1. What is the intended outcome of the Shared Conversations?
The aim of the conversations is simply to create safe spaces in which difference and disagreement can be explored in relation to questions of scripture, mission and human sexuality. It is hoped that this process will encourage and enable people who take a wide range of views to discern that which is of Christ in those with whom they profoundly disagree. There is no preconceived or prescribed outcome beyond this.
It will be the participants alone who will, on the basis of what they have heard and experienced, and informed by scripture and people’s theological convictions, reflect the diversity expressed in their conversation and the implications for a church in which these views are held. In many, perhaps the majority of, cases, they may not reach any conclusion. This is fine. The conversations in themselves have no decision-making authority in the Church of England.
2. How is the safety of participants in the Shared Conversations being protected?
Honesty is essential to this process of talking and listening and, as such, the safety of participants is paramount. All conversations are being governed by the St Michael’s House Protocols. Under these, a space is created in which all feel welcomed and respected, in which diversity is encouraged, and which is private but not secret. In keeping with these protocols, the identity of a participant will not be disclosed by anyone other than the participant him-/herself. Additionally, participants make the commitment that whatever information they hear is not used to disadvantage any participant in situations outside the conversation.
Of course, it is the nature of conversations around conflict and disagreement that each participant has to take responsibility for their own safety. However, the hope is that, by the end of the two days, everybody will take responsibility for each other’s safety, because there will be a sharing of each other’s hopes and desire to follow Christ.