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Silence issue settled in New West reconciliation process: clarification needed on what participants may report back.

A misunderstanding between two groups involved in a reconciliation process in the diocese of New Westminster over what information is released after each meeting has been cleared up, says facilitator Gordon Sloan.

A vow to keep talks private, which was posted on the diocesan Web site after the first meeting Dec. 16, became a bone of contention for the dissenting parishes, which call themselves the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW). Representatives of that group are meeting with diocesan representatives to reconcile differences over the diocese's vote last June to begin blessing same-sex relationships.

Some among the dissenting parishes disagreed that the group had pledged to keep mum while trying to reconcile their differences, a view widely distributed in e-mail sent out by Rev. Ed Hird, who is not part of the talks but is an ACiNW spokesperson. He said in an interview that everything said there must be reported back to the ACiNW council.

Rev. Stephen Leung, an ACiNW priest who is at the table, confirmed there was a need for clarification of the issue among the group in the meeting.

After the second meeting held Jan. 15, Mr. Sloan said "there is understandable concern that the public not misunderstand discussions that are ongoing." He did not know yet how many more times the group would meet, but said a next meeting date had been set for Feb. 3.

He said that "the table" will issue a memo after each session, but only after everyone has had a chance to consider and modify its contents.

"It's very touchy," said Mr. Sloan. "Everyone is feeling very serious about this and it's a very serious issue. But they stayed together the whole time (for the length of the meeting) and the parties are of one mind about what to publish now."

In late October, the Canadian house of bishops requested that a process of reconciliation take place to mend the deep rift in the diocese over the issue of same-sex blessings. Bishop Michael Ingham later vowed to hold off indefinitely on same-sex blessings to give the process a chance to work. A report on the diocesan Web site said that all parties agreed to keep silent about the process until meetings are complete.

In his e-mail, Mr. Hird outlined the ACiNW's efforts to locate another bishop for its eight dissenting parishes. "Despite some impressions, the ACiNW council has not agreed to a veil of secrecy over the facilitated discussions," he wrote.

Mr. Hird, incumbent of St. Simon's, North Vancouver, said he put out the e-mail to correct the impression that all sides had accepted the first statement on the diocesan Web site.

In his remarks after the second meeting, Mr. Sloan said "there is acknowledgement that there was misunderstanding. What is always challenging is for each party to understand how the other reports back and to be comfortable with that."

He added that there was a long history of distrust and checkered communication between the two parties. "They are eager to reverse that and to have a different kind of communication. I'm actually quite proud of them."
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Author:Davidson, Jane
Publication:Anglican Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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