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JAMAICA: The Listening Process Defended, Probed

JAMAICA: The Listening Process Defended, Probed

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue in Jamaica

Canon Philip GrovesCanon Philip Groves, director of the Listening Process, set up the process in order to listen to stories (primarily, but not exclusively) of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Communion, and to seek to find common ground between mutually contradictory positions. He sought to affirm this at a press conference in Kingston, but succeeded only in demonstrating that the Law of Non-Contradiction cannot be lifted, even for him.

Waving a 300-page book, "The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, A resource to enable listening and dialogue" to delegates at the ACC-14, Groves tried to put the best front on pansexuality saying that listening did not necessarily mean acceptance or even approval, but theological and cultural considerations would lead one to believe that people with disordered sexual behaviors should be admitted as full members of the church and to all its offices.

He also combined the Listening Process with the Indaba process at Lambeth extending it to cover a range of theological issues. The listening process has been extended to 2011 and is funded to the tune of $1.5 million by the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, for a project of Continuing Indaba.

At its website, The Satcher Health Leadership Institute says it utilizes consensus methodology to assist leaders with divergent viewpoints in building agreements on controversial issues related to health policy regarding sexual health. The Ford Foundation funds the Institute. One of Ford's explicitly stated policies is to fight homophobic fundamentalism in the churches, according to Robert Lundy, a spokesman for the American Anglican Council.

"The aim of this project is to adapt the consensus method, by drawing upon biblical models, the traditions of the church and cultural methods from across the Communion," said Groves.

Groves justified his attempts at reconciling irreconcilable positions as follows: He asked, "How can the communion move from mutual listening to common purpose?" He drew on ACC-3 which said: "Christian partnership did not then mean that the partners, although united in their missionary goals, were always in accord on how they were to carry out his mission - witness the disagreement between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2. Rather they were asked to face each other, and the roots of their disagreement and agreement, so openly that both could go forward in mutual love and respect into further creative activity."

Groves said that the work is not completed and explained that in African understanding, Indaba is intended to include all interested parties. "We are seeking to include clergy and laity in the process. It also results in a common decision." He said Indaba is meant to develop theological resources to inform the process of seeking a common mind by the utilization of theologians around the world reflecting on Scripture and the traditions of the church in the context of diverse cultures, with an emphasis on non-western cultures and to publish them in culturally appropriate forms.

When challenged by Anglican Mainstream theologian, Dr. Chris Sugden, that the actual meaning of Indaba in an African context is a council of indigenous peoples meeting to discuss an important matter, but who hold common tight values found in the community, Groves had no answer.

When VOL asked why, when this reporter sat down with African Anglican leaders like Peter Akinola, Henry Luke Orombi, Benjamin Nzimbi and Emmanuel Kolini, it is that we all view homosexuality through the same biblical lens prohibiting such behaviors with culture having little to do with it, Groves then switched gears and played the human rights card.

"We must see that what a community decides is not necessarily what the church believes," he said. The two might not be on the same page. Indeed.

When I spoke with another orthodox Anglican Archbishop later over lunch, he said that human rights have nothing to do with homosexual behavior. "It is proscribed in nearly all the great cultures of the world, and has been so for centuries."

He noted the fact that even if it is practiced by a handful of Christians and even by some Muslims, it in no way negates the fundamental theological and human rejection of a behavior that lacks the ability to bring children into the world and is fundamentally selfish and narcissistic.

When Groves was further challenged by this reporter as to whether he would accept the fact that some people are actually changing and moving from same-sex attractions to heterosexuality, Groves dodged the question saying he had listened to The Rev. Mario Bergner, an ex-gay from the Diocese of Massachusetts, but offered no other examples. He was more bent on telling us that the church is big enough for all points of view to co-exist together.

Groves said he plans to run five pilot conversations across diversity, focusing on the mission issues for each, not avoiding hard questions, and raising issues of sexuality with the authority of Scripture. "The hope will be that the result of conversations will be a depth of agreement and the clarification of disagreement resulting in positive missional relationships." He said he would run theological and process evaluation groups to see if the process is faithful to the Anglican way, is valuable in enabling mutual mission and is replicable across the Communion.

So, what then are we to make of the Listening Process?

First of all, it grew out of Lambeth resolution 1.10 and was primarily an afterthought with the bulk of the resolution affirming the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman and heterosexual behavior.

With the wedge of "listening" incorporated into the resolution, it was enough for US and UK pansexualists to widen the wedge and use it as a battering ram for full acceptance of non-celibate behavior. Never mind that the resolution called for the pastoral care of homosexual persons, presumably with a view to offering them a way out through reparative therapy and linking up with ex-gay ministries in much the same way alcoholics need Alcoholics Anonymous.

Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop at that time, agreed to fund a Listening post in London. to The then evangelical Groves agreed to run the post with the apparent blessing of Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi for whom Groves had worked briefly as a missionary.

They picked their man well. Groves' penchant for wanting everyone to get along (a peculiar Episcopal habit), he set about listening to the whine of gay and lesbian people. Over time, he was seduced into believing the lie of sexual orientation - the gene made me do it - versus same sex attractions that can, with considerable motivation on the part of the person, move away from homosexual desire to latent or active heterosexuality.

At the same time, Groves tried to temper his feelings of acceptance of homosexuals by telling orthodox people that their views were and are being fairly represented.

To argue, as Groves does, that because Peter and Paul had their differences (Galatians 2) and, in facing each other, were able to move forward in mutual love and respect to do further creative activity has got zero to do with the acceptance of homosexual practice.

It was the same Paul who wrote in I Cor. 6: that "neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality will inherit the Kingdom." Groves does not mention that verse.

Can you imagine the apostle Paul formally funding a Listening Post in a Mediterranean port city or in cities like Ephesus, Corinth or Galatia (at some considerable cost) to pacify a group of persons indulging in sexually aberrant behavior?

That Peter and Paul chose to go in different directions over who they should preach the gospel to has nothing to do with whether we should or should not accept openly practicing homosexuals telling us what we believe about the faith from the pulpit. It is a stretch of the theological imagination to draw the same parallels.

The sad reality of Groves' presentation is that it ignores the fact that culture and human rights have little or nothing to do with biblical prohibitions on sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage. All the African provinces, with the notable exception of Southern Africa, prohibit homosexual practice in their churches by the laity and completely exclude it from the ranks of the clergy. Some cultures and governments like Nigeria have taken a stronger stance - a stance that has met with cries of homophobia and hate by western Anglican pansexualists.

It was the apostle Paul's position of "let not these things be named among you as becometh saints" (KJV) that is more appropriate to the Anglican Communion's Listening Process. One does not find such Listening posts say in the Vatican or Constantinople, Moscow or Cairo.

As the Anglican Communion slowly dissolves and devolves into two camps - GAFCON and ACNA versus the ACC, Lambeth Conference and TEC, the Listening Process will grow more irrelevant with time.

The vast majority of Anglicans is not buying into it and never will however hard Groves tries. To even discuss it implies some level of acceptance that Scripture offers no warrant. It is fitting that it should have been an option at the recent ACC meeting in Jamaica, but I can assure you that more than 50% of the delegates there were not buying it and never will.

The ultra-liberal ACC chairman Bishop John Paterson of New Zealand is now history, his place taken by the orthodox Archbishop of Central Africa. The brilliant, outgoing, deputy secretary general of the ACC, Bishop Geoffrey Cameron who used his legal mind to proceduralize (is there such a word) the ACC to keep TEC and the Canadians at the table will also be gone. The ACC will remain staunchly liberal under Kenneth Kearon. Any new Faith and Order employee will also share his values, not those of the orthodox in the communion.

The truth is we have listened ourselves to death. The whole Listening Process is designed to beat down the orthodox and make them roll over into accepting a behavior that has killed millions and maimed generations for life.

The orthodox Global South will have none of it. They are finished with this process, just as many provinces have finished with the Episcopal Church and, in time, with the Anglican Communion itself. The ACC-14 meeting was a bust. The only question left is: what now?



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