Shared Conversations on Scripture, Mission and Human Sexuality

Shared Conversations: Information and Ideas if you would like to join in.

What’s this all about?

In November 2013 the report of the church’s working group on Human Sexuality (generally referred to as ‘The Pilling Report’) recommended that the subject “with its history of deeply entrenched views, would be best addressed by facilitated conversations … to which the Church of England needs to commit itself at national and diocesan level”. In response to this recommendation, the C of E has undertaken a process of Shared Conversations over the last two years across three circles: the College of Bishops, Regionally and with members of General Synod. The key question on which the church has reflected in these conversations is: Given the significant changes in our culture in relation to human sexuality, how should the Church respond?

You can find out a lot more about this process at www.sharedconversations.org

The aim was that the diversity of views in the church would be expressed honestly and heard respectfully, so that individuals might come to discern that which is of Christ in those with whom they profoundly disagree. Neither the process of conversation, nor any of those who facilitated it, has any authority in the decision-making of the Church.

The House of Bishops, having participated in its own conversation and the General Synod conversation reflected further on the issues and brought a report with their initial thoughts to the General Synod in February 2017.   (See the Resources section, below) The report received a very good debate with different views vigorously expressed, but the Synod voted not to take note of the report. However, the work on this issue continues and the two Archbishops set out proposed next steps in a letter the day after the debate.
The House of Bishops’ report
Archbishops’ letter

What have we done locally?

The Diocese of Gloucester has already been involved in several ways:

  • Bishop Rachel was a member of the group that prepared the Pilling report and took part in the House of Bishops conversation
  • a small group of people from the Diocese participated in the South West regional Shared Conversation in April 2015 and a report of their reflections on that experience was circulated to Diocesan Synod in February 2016
  • all the diocesan General Synod representatives took part in the conversation at General Synod in July 2016 and some of them spoke briefly about their experience of that process at the Diocesan Synod in November 2016
  • all the representatives attended the February 2017 General Synod

What else is going to happen?

Bishop Rachel has spoken at Diocesan Synod about her hope that we could offer ways for those who wish to do so, from across the Diocese, to join in this national Shared Conversation. The rest of this webpage offers a range of ideas about ways to share the reflection going on across the church and tells you about resources available to support any activities that people want to get involved in.

Mutual Respect and Confidentiality

As with the main Shared Conversations, whatever conversations take place in the Diocese remain confidential to those who take part; there’s no feedback expected. It’s simply an opportunity to reflect together, to share thoughts and perceptions without any expectation that a shared view will be arrived at or that anyone will change his or her mind as a result. Applying the approach used nationally of promoting the honest expression of views that are heard respectfully is key to a successfully conversation.

A common way of dealing with confidentiality is to apply the “Chatham House Rule” which is that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. So you might say “a view was expressed that…” or “we discussed the idea that…” but not “xx said that s/he thought…”

See also the section below, on Getting a group organised about this.

Some options for taking part

Different approaches will suit different people and situations, so this section just tries to set out some of the options for joining in these reflections.

“I’d just like to think about it…”

If you’d just like to spend some time on your own thinking through some of the issues, then there are various online and published resources that might help you with this. You can find a full list in the Resources section below, but for example:

  • there are some theological viewpoints which you may find a good starting point
  • several books were distributed to General Synod members before their conversation and those are identified in the resources list
  • other relevant books are also identified in the resources list
  • the Shared Conversation website as above
  • various blogs were written about individual experiences of the regional conversations

“We’ve got an existing local group that might spend some time on this…”

In that case there is some guidance in the section on Getting a group organised about what you might need to do in preparation to have a fruitful conversation, and the resources section will be very relevant for you. There are some different approaches possible:

  • some brief shared reading beforehand and then an open conversation, this could include the opportunity for people to bring to the conversation a verse or passage from Scripture, which is important to them in shaping their approach
  • a book group approach where you all agree to read one or more of the shorter books or other materials available and focus your discussion in that way
  • your own group’s general working style

It will be important, if the group is led by anyone other than the incumbent of your benefice, to let them know that you are planning to cover this topic in your group, in case anyone subsequently wants to talk to any of the ministry team about it.

 

“I’d like to promote a local conversation, but I’m not sure how to go about it…”

In that case your first step will need to be thinking about how to publicise your proposed group and whether you want to work with another person in your local area to organise it together. It will be important, if the group is led by anyone other than the incumbent of your benefice, to let them know that you are planning these discussions, in case anyone subsequently wants to talk to any of the ministry team about it.

There are some different approaches possible:

  • some brief shared reading beforehand and then an open conversation
  • a book group approach where you all agree to read one or more of the shorter books or other materials available and focus your discussion in that way
  • you may have other experience of group discussion that you can apply

It’s possible that some people in the Diocese will want to join a conversation but may not have a group available in their area. If you would be happy to offer them an opportunity to join your group then please let the Mission and Ministry Department know what your plans are so that they can make the link. The contact person in the Department is:   The Revd Pauline Godfrey, pgodfrey@glosdioc.org.uk; 01452 835548.

“I’d like to join in a conversation but I don’t know where there is one taking place…”

We have asked anyone who is organising a conversation, who is happy to open it to others beyond their local community, to inform the Mission and Ministry Department so that they can link you to a group. Please do therefore contact Pauline Godfrey in that Department to find out what may be available for you. The Revd Pauline Godfrey: pgodfrey@glosdioc.org.uk; 01452 835548.

 

Further content and resources

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