The difficulty with Bishops and conversations is that we all have assumptions we load into and on to them.
Within the Church of England we’re asking our Bishops to choose sides. It reminds me of parenting children: ‘He did it.’ ‘No, she did.’ ‘Da-ad, tell him!’
Tell him what? That’s the problem with shared conversations, they were the wrong tool to crack the nut of how we resolve a Church divided over its attitudes to LGBTI people. This approach implied people would have a chance to speak on a open platform, but that is a very long way from seeking active listening based conversations with the aim of bringing about genuine transformation on all sides. The conversations were about setting out contrasting stalls of goods or about finding effective ways to share our goods, energy and vision.
I’m not a great fan of Bishops for Bishops sake, I think we would be very wise seeing the role as functionary and not as a superhero calling everything on the religious agenda from theological insight and ethical concern, to setting the manner by which we choose how we do things. This seems an outmoded model for managing an increasingly articulate and talented (at last they are escaping their cages) laity. We should be utilising expertise within the Church to resolve issues not status. We appear not to have men and women capable of taking a fresh look in the House of Bishops.
If dialogue in a conflicted situation is to be effective at any constructive level, both sides must know exactly what can and cannot be changed. If it isn’t possible to know that then this is where the discussion begins. If active listening hits a grid lock of immutability then the future is painfully clear. We will achieve nothing life enhancing by either forcing change or bullying others. We will gain life, authenticity and integrity if we accept that when some thing are broken. They don’t need to be re-built but completely reimagined.