Profile of The Listening Process: The Story of R-7

StandFirm has published an article by the Rev. David Harper, Rector of Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, VA. The article is called “The Story of R-7: A Personal Reflection,” and focuses on the seven-year “listening process” in the Diocese of Virginia. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Over the six or so years I was a member of the Group, we succeeded in providing a safety valve for the Diocese, heading away from the floor of Council many resolutions that might have torn the Diocese apart. This small community of friends, despite often feeling discouraged and weary when our meetings seemed to be an exercise in futility, provided an important role in the life of the Diocese. Most of us believed we had discovered something valuable that could be offered as a model to the Episcopal Church. But the writing was already appearing on the wall. There was mounting impatience on the part of some that the time for talking was coming to an end: The church needed to act to ease the plight of its lesbigay members by offering them full admission to the ordination process, and blessing their unions. I could see an accelerating shift in Bishop Lee’s position, as he began to articulate the importance of the civil rights movement in defining his theology, and the parallels he saw between that issue of yawning injustice and the situation our group was struggling with. Several months before the 2003 General Convention, we assembled for what would become my final meeting. Our three bishops were present, as well as our Diocese’s clergy and lay deputies. On that Monday afternoon, May 5, 2003, I strongly urged them to bear witness to our Virginia model, and to use their influence to prevent General Convention from trying to resolve the sexuality crisis through legislative means. I warned that such action would tear the church apart. A member of the group turned to me, and said, “The time has come to decide this matter. It needs to be put to the vote.” Not a single voice was raised in rebuttal. The die was cast.

David goes on to include a section from his letter of resignation from “R-7” to Bishop Peter Lee following General Convention 2003. Here is an excerpt:

The decisions of General Convention, strongly endorsed by our diocesan representatives—some of whom belong to our “company of friends”—have thrust us into a place where the possibility of any “measure of agreement” has been torn away by an act of legislative aggression. It has created an acutely painful crisis of conscience for those of us who had been willing to bear with our brothers and sisters on the other side of the theological divide by living together in a climate of “acceptable ambiguity.”

Now that General Convention has destroyed that ambiguity, my continuing to work together in the intimate setting of our group, as though unity were still the group’s goal, would make me feel that our process was either disingenuous or manipulative.

Please read the whole thing here.