The Listening Process

A Diocesan Conversation on Homosexuality

Introduction and Planning Outline

This was an adaptation of the Public Conversation Model from the Family Institute of Cambridge Mass. USA.

This site has full information about the approach, its theoretical underpinning and numerous applications. Under Resources there are many articles about how the ideas work in the conversations.

This is a  description of my preparation with the forms of my letters of invitation and my notes for the evenings.

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.

This model depends on a willingness to listen with respect be willing to speak honestly about our own ideas and where these are difficult for us.

My intention 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.

I decided that there would be no recording made and any written material should be passed through the Bishop’s offices before publication afterwards.

From the advertising people noticed that it was not to be a debate and their expectations were formed accordingly . Afterwards the majority of comments were positive with mention made of safety and carefulness and the value of hearing from people rather than about people. Adverse comments focussed around the lack of ‘debate’, and request that this should follow.

People in each setting need to decide who can be invited as speakers in their own setting.

The Bishops were hosts so that they introduced the evening and closed with prayer. If there had been a “What do the Bishops think about this’ question I would have referred back to the terms of reference that opening understanding and not pinning the Bishops down was the intention of the evening.

Preparation:

Invitations were offered to four people from different positions on this issue.

After discussion with the Bishops we decided to invite theologians who were known to us and a gay person and someone who had lived an active homosexual lifestyle and whose life had been ‘transformed’ ( their description).

  1. Phone conversations  to introduce the proposal, and myself and to describe the format and emphasise the concern to safety and respect in the event and how I was working towards that.
  2. Letter to document the phone call and give more information ( attached First letter) This includes the questions to be addressed. These are the questions used in the Public Conversation Project material.
  3. Advertising in Diocese : 2 months ahead
  4. Copies of advertising sent to participants and they returned personal descriptions
  5. Advertising posters with participants descriptions as written by them ( 5 weeks before event)
  6. Second letter to participants with greater detail of timing
  7. Phone/ email contact with participants re travel and arrangements andanswering questions

The Events

Venue

Venue is open an hour before the conversation. Advertising made clear that people to bring their own refreshments, we provide drinks. I provided refreshments for the speakers.

Care with set up of venue regarding audibility and visibility and the order of speakers

We worked with a single microphone which was passed between speakers.