ACC commits church to new stage of listening process

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ACC delegates engage in table group discussions about the Listening Process on human sexuality.

Kingston, Jamaica
The 14th Anglican Consultative Council today welcomed the proposal for a “Continuing Indaba Project,” the next stage of the so-called Listening Process on the issue of human sexuality in the Anglican Communion. The process aims to listen to the experiences of homosexual persons and the response of various churches to them and the issue.

The project will involve five diverse “pilot conversations,” which would focus on mission issues and would not avoid hard questions related to sexuality, the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect for the dignity of all.
Canon Philip Groves, Listening Process facilitator, said the hope is that these conversations will result in “a depth of agreement and the clarification of disagreements resulting in positive missional relationships.” He did not state where the “pilot conversations” would take place.

Speaking before ACC delegates, Mr. Groves explained that indaba is a Zulu word for “the process of decision making by consensus, common in many African cultures and with parallels in other non-western societies,” like the Sacred Circle, commonly used by native communities in Canada. Indaba was the term used for the process used at last year’s Lambeth Conference. He said that within the African context, indaba “is intended to include all parties” and to result in a common decision.
Mr. Groves said the project will adopt the consensus method by “drawing upon Biblical models, the traditions of the church and cultural methods across the Communion.”

The Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia is funding the project until the end of 2011.

In a media statement, Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general and Institute director, said the funding “is part of the work in consensus building processes among leaders initiated by the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute.” He said that the initiative “is an important continuing opportunity to address issues facing the Anglican Communion in culturally appropriate ways.” The Institute’s core mission, said Dr. Satcher, is “to develop a diverse group of public health leaders, foster and support leadership strategies, and influence policies toward the reduction and ultimate elimination of disparities in health.”

During his presentation, Mr. Groves asked ACC delegates, who were divided into table groups, to reflect on the question: “What is the reality of listening in your province?” He said this could mean sharing whether the listening process has taken place or whether it should happen or what can be done to make it happen.

The ACC, in a resolution it approved, also said it recognizes that “listening is a long-term process” and that it is linked to the “gracious restraint” or call for moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the consecration of bishops living in same-gender unions and cross-provincial interventions.

The Windsor Continuation Group, formed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to help the Anglican Communion find ways to move forward following deep divisions over sexuality, has urged the church’s Instruments of Communion to “commit themselves to the renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.” (The Instruments of Communion are the primates’ meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference of bishops).

Mr. Groves also explained that the “conversations” would be face-to-face encounters, since having them over the Internet would not be appropriate in many cultures. In many instances, he explained, “you can’t have a conversation without shaking hands … It takes time to build relationships.” He cited that in Tanzania, where he lived for six years, locals would often say, that in the West, “you’ve got watches, we’ve got the time.”

Dato Stanley Isaacs, a delegate of the Anglican Province of Southeast Asia, said he supported the project but wondered whether a Listening Process might also be conducted to hear the experiences of Anglicans who have left their churches because of disagreements over the issue of sexuality and of provinces who have been involved in cross-provincial interventions in order to assist them. He expressed the hope that this sentiment would find its way into a resolution that the ACC was going to act on, with regards to the Windsor Continuation Group recommendations.

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, meanwhile, said that the Listening Process isn’t always easy, citing that in his country, homosexuality “is a shameful thing in our culture, and it’s a crime.”

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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