“Not enough conservatives; theology too liberal”, says lesbian participant in Shared Conversations.

May 4, 2015 by

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Andrew Symes writes: One of the initial reflections to come out of the first regional Shared Conversations is an excellent piece from the musician and blogger Rose Grigg. She describes herself as “gay and evangelical”, and writes movingly of her experience, including a conversation within the facilitated process with a woman whose understanding of Scripture makes it impossible to accept that gay relationships can be blessed by God; she “wanted to love and embrace” but “couldn’t compromise on the truth” of Scripture. She herself (Rose) testifies to a deep love for Jesus and a conviction that he fully accepts her as a lesbian, but also she is impressed by the humility of conservatives who are equally upset by the tearing of the Church family which is occurring over the issue of same sex relationships.

Rose appreciated the opportunity for people on opposites sides of the theological and ethical divides to really get to know each other and hear each other. However she has serious concerns about the process as well. Firstly, the Conversations appear light on theology:

“There wasn’t enough time to get into the nitty gritty of the Biblical texts, or to dig into the ‘issues behind the issues’: our approaches to scripture, what is sin, what is truth, what is salvation.”

Secondly, there was an assumption that ‘good disagreement’ was the right outcome:

“We hadn’t answered the question of exactly what we were disagreeing on; or whether that disagreement was something we could live with, or something which was so definitive that a split had to happen.”

Thirdly, there was theological bias:

“the process was geared towards those of a more liberal standpoint – those who were more likely to agree that the church could coexist with different theologies.”

In Rose’s description of the Conversation there is no attempt to gloss over very serious differences in theology as if they don’t really matter, and allowing the formation of warm relationships to trump major disagreements over doctrine – such an approach, according to her, is “liberal”. One wonders what she would make of Nicky Gumbel’s recent appeal for all Christians to put their differences aside, saying the answer to a “crisis of faith” is a unity which is “not doctrinal but relational”.

Lastly, “there weren’t enough conservatives”. Rose herself was assumed to be conservative, as she identifies as evangelical. “It’s not his [the Bishop’s] fault I happen to be…a flag-waving, rainbow-wearing lesbian.” It will be interesting to see whether those with the traditional understanding of Christian sexual ethics are in the minority in other regional Conversations as well.

Here is a report from someone who could embody more and more the future of the C of E as envisioned by its current leaders: young, talented and committed to Christ, but coming to radically different conclusions about Christ’s teachings and his demands in ways that align more with the grain of contemporary culture and one’s own self understanding and identity. If even she finds the process of the Shared Conversations too skewed away from a historic, conservative understanding of faith, this is yet more evidence of what Dr Martin Davie has called “a deeply flawed process supported by deeply flawed resources. They are in fact an object lesson of how a church should not go about handling a serious theological issue.”

Read Rose Grigg’s report here

 

 

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