What is meant by listening?

May 28, 2006 by

Rev Chris Newlands, the chaplain to the Bishop of Chelmsford is reported to have said: “Mr Newlands denied that Bishop Gladwin’s views on homosexuality were exceptionally liberal, but said that he was keen to listen to the experiences of homosexuals, something called for by the 1998 Lambeth Conference. He said that difficulties arose because African countries were not so far advanced in this “listening process”.”

What was actually passed at Lambeth 1998 was this:

The resolution began by stating that Scripture upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage:
It then went on to recognise that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships
Only then does the resolution say ‘We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons’
Afterwards it adds rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, and finally cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions

When looked at as a whole, it is clear that the comment on ‘listening’ as subservient to the fact that such relationships are wrong in Scripture and therefore those living in them are expected to seek the pastoral care and moral direction of the church and the transforming power of God. The reason we have to listen to them so that they can be transformed not continue in relationships which are unscriptural.

The comment that difficulties arose because African countries were not so far advanced in this “listening process” comes across as patronising. Those who know Africans are well aware that they are expert as listeners, much more so than westerners.

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