Colin Coward reports:-
Members of the LGBTI Anglican Coalition met with David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday. David was generous with his time and we were there for over an hour and a half.
David began by outlining the history which has brought us to where we are from the much more optimistic beginnings nearly a year ago.
It began with the Pilling Report which was struggling to land (as he put it) at the time he was appointed. The Pilling group was an ill-conceived exercise in the first place, ill-conceived in part because formulated by a male only group initially. It was marked by a lack of coherence and incompetence in the Church.
David expressed the hope that things are changing and that we are getting to a more emotionally and relationally intelligent place. I suspect all of us present were profoundly reassured to hear this.
The College of Bishops trial the process
Moving on to the College of Bishops meeting in September when the Shared Conversation process was trialled, David said it didn’t work as hoped because the culture of good facilitation met the culture of the College of Bishops and some of the old school bishops refused to play ball. Good process hit the dysfunctional nature of the Church of England.
The Church of England is the primary problem Province for the Anglican Communion because the other Provinces no longer really know what the Church of England is.
The bishops only allowed a day and a half for the process and ran out of time. Now the regional Conversations will involve 2 nights away to ensure proper process. The intention is to have equal numbers of laity and clergy and men and women, with 20% under 30 and a minimum of two who are openly LGBT or I, together representing the known views around the diocese.
Planning for fracture
The intention is to change the tone of the conversation and take some of the toxicity out of it, acknowledging that there is no agreement between, say, us and Reform. David assumes there will be a fracture and when it happens, it will be small and done with profound sadness, with a measure of grace, disagreeing well. The Conversations are a process in which it is hoped to find grace in each other where there are profound disagreements. Maybe 80% of the C of E will hold together with fractures at either end of the spectrum.
Where do we go from here?
A regional advisory group is being formed, composed of one representative, probably a bishop or senior. Part of the purpose of this group seems to be to reassure the rump of bishops who still don’t want to engage with the process.
David believes the General Synod can’t put off a debate and vote on the core issues affecting the place of LGBTI people in the Church of England beyond the February 2017 meeting. This for me was the most significant new piece information I gained on Tuesday. David does not control the timetable or agenda of General Synod but he does have direct authority from the Archbishop of Canterbury, so this ambition may well be realised…