Many people have asked Changing Attitude England for advice about participating in the Shared Conversations, wanting to know whether they would be safe and whether CA would advise people to take part. We promised to respond following Tuesday’s meeting between the LGBTI Anglican Coalition and David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation.
David Porter was clear and honest in responding to every question he was asked. His honest response to the safety question is that safety cannot be guaranteed. By that, he means that realistically, absolute safety can never be guaranteed in every circumstance.
There are two aspects of safety that are relevant. The first is the safety of every participant from abuse or attack by other participants. Professional facilitators will be involved in every Conversation and part of their role will be to protect every participant. Changing Attitude is confident that the Conversations will be conducted with the safety and integrity of participants properly protected and I think there is little to be anxious about if you agree to take part.
The second aspect of safety is more problematic and that is the question of information about an individual and especially about relationship status which might be revealed in the course of the Conversation which might result in anyone present taking action under the CDM or a bishop taking direct action against someone with a bishop’s licence.
The organisers suggested that bishops should participate in a Conversation other than their own diocese. I got the impression that the majority of bishops were prepared to do this but a minority totally refused. We don’t know and will not be told, I suspect, which bishops will participate in their own diocese’s conversation.
Whether or not local bishops are present, other people from the home diocese, lay and ordained, will be. Any of them might chose to use information disclosed in the Conversation against the individual. It is therefore up to each participant to take personal responsibility for what he or she discloses.
There can be no amnesty for individuals, lay or ordained, who hold a licence and, as David Porter pointed out, lay people can be vindictive.
It became very clear that some of the bishops are acting in very immature ways and are incompetent in some aspects of their performance. This in itself will put some people at risk. I will write more about other aspects of the Conversations in a separate post.
Changing Attitude advises people that it is safe to participate and important that many LGBTI people and straight supporters put their names forward to the diocesan bishop with a brief CV. It’s up to each one of us to participate knowing that total safetey can never be guaranteed and taking personal responsibility for what we disclose or withhold.
There is no way of ensuring that every conversation is representative of every opinion but the hope is that since each group of 48 is drawn from 3 to 5 dioceses, chance will ensure a reasonable representation. It’s almost impossible to ensure that every conversation includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex voices but some of the wiser bishops will ensure broad inclusion so that all will be heard somewhere in the Conversations. Some bishops will want to include those identifying as being same-sex attracted or ex-gay.