from this relational experience and continue the conversation rather than rely solely on a style of debate which can cause division and hurt.

The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler (Southwark), Vicar of St Mary’s, Battersea

It’s difficult to summarise such a rich and full diet of input, conversation and dialogue so soon after they have finished. But I thought that the level of relationship and openness of Synod members was immeasurably enriched by the time we spent together. Leaving them, I feel tired but hopeful. David Porter, the speakers, and his team did an outstanding job.

Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford)

Those who hold a very high view of . . . the authority of scripture were concerned that the sheer amount and intensity of emotion and feelings would dictate change or lead one down a process of change, and I think trying to establish a clarity as to what the outcome of all this would be was not obvious, but David Porter was helpful and gave assurances in so far as he could.

There are strong currents at work, and we were just keen that the lobby who shouts the loudest on whatever angle should not unbalance the careful agreements that have been reached as to the authority of scripture.

It is a very rushed programme, in a sense, covering a great deal, and if half the object is to listen . . . I think that was really honoured, and we came out of it with a much better understanding of different perspectives.

I hope [the Bishops] will take their time and not be pressured by the demands of action and stridency of views. I feel that perhaps the voice of scripture was perhaps not listened to enough.

Integrity was really respected and a very good understanding was reached.

[What is decided] must be honouring to the Body of Christ, not just in terms of the global witness of the Anglican Communion . . . but also in terms of the history. . . There is a great history of revising and checking and tweaking doctrine, and there is a limit as to how much one can go away from apostolic teaching and how foundational it is. It is entirely valid to review it, think about it, but not necessarily change it.

The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain (London), Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead

I experienced them as being remarkably more positive than I had expected them to be. Certainly, in the groups I was in there was a real willingness to listen to each other. I came away with the strong sense that Synod is ready for change.

I thought that I would experience much stronger negativity towards me as a gay man and towards the possibility of the Church accommodating the gay community within its life. Actually, what I experienced and heard was a recognition that the current stance of the Church is untenable.

It’s very clear that we are no longer talking about making accommodation for gay people, but that there is a majority view, and what we are seeking to do is keep in those for whom it is difficult. . . This isn’t about us being given crumbs from the table, but the seating arrangements of the table being changed. I hope we can continue walking together.

We had some very significant input on scripture and its use . . . A lot of us were saying we take scripture very seriously and it does not belong to any one part of the Church it belongs to all of us.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd David Ison (Southern Deans)

Hearing most of the issues from invited people on the platform before discussing them in a small group brought home to me both the size of the challenge facing the Church, and the desire of Synod members to meet that challenge constructively and together.

The process has left me convinced that, whether or not the Church changes its practice in response to the introduction of same-sex marriage in British society, we need to respond positively and as soon as we can to those who feel alienated by the Church’s current practice.

Susie Leafe (Truro)

I, along with nine others, stayed on site with the Archbishops’ permission but did not participate in the formal conversations. Others left before the conversations began. It was great to be able to talk freely and without a predetermined agenda with all those who wished to speak with us. Many valuable and memorable conversations were had with good grace shown by all concerned.

I was unable to participate in the formal process because of the underlying assumption that all views expressed were equally Christian and that we were working our way towards “walking forward together”. True unity is seen in a shared understanding of the revealed truth and in godly living.

“The final statement expressed the hope that, “the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.”

For that hope to be realised, the Church, in “whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future”, must submit its disagreements to the authority of the Bible rather than pursue the oxymoron of “good disagreement”. Anything else will fail to bear a faithful witness to the love of Christ.”

 

The Revd Christopher Newlands (Blackburn), Vicar of St Mary, with St John, and St Anne, Lancaster

Some 450 General Synod members left York after a remarkable 48 hours in which all the usual features of Synod life were abandoned and replaced with a very different style of working. Synod members from all three Houses of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity were invited to “dress down” (clerical dress was discouraged), and a set of clear protocols was proposed and adopted, designed to allow people to speak freely, openly, and honestly — and from their own experience, without fear of being quoted or named on social media or in any other way.

When we gathered in our assigned smaller groups — 23 groups of around 20 members — we were further sub-divided into groups of three, with whom we were invited to share our personal journey of faith, but not before we had 30 minutes to reflect in silence about what we might choose to share.

It was a conversation which enabled relationships to develop, based on trust and mutual responsibility. We listened to each other carefully and heard of the different struggles which people were facing around this issue. We each shared a passage from the Bible which spoke to us about human sexuality, and we listened to invited speakers, theologians, representatives from the wider Anglican Communion, young people, and those with life stories to share, all of which made a profound impact. We sought to reflect prayerfully, on all we had received from each other, and from the guests who spoke with us.

Many felt that this was a real change in the way Synod members related to each other, and the discussions seemed to focus on people rather than “issues”, and they were richer and kinder for all that. If General Synod can hold to that relational manner of working rather than the adversarial parliamentary model, there can be real hope for a future Church of England in which all are welcomed, affirmed, and loved as valued fellow-members of the Body of Christ.

Jayne Ozanne (Oxford)

I was very impressed with the way in which the conversations were framed and conducted. The input sessions were excellent and gave a fair representation of the wide range of differing views. From a personal perspective, although I found the second day quite harrowing, I was very grateful for the kindness and care that the majority of my fellow Synod members showed me and others directly affected by these discussions. My hope is that we can take this new relational approach that transcends our tribal divisions forward into the future.

The Revd Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham), Hon. Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, and Archbishops’ Council member

The Shared Conversations process bore a striking resemblance to the proverbial curate’s egg. On the positive side, it finished well, with some helpful observations shared together as a whole Synod. It was helpful to have exposure to the range of views, and one of the sessions did that particularly well. I heard of a number of ‘liberals’ learning about the ‘traditional’ view in ways they had not previously. In my experience, ‘traditionalists’ have done more reading about the ‘liberal’ view than vice versa; so that was important.

Many people found the small-group time, where we discussed our faith journeys and understanding of scripture in threes, very valuable. I was with two fascinating people, and we would like to have spent more time together.

On the less positive side, there were elements of the process that were badly misjudged. The section on the biblical issues was badly skewed, and felt to many ‘traditionalists’ like a power play. This was just made all the worse when one of the organisers told us that, if we thought that, we were wrong, and he was right. It confirmed a basic lack of understanding of the concerns by those responsible for the process.

The afternoon which involved a series of plenary sessions offered too much input in one go, and, though some was interesting and profoundly moving, it was too much together. In groups, our facilitator kept preventing us discussing issues we were all interested in, telling us we should be talking about how we talk together rather than getting on to the substantive issues. Most were frustrated by this, and it felt somewhat infantilising.

A statement has been issued, but it appears as though there will be no spokesperson from the Church of England available to media to discuss this, which I think is a major failure of communication.

It is not immediately clear where we go from here. A Synod debate will take us back to a binary win/lose position. If there is a change either in the doctrine of marriage or of accommodation beyond what we already have (in terms of the differing standards for laity in Issues and the concession on civil partnerships for clergy), then I think this will lead to a serious division and possibly a split in the Church. There was a strong consensus that that was what we all wanted to avoid.

Mark Russell (Sheffield), Chief Executive of Church Army, Archbishops’ Council member

I found it a really good couple of days. There was a very high level of engagement, real respect, loads of grace, lots of listening, and I think I certainly was exposed to lots of very different viewpoint.

It felt like a forthcoming dentist appointment: I knew it was good to do, I knew it was important to do, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I thought it would be fairly painful. It wasn’t all of those things. . . It was brilliantly facilitated. I emerged hopeful. Whatever, I hope we find a better way for the Church of England to be a safer place for LGBTI people. That is my big prayer.

The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York, the Archdeacon of Rochdale, the Ven. Cherry Vann (Manchester)

I appreciated the space and time given for both sharing and listening. I very much valued the deepening of relationships that I experienced with those with whom I shared. I found it humbling to be trusted with other people’s personal stories, and I very much hope that similar times of deeper sharing can be woven into the way we do Synod.

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             Of these several reports from those present during the reflection on the ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality’ at the Recent Church of England General Synod, most seem to be positive about the whole experience. However, one person stands out as being critical of the process; The Revd Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham), Hon. Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, and Archbishops’ Council member, who has this to say:
         
            “On the less positive side, there were elements of the process that were badly misjudged. The section on the biblical issues was badly skewed, and felt to many ‘traditionalists’ like a power play. This was just made all the worse when one of the organisers told us that, if we thought that, we were wrong, and he was right. It confirmed a basic lack of understanding of the concerns by those responsible for the process.”
            Granted that Dr.Paul is an Evangelical conservative in the Church of England, devoted to the ‘sola Scriptura’ model of churchmanship, who thinks that Gays should be neither seen nor heard in the Church; one might have thought that he could have listened rather more attentively to those who think differently from himself on these issues. However, he does represent a minority in the Church of England who are not keen to accommodate the idea of  another minority – the LGBTI community – who are trying to gain recognition and respect within the ministry and mission of the Church. The question is, when push comes to shove; will he stay?
            Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, new Zealand
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