The Bishop of Warrington has spoken regarding the House of Bishops' response to the concluding stages of the comprehensive Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process, which the Church of England has been engaging with over the past six years.
The bishop, who sits on the LLF Next Steps group commented
“This has been a unique and deeply immersive process as we bishops have endeavoured to listen to all the voices of the church. There has been nothing comparable in the life of the church.
As we now arrive at this place of proposals, everyone knew this was going to be a difficult moment for the church. Any proposals were clearly not going to be radical enough for some whilst for others they would be a step too far. One of the privileges of being part of the Living in Love and Faith process has been hearing the life stories of people from right across the wide spectrum of theological conviction. These deeply personal, moving and courageous stories typify the passions, pain, difference and hope of so many. So, I am not surprised about the reaction to the bishops’ proposals. The same passions and breadth of disagreement are found in the College of Bishops as we have prayed, studied, listened and laboured and at all times sought the mind of Christ and the place of convergence and unity.
Like my fellow bishops I acknowledge the terrible hurt, rejection and exclusion that the LGBTQI+ communities have received from the institution of the church. We have been wrong and we must continue to repent and be absolutely clear there is no room for hatred and discrimination of any sort in the church of Christ.
I am grateful that in our diocese we have been at the forefront of inclusion through the work and ministry of the Open Table network which has provided a safe, welcoming, inclusive, healing place of encounter with the living God. I am equally grateful for the faithfulness and diligence of those in our diocese who hold to the traditional teaching of the church, who have prayed and worked across our differences to find a place of coalescence so that all may know and love the Lord and thrive in that love. I am very hopeful for the continued unity in difference of the church.
My prayer is that all churches in our diocese will provide a joyful welcome to all and that nobody should find themselves excluded from the table of Christ on account of their gender and identity”.
These proposals are now laid before Synod for debate according to the established procedures of the Church of England. You can read the bishops' response here.
As a mark of the radical inclusion which launched the LLF process, the bishops are proposing a church service and a suite of prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and blessing for same-sex couples who wish to celebrate their faithful relationship, civil partnership, or civil marriage. You can find these draft Prayers of Love and Faith on the CofE website.
I welcome the commitment to provide new Pastoral Guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality and I pray for those called to discern a sensitive, appropriate way forward.
Above all I want my sisters and brothers in Christ to know that I am here for you should you want to talk through how any of this has affected you. The honest listening process established by Living in Love and Faith and expressed in the Pastoral Principles remains important if we are to understand and accommodate the deeply held theological and spiritual convictions in this matter and as we seek to honour the dignity of all. Do please contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
With my thanks for your faith and faithfulness and my prayers for the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ
Read the national church documents
The motion to General Synod
General Synod will discuss these proposals at their next meeting from February 6 to 9 at Church House, Westminster.
Synod will debate the Following motion on February 8:
‘That this Synod, recognising the commitment to learning and deep listening to God and to each other of the Living in Love and Faith process, and desiring with God’s help to journey together while acknowledging the different deeply held convictions within the Church:
(a) lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church;
(b) recommit to our shared witness to God’s love for and acceptance of every person by continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally;
(c) commend the continued learning together enabled by the Living in Love and Faith process and resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
(d) welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance;
(e) welcome the response from the College of Bishops and look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes;
(f) invite the House of Bishops to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time.’