The group met at the General Theological Seminary with the Rev. Canon Phil Groves.
Lyn Headley-Deavours, justice minister for the Diocese of Newark, urged Groves to ensure that the process quickly involves people across the communion actually listening to each other. The Rev. Dr. Cy Deavours, co-director of the Oasis LGBT ministry in the Diocese of New Jersey, told Groves he'd like some assurance that the listening will actually happen.
Groves said he would do all he could to ensure that LGBT voices are heard with the cooperation of groups such as Integrity. "I feel confident it will be done," he said, because the Anglican Communion office is supporting his efforts.
Groves outlines his role as facilitator
At the opening of the General Seminary meeting on June 27, Groves explained his overall role.
While he has his own opinions about the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion, he said, "if I am perceived as being on a side, I am worthless to you." He also cautioned that the process needs to hear from as many voices as possible, including some "that you believe have caused intense damage."
The hoped-for long-term result of the Listening Process, he said, is that with the inclusion of as many voices as possible, "we will know the gospel better." He asked the Integrity group to support the process by contributing papers and other resources by mid-August of this year.
Group's conversations range far and wide
The June 27-28 meeting followed the study guide's eight sections: the mission of the church, the witness of the Bible, the witness of tradition, homosexuality and science, homosexuality and culture, sexuality and identity, sexuality and spirituality, and developing skills in listening.
Roughly 20 people participated over two days in the conversations as the group examined the implications of including LGBT people fully in the life of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
The Rev. Susan Russell, Integrity president, suggested that the Episcopal Church should declare sexual orientation "morally neutral" and then call all people into "a holy life and wholeness." The church came close to doing just that at the 2000 General Convention, she said, when it passed Resolution D039, acknowledging that many Episcopalians live in life-long committed relationships that are not bound by marriage.
Donald Whipple Fox, a Dakota Episcopalian who is executive director of the Diocese of Minnesota's Indigenous Theological Training Institute, said the conversation reminded him of his grandmother being told she had to stop being an Indian to be a Christian.
"I wish we'd had this conversation 200 years ago," said Fox, who pointed out that the notion of "coming out" as LGBT has not been common until recently in Native American communities because it seems to value the individual over the community.
Native communities traditionally regard homosexuality as "a spiritual calling" and thus "coming out" is not so much a declaration of identity as acceptance of a sacred responsibility to the wider community.
The Rev. Michael Hopkins, past president of Integrity and rector of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene in Rochester, New York, questioned how the culture of listening in the Anglican Communion is being "managed," adding that he's "desperate just to sit down with other people in the communion to talk about Jesus and the Bible" and how his faith influences his life and work.
Groves told ENS that he was excited by his time with the Integrity group. "They are a group of people who are delighted to be involved with the wider communion ... and they are a group of people committed to talking about Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said. "Not everyone will agree with them. They don't always agree with one another, but their voices are committed to the wider church."