‘If all were a single member, where would the body be?’
1 Corinthians 12 v 9
Growing diversity is about better reflecting the communities we serve, recognising that whoever we are, we are all loved, welcomed and valued in God’s house.
And gender identity is a growing conversation in British society with increasing openness and tolerance.
Yet many of those who identify as LGBTQI+ can carry a burden of pain from the treatment of others, whether that has occurred within their family, their circle of friends, their colleagues, or their Church.
Living in Love and Faith (LLF)
In order to take the care to listen, explore and discuss questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, the national Church of England has undertaken research through a process called Living in Love and Faith. All the project resources and background can be found on the Church of England website.
The LLF resources are intended to help all of us, whatever our theological convictions, to think more deeply about what it means to be human and how to live in love and faith with one another as Christians.
National LLF resources
You can make use of the national C of E resources at any time, to study these issues as a parish, or perhaps as a small group. The main introduction to the Living in Love and Faith resources is here, and you can also link directly to:
- the Living in Love and Faith Learning Hub (which includes the five-session video-based course, podcasts, films, and a large online library of resources about the themes of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage);
- a chance to order or download a copy of the Living in Love and Faith book;
- some information about the purpose of providing these LLF resources;
- a chance to meet some of the LLF team who helped to put these resources together, and to contact them directly
The LLF journey
The LLF journey has moved from a ‘listening’ phase to a ‘discerning’ phase, as the bishops reflect on what they have heard from the people of the Church of England as well as through their own engagement with the LLF resources, with Scripture and the tradition of the Church.
In February 2023, the House of Bishops proposed that, for the first time, same-sex couples will be able to come to church and give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing. Under the proposals, same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church, but could have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving, or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership.
They’ve suggested that a suite of Prayers of Love and Faith such as these be made available so ministers can dedicate, thank God or bless same-sex couples who are marking this significant milestone in their relationship. This is the fullest pastoral provision that can be provided without changing the Church’s doctrine that Holy Matrimony takes place between one man and one woman.
The Bishops' proposals and accompanying materials have now been published in full and include:
- A response from the Bishops of the Church of England about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, including a letter of apology to LGBQTI+ people for their treatment by the Church.
- Draft Prayers of Love and Faith - the prayers would be voluntary for clergy to use and could be used in different combinations reflecting the theological diversity of the Church.
- A commitment to producing new pastoral guidance in relation to the discernment of vocation, replacing the 1991 statement “Issues in Human Sexuality”, to which all clergy currently are asked to assent.
More about the process and background to the proposals can be found on the Church of England website.
Paper on Church of England Doctrine of Marriage
Bishop Andrew has contributed to a paper on the Doctrine of Marriage, alongside a number of other bishops. This paper seeks to support clergy and congregations as they think and pray through the important issues and questions arising at this time in the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process.
Download the paper: The Church of England Doctrine of Marriage
For other online LLF resources, including this paper, please visit the Church of England website.
Following the passing of the LLF motion at General Synod, further work is now underway in preparation of the July General Synod. The Church of England website is updated with the latest next steps.
There is a chaplaincy team available for anyone in the diocesan community identifying as LGBTQI+, whether they are ordained, lay or are simply part of a Church congregation, and who need a confidential listening ear, prayer and friendship.
The chaplaincy team – though diverse in its membership - will be working within House of Bishops’ guidelines and pastoral principles, and will not have a campaigning agenda.
Those who contact the team can be assured of complete confidentiality and no written record of correspondence is preserved.
The LGBTQI+ Chaplain is Stephen Cox. He can be contacted for chaplaincy service.