Phil Groves on the Listening Process

Some interesting reflections from Phil Groves, the co-ordinator of the Anglican Communion Listening Process, in response to a piece by Ephraim Radner.

Dr Radner then seeks to limit the process of listening. He writes:

I suggest a simple goal, one that also coheres with pertinent Lambeth resolutions and subsequent Communion commitments: that for the moment the "listening process" seek one end only, viz. learning of homosexual needs in face of civil violence and mistreatment in concrete instances and responding to such mistreatment as a church. Clearly there is a sense that this is needed in many places within the Communion, and this goal requires steady work.

Dr Radner’s proposal may seem a sensible approach – the requirement to oppose violence towards lesbian and gay people and their mistreatment is certainly a significant part of our present calling – but I believe it to be an insufficient response to our evangelical calling.

The danger of the way offered to us by Dr Radner is that by limiting the listening process to the simple goal of learning of homosexual needs in the face of civil violence we will commit the church to a liberal agenda. While gay and lesbian people are to be offered protection in society, they are not to be offered in Christ the same assurance of forgiveness or the same demand of obedience as straight people. The implication of his understanding is that gay people are to be the object of the protection by the largesse of a heterosexual church. Gay and lesbian people are to be considered as victims the church needs to protect and thereby they are effectively externalised from the church as objects of our social concern, rather than recipients of salvation and full members of the body of Christ.

Go and read it all.

I understand where Radner is coming from. There is a deep frustration amongst many traditionalists that the listening process seems to be one way and that many in the pro-gay camp seem to approach it from the "you will listen to us until you change your minds" perspective. But Phil Groves is onto something, that in order to present the gospel to people who are "gay", we need to engage with their lives (though of course, I’m of the opinion that labels such as "gay" and "straight" are not the way that Christians should describe themselves)

Here’s Phil again:

A process of listening to the experience of gay and lesbian Christians should challenge how our churches live out their calling. When I was appointed as an evangelist to young families in a conventional church in the English midlands the church expected me to deliver families who would conform to their notions of church. It came as a shock, therefore, when I challenged them to change the church in order for them to welcome families. This was not about theology, it was about service times, the music and the facilities. I have many contacts with gay Christians worshipping in conservative churches who take the lordship of Christ in their life as their guiding principle and who accept biblical authority and I frequently hear stories of prejudice and fear. They express to me a feeling that conservative leaders are often keen to parade them, but they are not willing to support them when the going gets tough.

Oh yes, oh yes.

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