The College of Bishops meet for Shared Conversations

This evening members of the College of Bishops, including the eight elected senior women, gather at Bosworth Hall Hotel and Spa, Market Bosworth to begin the Shared Conversations which will be rolled out across the dioceses and last for two years, culminating at the November 2016 meeting of the General Synod.

Supporters of Changing Attitude England have joined in holding the bishops in heart-centred prayer every day for the past few weeks and will continue to hold the bishops in our hearts throughout the meeting.

The bishops are being invited to do something which, as a corporate body, they find incredibly difficult – to become vulnerable to each other, especially in the realm of sexuality – speaking and listening personally, from and within the heart.

I know from my many conversations with bishops that most of them can be warm and open in one-to-one private encounters. This only becomes possible when a relationship has been created in which trust and truth can flow.

I have also learnt from asking bishops direct questions that in the context of College and House of Bishops’ meetings (House meetings especially), speaking openly, self-revealingly, to their brothers and sisters is incredibly difficult. The culture of the House tends to imprison bishops in particular roles, expectations, projections, and anxieties. Their innate capacity for freedom of thought and vision, to take risks and let their imaginations flow, becomes seriously compromised. It can be hard in a meeting for any of us to become more fully present and open, letting go of our fears and anxieties – and even more so for bishops when in the company of 50 or 100 other bishops.

So we are holding them in prayer.

If I understand the Shared Conversations process aright, the intention is that participants will be facilitated to move out of their usual head/mind comfort zone down into their hearts and guts, into a whole body experience.

I’d like to offer them, and you, the key words that float in my consciousness when I meditate, moving through three centres of awareness.

Present…
Aware…
Open…
Alive…
Creative…
Energy flowing…

Belly…
Guts…
Core…
Wisdom…
Nourishing…
Enriching…
Goodness…
Flowing…

Heart…
Love…
Open…
Melting…
Warming…
Nurturing…
Infused…
Immersed…

Throughout my meditation I am gently reminding myself that God’s love and presence is always infinite and unconditional. The faith in God’s infinite unconditional love is what transforms my relationship.

There is an inevitable tendency for the Church as a human institution to be affected by human anxieties and insecurity and to create roles and expectations which imprison people, inhibiting our imaginations and freedom to dream and act creatively and take risks. As a result, Christian discourse and practice can diminish people’s vision rather than expanding us to be and become who we truly are in Christ.

To believe in your guts and heart and soul and body in the present moment in the infinite, unconditional love and goodness of God, revealed in Scripture and in the life and person of Jesus Christ, can be to immerse yourself and your whole being in the Spirit-soaked infinite presence.

I pray with all my heart and soul and body for the bishops meeting today, for the four people bringing their personal witness to LGBTI experience this evening, and for open, intimate, revealing, dangerous conversations between the bishops and senior women tomorrow.

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