Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Corporate Art of Listening

Bishop Adam’s response to the Primates’ Communique is the kind of document that I would expect from a Bishop of Central NY. He vows support for the LGBT community, raises the conflict in polity that the Communique represents, supports ++ Katharine without critique, affirms the place of diverse positions in the Diocese and even admits that leaving the Anglican Communion may be an alternative for a season. This response certainly would be welcome by a great majority of Central NY Episcopalians and certainly from its tenor would be in the traditions of previous bishops in conjunction with their Diocesan Conventions..

What is disturbing about the response is that there does not seem to be anything in the diocesan program to support the promises he has made.

++First, there is no committee or commission set up in the diocese to continue the practice of “listening” to the voice of LGBT members of the diocese which has been part of the Lambeth consideration for the last 9 years. The only committee that has addressed ministry to and with LGBT Christians was the Human Sexuality Committee that came to such a dismal conclusion because LGBT members had to endure the constant harangue of those who were determined that LGBT people were not to be accepted.
++Any committee which invites LGBT persons must provide safety for them so they do not have to endure savaging of ideas and personhood in order to be heard.
++The “overwhelming majority” that the Bishop alludes to in his boast of inclusivity is a bit confusing when the resolution was so “underwhelming” in content. It was characterized on the floor as being “a motherhood and apple-pie” resolution with no teeth that would require disagreeing persons to subscribe to certain behaviors that would allow them to feel safe in discussion on either side of the spectrum. Again the vehicle that could be of support to inclusivity is marred by a lack of even-handed leadership which might offer welcome that goes beyond “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”
++ I would recommend that a similar committee be set up for those who disagree with the actions of GC2003 so that there can be discussions where those concerns can be heard, rather than throwing LGBT persons and those who support them into the same committee with those who disagree. It seems that this would be one way to address the intransigency with which we are presently faced.
++The Bishop offers a time to address the issues of the Primates meeting after returning from the House of Bishops Meeting in mid March for the clergy. But he does not listen to his clergy or his diocese BEFORE he goes. Granted, there was little time for a meeting but with the immediacy of email, such contact could have been made at least to the clergy. This seems to infer what is more important is what is“received” from the bishops than what is received from the clergy and lay members of the diocese. The issue of listening which the Presiding Bishop (PB) has recommended to the whole church seems to have fallen on ears that may have difficulty hearing. To me this follows the pattern that the Primates have modeled rather than the respected Episcopal polity that has always characterized the Diocese of CNY. This is especially disturbing in the light of much of the conversation on the various national blogs about the Primates not understanding the American Church’s polity. But like another CNY native, Gay Clark Jennings+, I believe that the Primates do understand the polity of the American Church, they just don’t like it and don’t trust it. Could this underlie the Bishop’s reticence to listen to the advice of the whole church before gathering with his fellow bishops in TX?
++I am glad to see that +Skip has been willing to entertain the possibility of separating from the Anglican Communion for a season if necessary. He has not chosen to sacrifice the ministry and lives of LGBT Christians to the illusion of unity that the Communique promises and this is to be commended. But walking apart for a season is much easier than listening to the pain that we do not want to hear. Should there be a move to “walk apart” there should also be a deadline for rapprochement and reconciliation. Reconciliation is not a matter of accusing the other of sinful action, confession and absolution. It is the agreeing that both have sinned and that there is forgiveness on both sides waiting.

The future of the Diocese of CNY is not going to be much addressed by this response by Bishop Adams unless there is an attempt to develop vehicles for listening, honoring the divergent attitudes that abound in the diocese, and providing for reconciliation rather than recrimination. So far I have not seen efforts that can help support the diversity that has characterized the Diocese of CNY for over 50 years. It is hoped that such efforts can be instituted in the future before walking apart is more of a characteristic than savoring a type of unity that honors all persons.


Chip Nelson said...

And then there are the "Churches" we have down here in South Carolina which would make even the most disgruntled CNY member happy they worship where they do.

Beth Evans said...

Given the perceived discrepancy between Bp. Skip's words and his actions, an open conversation between him and his priests, in the presence of a mediator, seems to be called for. If he is saying one thing but behaving otherwise, a good mediator could help him hear that from any clergy for whom that is the perception. If his words and his actions square, a mediator could assist questioning clergy in understanding where and what they misperceive the Bishop's language. Given the apparent discrepancies, it would seem inappropriate and disrespectful on the Bishop's part to avoid such an opportunity for clarification and accountability on everyone's part, and especially on behalf of all the voices asking to be heard.

Lauren Gough said...

Having grown up in the Diocese of Ft. Worth, I can assure you I understand your comment. But CNY used to be a place where open discussion of difficult issues was common. It is difficult to discuss issues anymore because it seems that we have "spoilers" who make discussion impossible because of the intrangency. Now, I am sure that there are those who would call me a "spoiler" but I have not called anyone a pediophile as I have been called in this diocese merely because I am lesbian who lives a celibate life.

Lauren Gough said...


One would hope that such a thing could happen, but it must start with the willingness to begin a process of reconciliation.