Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Listening Process: Reports from the Provinces

A summary can be found here.

Some background:

The 1978 Lambeth Conference recognised “the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research.” It also said that “While we reaffirm heterosexuality as the scriptural norm, we recognise The Church, recognising the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual, encourages dialogue with them.”

In 1988 the Conference reaffirmed these calls...

The 1998 Conference recognised “that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation...We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons...
Three consecutive Lambeth Conferences called for dialogue and listening. Has it happened?

Not really. Here are the summaries of the reports.

Some of you may recall the dialogues on human sexuality mandated by the 1988 General Convention. According to the summary, only 28 of the 99 dioceses submitted reports. That explains quite a bit about our current situation, doesn't it?

Some of the Provinces appear to have no intention of engaging in the listening process, even though some of these same Provinces keep referring to "the authority of Lambeth 1998." Consider this particularly harsh quote included in the summary of Nigeria:

The Primate of all Nigeria has said “Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.”
Apparently, since the Primate has spoken, there is no need for a listening process in Nigeria. But, if you wear a rainbow sash to church in Nigeria, you may soon find yourself in prison for five years. Why listen when you can incarcerate?

The Church of Wales calls for a "prayerful debate" and attempts to define the "range of views" found in Wales:

The centrality of Scripture read in the light of reason and tradition is affirmed. The range of views held within the Church in Wales is set out in five bullet points.

  • Some people, reading the Scriptures with integrity, reach the conclusion that the only proper context for sexual activity is marriage between a man and a woman in life-long union. Homosexual practice of any kind is therefore rejected.

  • Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, adopt a more sympathetic understanding of homosexuality, but would not at present wish the Church to sanction homosexual practice.

  • Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude that orientation and practice are to be distinguished and that the Church can welcome same sex relationships provided they are celibate.

  • Others again, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude that the Church cannot dismiss as intrinsically disordered permanent and committed same-sex relationships; they believe that through their internal mutuality and support, these bring creativity, generosity and love into the lives of those within them.

  • Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude, in the light of a developing understanding of the nature of humanity and sexuality, that the time has arrived for the Church to affirm committed homosexual relationships.
  • This seems to me to be a fair description of the views found within TEC. Actually, it is quite similar to the way the views were presented within the mandated dialogues in TEC that occurred after GC1988, except the fourth and fifth bullet points were combined, resulting in four positions being identified within the Church.

    A Study Guide is being developed. Groups, dioceses and individuals are asked to submit materials for this Study Guide. Guidelines for submissions are offered.

    Take a look at the summaries from the various Provinces. What seemed significant to you?

    J.

    UPDATE: More info on the Rainbow Presence is available here. Thanks Ann.

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