Facilitated Conversations

On Saturday morning of Diocesan Council, February 22, clergy and delegates, as well as alternates and visitors, met in small groups for Facilitated Conversations led by members of the diocesan Reconciliation Committee.

Each group was led by a trained facilitator, and the goal of the conversations was to encourage and equip members of the diocesan family to engage one another on topics in which they may hold different theological positions, specifically on matters of human sexuality and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Using a framework that encouraged all to have a generous pastoral response to those with whom they disagree, the conversations were held through mutual listening and respectful discussion, outlined by questions provided by the Reconciliation Commission.

Last year (2013), in his address to Council, Bishop Lillibridge first invited congregational conversations on the matter of homosexuality, which followed upon the actions of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held in July 2012, which authorized for provisional use a liturgy for same-sex blessings in dioceses that chose to do so. Those congregations who accepted the bishop’s invitation to these conversations have consistently reported that they proved to be a helpful discussion in which to participate.

In this year’s address to Council on Friday morning, Lillibridge once again invited congregations throughout the diocese to engage in a prayerful, careful, and intentional conversation about homosexuality and same-sex blessings.

Lillibridge said, “These facilitated conversations continue to represent the broad range of thought and hopes on this subject. They call us to seriously consider what the phrases ‘generous pastoral response’ and ‘honor the theological diversity of this Church’ look like in our life together.”

Following the table conversations at Council, the participants were invited to stand and give a one-word response to the exercise. During the time allotted, the one-word responses included:

enlightened, respect, okay, compassionate, gentle, tolerant, committed, love, cloudy, painful, family, holy, encouraged, sensitive, beginning, amor, vulnerable, heart-felt, blessed, lucky, grateful, difficult, acknowledged, faithful, timely, emotional, laughter, tolerance, embraced, wisdom, concerned, real, suicide, friendly, courageous, and accommodation.

Lillibridge extended his thanks to Council for their participation. The Rev. Lisa Mason, member of the Reconciliation Commission, closed the session with a prayer, thanking God for listening ears and listening hearts. She prayed for all to be bearers of mercy, and continue to be bearers of light, and love, and peace.