Valid process crucial to debating homosexuality issue’

Published May 1, 1999

HOW PEOPLE and organizations arrive at decisions is often as important to the final outcome as the data used in resolving an issue. The contemporary code word is process. The cartoon strip Dilbert, which gets its gags from poking fun at the corporate world, has taken its whacks at process as sometimes frustratingly foolish, when run by people with no real grasp of the issue, or manipulative, when an organization wants to create a facade of consultation. Several dioceses and the national church are currently involved in processes that will have a tremendous impact on the church: studying the issue of homosexuality. The national church is helping several dioceses tackle this difficult and emotional topic as well as bringing four biblical scholars together to talk about different ways of approaching biblical texts in the discussion – as noted in an article in this issue. It is hoped the scholars’ talks will help people find new ways of dealing with this issue. Part of any good process involves hearing as many perspectives as possible from as many representatives as possible. To this end, the media have an important role to play in reporting what is said by various parties and providing a forum for discussion and feedback. It is therefore unfortunate if it is true what one letter to the editor in this issue says regarding conservatives in the Diocese of New Westminster. The writer says they are using last month’s article in the Journal about Bishop Ingham’s annual meeting with the local Integrity chapter to allege that he is trying to skew the process. The Journal’s story was taken from what claimed to be a first-hand account of the meeting by an Anglican member of Integrity. It would be odd for conservatives in the diocese to rely on the Journal story since it was conservative sources in B.C. who pointed the Journal to the Web site account of the meeting in the first place. The story was also published in the Church of England Newspaper, which is widely read in conservative circles, prior to the Journal’s story being published. The effect of this is to make media – the Journal – part of the story, instead of merely reporting events and being a neutral forum for discussion. It would appear that some conservatives in New Westminster are responding to Bishop Ingham’s two-year process of discernment on the same-sex blessings issue as if he had thrown down the gauntlet. They should reconsider their position and view the process as an olive branch. After all, there are some thoughtful conservative scholars and pastors involved in the dialogue. And while Bishop Ingham has never disguised his own position in this matter, he is as bound by the process he initiated as anyone. If one views this process as one where there will be a winner and a loser in two years, one might as well opt out. The purpose of the dialogue, the theological and biblical reflection, is to help the diocese reach something near to a consensus about God’s will for the church. In order for the process to work, both sides must trust each other. If reasonable consensus is not achieved, more discussion will be needed. Some participants on both sides may not like that, but the issue isn’t going away and stalemate isn’t an option. That would keep the church from focusing on the myriad other issues it must be involved in and would demoralize people, to say nothing of how it would further damage the church’s credibility as an institution of moral leadership (among other things) in society. People will have different views on the subject of homosexuality in the church and on the church politics involved. Both must be committed to the process and must trust that each is not out to beat the other side at the polls at the 2001 synod, but to help people understand the issue in as much depth as possible. If printing an already public statement threatens this process, one might conclude there wasn’t much trust to begin with. It’s not too late. Both supporters and opponents of blessing same-sex unions must lower their guard and approach dialogue trusting in the process. If trust can be built between the two sides before the May 2001 vote in Vancouver, it will be as important as the result of the vote itself.


Keep on reading

Skip to content