Friday, May 08, 2009

From St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville: Windsor Dialogue Listening Group


From the Rev. Jim Richardson at Fiat Lux and St. Paul’s Memorial Church,Charlottesville: Windsor Dialogue Listening Group

Several months ago, Bishop Peter Lee invited St. Paul's to participate in a pilot project to explore a method of "listening" on the deeply divisive issues of sexuality. I was asked to invite four people to engage in a conversation with four people from St. John the Baptist Church in Ivy. Their conversations would be moderated by a trained facilitator.

The four individuals from St. Paul's whom I invited to participate were Peter Dennison, Simeon Fitch, Margaret Mohrmann and Mildred Robinson. The wider context for this was the Windsor Report of the Anglican Communion a few years ago recommending that the Communion as a whole engage in a listening process, though no specific process was suggested.

The group began meeting in Lent and their conversations were strictly confidential. The dialogue was not designed to bring consensus on sexuality issues, but allow viewpoints to be heard with respect. The facilitator has written a confidential report to Bishop Lee, who is most interested in knowing whether their method could have a wider application and what adjustments might need to be made. The method itself can be found by clicking HERE.

I am very grateful to Peter, Simeon, Margaret and Mildred for devoting considerable time, energy and commitment to this process, and especially for their courage engaging in a dialogue that required them to be vulnerable with each other and a group from a very different congregation than our own. The four have correctly concluded that to respect the process they cannot answer questions about it. Instead, our group has prepared a report to the parish. The report will be posted on the St. Paul's website, and I am posting it in full here:
Windsor Dialogue Listening Group
St. Paul’s Memorial Church
Report to the Parish
May 5, 2009

Group Members: Peter Dennison, Simeon Fitch, Margaret Mohrmann, Mildred Robinson


The “Windsor Dialogue Listening Process” is part of a 2008 report from the “R-5 Commission” (appointed by Bishop Lee in 2007). The full report, including the details of the Listening Process format, is available on the Diocese of Virginia website at: HERE.

As part of the pilot program for the Listening Process, twelve parishes throughout the diocese were paired; St. Paul’s was matched with St. John the Baptist, Ivy. Our rector, the Rev. Jim Richardson, and St. John’s vicar, the Rev. Kathleen Sturges, each named four parishioners to the Listening Group. The Group met six times in two-hour sessions from March 8 to May 3, using the Windsor Dialogue Commission designated format, under the guidance of a diocese-trained facilitator.

At the initial session we agreed to “ground rules” for the group that included boundaries, confidentiality, and a commitment to listen carefully and make “I statements.” It is important to note that the stated objective of the Listening Process is neither persuasion nor argumentation, but open and honest communication with the goal of mutual understanding. The process is about listening and sharing, not debate; understanding without requiring agreement.

Read it all HERE

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