What makes a listening process?

There has been quite a lot of chatter that I am aware of, regarding the Changing Attitude Scotland Statement that was posted earlier in the week. It has provoked some interest from the world of journalism with regard to the link with the Church of Sweden, and the statement itself was featured in the Church Times. (However, it was not reported entirely accurately – not the first time that they have made a mistake in a Scottish story).

One or two people have asked me what would constitute a effective Listening Process, and why I might think that it has not begun in Scotland. (We are talking about a process of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians, as is so often called for by Anglican bishops).
I would say that the following things would matter to me:

  • An effective Listening Process needs to be intentional. You cannot say that you are engaged in a listening process if no-one knows it is happening. It is something other than spending time with gay and lesbian people or being nice to them.
  • It has to be about people other than bishops doing some listening.
  • It has to be about bishops doing some listening.
  • It has to be conducted in a way which ensures that no-one can be harmed as a result of taking part in it. That means physical harm, psychological harm or having your actual or potential ministry put at risk of harm.
  • Gay and lesbian people need to be a part of planning the process.
  • It has to be about listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people, not about listening to bishops, “people who disagree with us”, evangelicals, companion dioceses, charismatics, academics, healers or George Carey.

If you are fed up of me going on about all this, do surf over to Kimberly’s blog for something different. She is bringing feminism to the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. And about time too.


  1. Actually, it’s a fully inclusive mission in Argyll. Right now, I’m running the gender-inclusive angle, while C is running the orientation-inclusive angle. I dare say we could swap roles at any time.

    re: listening. I wonder if the printed word could be helpful. Perhaps intentionally gathering gay and straight people for conversation about a relevant book (and by relevant, I mean James Alison rather than N. T. Wright) would open conversation in a non-threatening way. This wouldn’t be in place of a more direct process, but perhaps something to get on with in the mean time.

    On reflection — James Alison is perhaps too ‘hard’ to read. Suggestions?

  2. kelvin says

    Oranges are not the only fruit.

  3. The Scottish Changing Attitude statement is excellent — it says all that needs to be said, succintly and courteously.

    Do you know of a source for the new Swedish liturgy for same-sex blessings, translated into English?

  4. Your process sounds like a lecture that presupposes an outcome, and is one-sided; if a ‘listening process’ is going to be successful, it should give the opportunity for those with differing experiences and points of view to share them. I don’t see that opportunity in what you suggest.

  5. Pete, I think it’s worth remembering that the ‘Listening Process’ was set in place by Lambeth resolutions that affirmed a traditional view of marriage and celebacy outside of marriage as the majority voice of the church. Therefore, the ‘listening’ that was (and is) needed was very much to the voices challenging traditional teaching. The other point of view was already enshrined in Lambeth 1.10.

    I agree that it has been hard for both sides of the current debates to listen well because most of us, in our heart of hearts, are unwilling to change our minds. The key to any listening process, therefore, will be a willingness to hear God in the person we diagree with, which is never an easy task.

  6. vicky says

    Hmm, I suppose I find the latter two postings interesting – as they remind me of the need for equity in the listening process.

    However, I have listened for years to people telling me that my life is intrinsically wrong without once being asked what my life was actually about or like. I fear that if we stick with the desire for both sides to be heard we will just continue with the most powerful, financially wealthy side of the Church stating its views without actually asking to hear the other side.

    For what it is worth, I think that evangelical Christianity does have an important point to make about the morality ascribed to Biblical sources. I also think that for many there is real consolation in a literal belief and that in such consolation the revelation of God is clear. I don’t think these points are in any doubt for me. However, a literal truth is not one that I can subscribe to because of the nature of translation studies and other philosophical and theological approaches I have learned. For me Troy Perry’s statement ‘It isn’t the blood of Moses that saves me, nor is it the blood of Paul, but it is the blood of Jesus’, encapsulates a different approach to the Bible, but perhaps one no more or less literal in some respects than the conservatives within the Church.

    It is a shame that those of us who seek and find conslation and reconcilation through the revelation of Christ find it so hard to sit together in mutual respect. I for one, though, am fed up listening whilst at the same time seeing the damage that is being done to the next generation of young Christians, particularly those with gay and lesbian parents. I fear that for me the time to stand up and be counted by leaving the Church draws closer – especially when I find myself trying to explain to an 11 year old why it is so uninclusive.

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