Tuesday, 27 March 2007

'Listening Process' dominated by Western Liberal assumptions

Correction: I had previously written that Philip Groves was on the staff of St John's College, Nottingham. In fact, he is only on the Council - a misreading on my part of his biographical notes. JPR

A summary of responses to the 'listening process' called for after the 1998 Lambeth Conference has been published on the Anglican Communion official website.

However, a quick perusal of the relevant sections of the site shows that it is culturally and theologically dominated by Western Liberal assumptions.

The 'glossary', for example, is a glossary of Western expressions: 'coming out', drag, Queer theology, etc. There is no indication here that any English, let alone other-language, colloquial expressions relevant to the issue might exist outside the shores of the UK and North America within the Anglican Communion.

Similarly, Liberal assumptions predominate. A Transvestite is considered "a pejorative term". "Ex-gay" includes someone who "lives with same sex attraction issues within celibacy". Perhaps most tellingly, there is this, unattributed, quotation: ‘"Gay" and "lesbian" are the names we have proudly chosen for ourselves while "homosexual" is a sterile psychiatric/medical term.’ Who, as Tonto once famously asked, is this "we"?

Again, the theological basis of the process is full of Western Liberal angst. Issues of 'pain' and 'sharing' predominate. Fear is assumed to be the underlying barrier to 'listening':

"The issues surrounding human sexuality have made us all feel vulnerable.
Some fear the ending of the faith as we know it.
Others fear not being accepted.
Some fear being split in two with conflicting loyalties.
Some fear to ask questions and some fear to answer them."

It is all very reminiscent of an English diocesan jamboree, whereas the attitudes of the Global South are marginalised. The 'Facilitator', Revd Canon Phil Groves, has African experience, but he is English and it shows.

John Richardson
27 March 2007

3 comments:

Weiwen Ng said...

"Similarly, Liberal assumptions predominate. A Transvestite is considered "a pejorative term". "Ex-gay" includes someone who "lives with same sex attraction issues within celibacy". Perhaps most tellingly, there is this, unattributed, quotation: ‘"Gay" and "lesbian" are the names we have proudly chosen for ourselves while "homosexual" is a sterile psychiatric/medical term.’ Who, as Tonto once famously asked, is this "we"?"

John,

To my knowledge, the LGBT community has asked others to use the names that they choose. In a parallel example, people of color ask not to be called "colored people", and the term is not used anymore apart from the NAACP in the us (which was started while "colored people" was OK, and which is usually referred to by acronym anyway). Instead of being a "liberal assumption", using someone's preferred term to refer to them is simple politeness.

Revd John P Richardson said...

But the assumption that there is a 'community' of 'LGBT' people is Western and Liberal, and the preferred terms used in the glossary have emerged from a Western and Liberal environment. It is not just a few isolated aspects of the 'listening process', but the entire process itself which appears to be coloured by Western and Liberal assumptions.

Whether one agrees with it or not, this comment from the Church of Nigeria, also on the 'Listening Process' website, reveals exactly how Westernised the assumptions of the 'Process' are:

"In Nigerian traditional culture homosexuality is seen as taboo. Homosexuals are thought of as threatening the divinely ordained order of the community. The Western idea of human rights is subservient to the service of the common good. The so called ‘right’ to homosexual orientation threatens the order of society because the continuation of the race is threatened by gay practice. Children are treasured as fruits of marriage and any union, as a gay union, that prevents the propagation of the community's growth is a personal shame to be openly censured."

It may be true that someone from that background with those views would find it hard to 'facilitate' a 'Listening Process' as currently envisaged, but that is my point - the thing itself is skewed in a Western Liberal direction.

kens said...

"The 'Facilitator', Revd Canon Phil Groves, has African experience, but he is English and on the staff at St John's College, Nottingham, and it shows."
Which part shows?
That he is English?
That he has African experience?
That he is on the staff at St John's College, Nottingham?
Are/Is any one of them a negative factor?