Good Disagreement

Coventry embrace

As the Church grapples with widely divergent views of sexuality and the Christian faith, the term ‘Good Disagreement’ has begun to gain currency in the search for reconciliation and a way forward.

The Archbishop of Canterbury used the phrase in his Presidential address to General Synod last year in relation to a number of contentious issues including sexuality.

Accepting Evangelicals has always modelled ‘Good Disagreement’ in its membership by uniting both ‘affirming’ and ‘accepting’ evangelical Christians behind a common purpose of seeing the Church move forward to greater acceptance of  same-gender relationships and LGBT Christians.

Now as the Church of England’s Shared Conversations on sexuality begin their next phase, we would like to generate a conversation about what Good Disagreement should look like in practice.  To get the conversation going we have commissioned an article by The Very Rev David Ison – Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral – which you will find below.

facebook_logoIf you would like to join the conversation, please comment on one of the links below or alternatively why not apply to join the Facebook Group Discussion on ‘Good Disagreement’ by emailing ?

The Very Rev Dr David IsonDavid Ison – Good Disagreement?

“Can different groups in the Church of England disagree but still live together? On one level that seems rather a nonsensical question: they’ve been doing it for centuries, with occasional upheavals and realignments, some of which make today’s issues look minor (1662 expulsions of non-conformist ministers, the later Non-Jurors and the secession of the Free Church of England come to mind). But it’s a pressing question today about issues relating to gender and sexuality…”

For the full article – follow this link.

Justin WelbyArchbishop of Canterbury – Justin Welby

“Facilitated (Shared) conversations may be a clumsy phrase, but it has at its heart a search for good disagreement. It is exceptionally hard edged, extraordinarily demanding and likely to lead in parts of the world around us to profound unpopularity or dismissal.

This sort of gracious reconciliation means that we have to create safe space within ourselves to disagree, as we began to do last summer at the Synod in York, and as we need to do over the issues arising out of our discussions on sexuality, not because the outcome is predetermined to be a wishy-washy one, but because the very process is a proclamation of the Gospel of unconditionally loving God who gives Himself for our sin and failure.  It is incarnational in the best sense and leads to the need to bear our cross in the way we are commanded…”

For a fuller excerpt and a link to the full address – follow this link.

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  1. I think the concept of “Good disagreement” is a good one. The Jungian analyst Robert A Johnson’s book “Owning your own Shadow” speaks of the shadow as “that part of us we fail to see or know”. This part of us we project onto others. We see clearly in them what we cannot see at all in ourselves. Positively we project “the most noble and valuable parts of us” onto another when we “fall in love”. Negatively, in conflict, we project onto another, or another group, those parts of us we reject. So we demonize them. The current conflict over same gender relationships seems to me to involve a great deal of these projections so that we accuse the other the very things of which we are guilty, yet unconscious of, in ourselves. Johnson speaks of the difference between contradiction and paradox. He speaks of how an individual, when torn between two seemingly irreconcilable needs or values, can learn, instead of moving hastily towards compromise, to stay with the two sides of the paradox, holding both until new wisdom emerges. I believe this is as pertinent to communal disagreement. It can only be achieved by “laying down our arms” and choosing to honour each other’s needs, values and concerns, holding the two sets of values and beliefs in community. We may come to accept they may never be reconciled and yet continue to hold the two in community allowing new shared wisdom to emerge.

    • Thank you Nick. That is very helpful.

      I guess the challenge in doing this in a religious context is not to hold onto our understanding so tightly that in becomes an ‘absolute truth’ in our mind.

      Every blessing

  2. David

    I was around in AE’s earliest days. You’ve patiently sowed and, if God is in it, fruit should come – and it surely has. I re-read an older comment on one of the four or five sites I’m regularly-ish on and thought you might appreciate the sentiment. On the other hand I’m – I trust irrationally – concerned, that Open Theism and/or a more awoken understanding (called ‘conspiracy theories’ if not your perspective, and with respect unlikely …to say the least), is somehow too disconcerting and unwanted. I’ve consistently sought to promote, when the AE’s subject arises, that the primary need, not only about this but other evangelical contentions, is for good disagreement. Or, in Scott Peck’s well-known words, ‘disagree gracefully’.

    I can barely remember reposting a comment and I’m hesitant to jump in spouting, having had no contact with those involved I know, or participate in AE conversations. It’s not my call to write ‘outside’ the patch I’m on and I’m not about to start.

    The following is ABC for you and yours but obviously vital it’s aired in wider domains. You might be interested to know that I’ve had almost no online challenges or questions from those who clearly oppose ‘open and accepting’.

    One AE post is enough from me but I’m going to begin to extend my online viewing (I visit the few I need to and little else)and dip in to this blog.

    So a cheeky signpost but genuine sharing for your interest and my prayer: for all who look to be as open as possible and to maybe… make some moves towards considering, through to – holy joe – accepting, some of these alternative takes.

    Thanks for the space


    The following is on:

    ‘On this one, (on-an-aside), I’d like to announce, with – at least my – pleasure, that over this past year or so, (after a couple of decades on the door-step), the Evangelical umbrella and definition, includes those, open to ‘Gays-are-in-believers’ in Evangelicalism. Most, grudgingly, a minority trying to start a New CofE (guess who?). But there’s no debate about this. The inner-scene mags allow the question and state the fix, their radio etc, they all know, battle over. Ground ceded. Those who believe this non-traditional line is a ‘primary issue’? (guess who?) and so, it’s not about ‘I’m gay, I’m ok’ now, or ‘gay-ok with God now’ (in the just about main), but the theological and pastoral imperative to stand, (some pushing), for full inclusion in what now is re-defined through this as being ‘evangelical’. (Please understand, the shift came – could only come – because of the recognition, (with tears for some, anger for others), that an ‘open-gay position’ was and is a secondary issue, a losing battle to overturn in the – keep the boat afloat – controlling middle, where there was no mind or time to succeed in an agreement that this was/is a primary – evangelical – tenant. Open and accepting evangelicals were too big a growing minority to shut the door and not lead to a completed collapse of the Anglican union. Continuing to share and own their ‘evangelical’ alliance (the in out of their orthodoxy – for those in) matters for many, some greatly. For different reasons, and from the different camps, comes their need to redeem what association with ‘evangelical’ means outside of the primaries, carrying as it does – precious only streams at times – the(ir) pilgrim church history with the emerging distinctions and definitions that is understood as Christ’s kind of church, held, remarkably so, relative in common.’

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