Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay conflict - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 17, 2005

Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay conflict

-17/11/05

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has challenged the acrimony of arguments within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion over sexuality and women bishops, proposing a bold new initiative to get the warring factions to listen to each other with respect.

The Archbishop wants those who disagree on these issues to make a personal commitment to contacting someone of differing opinion elsewhere in the Communion, in order to promote real conversation and understanding.

The idea is not to stifle debate, but to develop more informed changes of views. This is a technique widely used in conflict resolution programmes sponsored by mediation groups and churches.

Speaking at the Church of Englandís General Synod, its governing body, which has been meeting in London from Monday through to Wednesday, the spiritual head of the worldís 77 million Anglicans noted that ì[t]he sexuality debate is infinitely complicated by high levels of mutual ignorance and anxiety between ëNorthí and ëSouthíî.

Dr Williams called on Synod members ìto beware of poisoning the wells by doing our business with suspicion and hostility or lack of mutual respect towards each other.î

Instead the Archbishop advocated ëinteractive pluralismí, which he described as ìa situation in which difference is publicly acknowledged and given space, but not regarded as an excuse for ëghettoisationí or exclusion from a serious degree of shared work, shared resources and mutual responsibility.î

Declared Dr Williams: ìIf every member of this Synod made a commitment to make contact with someone in another province who is not likely to share their view, we might at least move away from demeaning caricatures on both sides.î

He continued: ìSimilarly, in regard to women bishops, I suggest that we make some individual commitments. When my diocese in Wales was discussing women priests a decade ago, we arranged prayer partnerships between people on opposing sides, on the basis that we should need some ingrained habits of shared prayer and patience if we were going to carry on a common Christian life after a divisive vote.î

ìAre Synod members ready to undertake such a commitment and to commend it to the Church at large?î asked the Archbishop.

However the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the Rev Richard Kirker, today expressed disappointment that Dr Williams, although calling for dialogue, had declined to attend an LGCM conference.

Ekklesia is associated through the Root and Branch Network with the pioneering Bridge Builders church conflict transformation programme, run from the London Mennonite Centre.

[Also on Ekklesia: Read Stephen Bates of The Guardian in conversation about his book, A Church At War; read the reflections of theologians in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism]

Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay conflict

-17/11/05

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has challenged the acrimony of arguments within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion over sexuality and women bishops, proposing a bold new initiative to get the warring factions to listen to each other with respect.

The Archbishop wants those who disagree on these issues to make a personal commitment to contacting someone of differing opinion elsewhere in the Communion, in order to promote real conversation and understanding.

The idea is not to stifle debate, but to develop more informed changes of views. This is a technique widely used in conflict resolution programmes sponsored by mediation groups and churches.

Speaking at the Church of England's General Synod, its governing body, which has been meeting in London from Monday through to Wednesday, the spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans noted that '[t]he sexuality debate is infinitely complicated by high levels of mutual ignorance and anxiety between ëNorth' and ëSouth''.

Dr Williams called on Synod members 'to beware of poisoning the wells by doing our business with suspicion and hostility or lack of mutual respect towards each other.'

Instead the Archbishop advocated ëinteractive pluralism', which he described as 'a situation in which difference is publicly acknowledged and given space, but not regarded as an excuse for ëghettoisation' or exclusion from a serious degree of shared work, shared resources and mutual responsibility.'

Declared Dr Williams: 'If every member of this Synod made a commitment to make contact with someone in another province who is not likely to share their view, we might at least move away from demeaning caricatures on both sides.'

He continued: 'Similarly, in regard to women bishops, I suggest that we make some individual commitments. When my diocese in Wales was discussing women priests a decade ago, we arranged prayer partnerships between people on opposing sides, on the basis that we should need some ingrained habits of shared prayer and patience if we were going to carry on a common Christian life after a divisive vote.'

'Are Synod members ready to undertake such a commitment and to commend it to the Church at large?' asked the Archbishop.

However the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the Rev Richard Kirker, today expressed disappointment that Dr Williams, although calling for dialogue, had declined to attend an LGCM conference.

Ekklesia is associated through the Root and Branch Network with the pioneering Bridge Builders church conflict transformation programme, run from the London Mennonite Centre.

[Also on Ekklesia: Read Stephen Bates of The Guardian in conversation about his book, A Church At War; read the reflections of theologians in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism]

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