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Bishops’ conversations on sexuality

by
19 September 2014

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From the Revd Julian Hollywell
Sir, - The Continuing Indaba Conversations that recently took place across the Anglican Communion showed that, if nothing else, it is possible with integrity to sit in a circle and hold extraordinary diversity, and with authenticity together proclaim the reconciling love of Jesus Christ.

It was one of the greatest privileges of my ministry to participate in Continuing Indaba as part of the Derby-Mumbai-New York conversation. At one particularly powerful and fractured moment, we sat at the eucharist together in a chapel in Bangalore. Never has the breaking of bread held so tangibly for me the very presence of Christ's reconciling love.

This experience leads me tentatively to raise two warnings about how the Shared Conversations on sexuality (News, 12 September) may be undermined.

First, when as individuals we were not able to step beyond the grip of our own fear, we lacked the imagination and humility to apprehend a world beyond our own construction, and, therefore, failed to listen intentionally to the experience of our sisters and brothers who challenged us.

Second, the integrity of the Shared Conversation was lost when there was not a level playing field - that is, when it became apparent that hierarchy and authority were actually undermining the ability of particular individuals to be authentic.

If the Shared Conversations that lie ahead are to have any authenticity, those who hold authority in the Church must make an intentional decision to step away from trying to manage the conversation. This means being truly present to the conversation as individuals, and not in role as bishops attempting to hold a line. This will take enormous courage.

It also means not undermining the integrity of the dialogue by the way authority is exercised outside those Shared Conversations. The House of Bishops Pastoral Statement issued in February was an unreconciling act, re-establishing a climate of real fear among LGBT people. Is it not possible for the House of Bishops to consider offering an apology, or at least an acknowledgement that it may have been unhelpful?

I guess an apology is an impossibly difficult thing to request, as it would mean acknowledging that a mistake might have been made; but the Church is asking an impossibly difficult thing of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters at this time, too.

Those who have been and continue to be wounded, who feel continued exclusion, are being called yet again to make the impossibly difficult step into the circle and believe in the sincerity of those who have hurt them. Now that is indeed an act of reconciliation, and an enormous leap of faith.

JULIAN HOLLYWELL
The Vicarage, Gascoigne Drive,
Spondon, Derbyshire DE21 7GL

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