From the Revd Rob Yeomans
Sir, - I, too, attended, at the invitation of the Bishop of
Truro, the first sessions of the "shared conversations", properly
titled "on Scripture, Mission and Human Sexuality" - emanating, of
course, from the Pilling report.
You headed your report (
News, 8 May) "Praise for three days in hotel talking of sex".
If only we had! We did, indeed, meet in a hotel - which certainly
set the the cash-strapped C of E back a bob or two. The culture of
niceness which pervaded the encounter carefully avoided really
talking about sex at all.
Instead, under the direction of facilitators, we tried to talk
through four essays that had been circulated to chosen participants
shortly before we met. One from a traditional conservative point of
view considered "the biblical" case for the traditional position.
The second essay, "Reflections of a Biblical Scholar", explored a
more liberal understanding of homosexuality and the Bible -
although not in a way that made a comparison between traditional
and liberal understanding of key biblical texts possible. The third
essay, "A search for Good Disagreement", ended with the words "The
time has come for good disagreement." The fourth essay told us how
the Church of Scotland had achieved this.
The whole was orchestrated by a team of facilitators, who were
briefed to sit in on all of the groups, into which we were
tortuously divided, and manipulate (is that too strong a word?
certainly not from my perspective) a cosy outcome.
The booklet Grace and Disagreement: Thinking through the
process, which was distributed to participants with the
booklet of essays, stated: "Each of the conversation groups will
report on its exchanges and the experience of conversing together.
These reports will be drawn together and the Bishops and the Synod
will have access to the combined reports. Whatever emerges from the
groups will inform subsequent discussions in the House and College
of Bishops and in the Synod."
That is a good reason for these and subsequent conversations,
except that the facilitators made it clear from the start that
nothing was allowed to be reported from the conversations - that
the "strap lines" that the facilitators were required to produce at
the end of each discussion group (and which were displayed for all
to see) were not to be copied (only covert notes for individual use
were to be made), and that these written distillations would be
destroyed after the meeting.
Who, then, is to make the report to the House and College of
Bishops and to the General Synod, and how? It will certainly not be
the participants, nor, if they are to be believed, the
So, why were we there? I, for one, am mystified; but, with
another dozen or so probably equally expensive regional
conversations still to happen, I hope that the House of Bishops and
the General Synod will be informed and not bankrupted.
The White Barn
Launceston PL15 8LY
From the Revd Richard Haggis
Sir, - We are told that ten per cent of Church of England
Anglicans are so opposed to the ordination of women as bishops that
they must have a bishop of their own to represent their interest.
Might it be that more than ten per cent are in favour of gay people
as priests and bishops? Can we have our own bishop, too,
And does this have anything to do with being called by God to
ministry, or have we given up on that fanciful idea?
Flat 5, 14-16 Mather Road
Barton, Oxford OX3 9PG