The May 2006 General Synod / te Hinota Whanui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia considered the renewed call to the Listening Process called for in Lambeth 1998.
They set out the parameters of such a process. The Synod accepted “that Anglican doctrine and traditions teach that all purely human knowledge is incomplete.” They called for Anglicans to, listen carefully to those with different views, acknowledge the integrity of those holding differing views on particular matters and remain in communion with each other despite holding different views.
The Synod went on to note the call of ACC - 13 for a renewal of the Listening process and encouraged each Episcopal unit of the Church to continue or to initiate this process.
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has very good models for a listening process. One model has been developed from the Public Conversation Model from the Family Institute of Cambridge Mass, USA.
“The underpinning of this model is that people hold different perspectives on an issue, these perspectives arise out of their life experience and the values they hold. It was developed as an alternative to debate because it appears that often debate results in a polarisation and firming of positions already held, that the argument tends to go round familiar routes and become entrenched. This way of working opens up space for people to consider an issue in a different way.”
Bishops convened the meetings, they called people together, but did not make their views known. This was the same for the facilitator who enabled the process to work. The role of the facilitator was to “enable people to speak for themselves and to provide a safe place for those who came to listen and participate as well as those who spoke”.
Invitations were offered to four people to speak. Each had a different position. A gay person and someone who had previously lived a gay lifestyle but whose life had been transformed were invited with two theologians.
The conversations were successful in that they allowed people time and space to listen to real people and not just hear about them and about issues. Some wanted more of a debate with firmer decisions, but others valued the time to listen, to think and to pray.
There is an intention for the listening process to continue and the Standing Committee of the General Synod is considering how best to move forwards.