Since 2017, the Church of England has been engaging with a range of questions around identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage, supported by a suite of resources called Living in Love and Faith.
For some people, it is the first time they had ever thought about lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, and other forms of human sexuality and gender identity.
For others, it may have reawakened painful memories from the past, or raised feelings that are difficult or uncomfortable in some way.
For anyone experiencing a pastoral need in relation to Living in Love and Faith, the Chaplain to the Living in Love Faith process in the Diocese, the Rev Joel Love is available to support you.
Please contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Living in Love and process so far
Following a six-year period of listening and discernment, the Bishops of the Church of England have now published their response to the Living in Love and Faith process.
The Bishops' proposals
In January 2023, they announced proposals that would allow same-sex couples to come to church to 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.
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 Jonathan 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.
The Bishops' proposals and draft prayers will be discussed at the General Synod in February 2023.
Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, the Bishop of Rochester has written to the Diocese regarding the materials that have been published saying:
'I would like to urge everyone in the Diocese to read and reflect carefully on all the material that will be published, doing so with open minds and generous hearts, seeking to receive the material in the spirit in which it has been prepared.
Namely, as a set of resources that can enable Christians of all traditions in the Church of England to celebrate the gift of faithful, committed, loving relationships and to seek God’s blessing on those who enter into them.'
He has also reiterated his and Bishop Simon's commitment to honouring everyone, whatever their views on these issues, and to enabling them to feel welcomed, included, and affirmed within the life of the Church in this Diocese.
Following the publication of the proposals, Bishop Jonathan is meeting with a number of groups of people within the Diocese who hold very different convictions about these issues.
This is in preparation for the discussions that will take place at General Synod, and more generally, as we continue to journey together as a diocesan family around these issues.
Living in Love and Faith in our Diocese
Our bishops encouraged the listening and conversations in our Diocese to be ones of grace and compassion:
"These issues go to the heart of what it means to be human, and especially touches upon the lives of people who feel marginalised by the Church.
So, we should debate with compassion and sensitivity, seeking prayerful wisdom from God and aiming at all times to show the fruit of the Spirit as St Paul describes it in Galatians 6; that is, with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Bishop James and Bishop Simon
A consultative group representing different aspects of Diocesan life and experiences was set up to support engagement with the Living in Love and Faith resources.
- Mrs Cheryl Trice - Diocesan Team Lead Adviser for the Children and Young People’s Mission and Ministry Team
- Mrs Jennifer Ross - Communications Manager for the Diocese of Rochester
- The Rev Canon Ren Harding - Team Rector at Bexley Team Ministry
Ren has worked in the Diocese throughout her ordained ministry, serving as a parish priest, a Spiritual Director, and for a number of years, as the Chaplain of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union. She is currently Team Rector of the Bexley Team Ministry, a team of four parishes on the London/Kent borders, and she has recently been installed as an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral.
She says: "To me, if the Church is to be truly ‘inclusive’, there needs to be a measure of charitable recognition of those whose opinions differ from our own. Like many of you, I have been saddened to see how the varying interpretations of what it might mean to follow Christ’s teachings have led Christians to act in ways that fall short of Jesus command to love. Every individual brings a different perspective, and my prayer is that we will recognise that individuality as a blessing to be celebrated. Having said that, it is good to recognise that opinions are strongly felt, and I would commend to you the material of the Pastoral Principles, which will enable us to learn how to disagree with grace."
- The Rev Nick Cornell - Rector Christ Church, Southborough
Nick has worked in a variety of parish settings (urban, rural, single and multi-parish, gathered and mixed tradition churches) in Kent and Sussex during his ordained ministry. Alongside parish work, he has, among other things, served as a part-time university chaplain and acting Archdeacon. He is currently Rector of Christ Church, Southborough and enjoys helping with one of the IME modules for Rochester and Canterbury. Before ordination, he worked as a tax advisor for a large accountancy firm.
Nick says he is pleased to be on the LLF consultative group, which is helping him to continue to work through the big questions of how to work lovingly through different viewpoints in the church and how to remain faithful to the Scriptures while witnessing in a pastorally sensitive and attractive way in the 21st Century.
- The Rev Canon Victoria Pask - Vicar of St Mark, Bromley
Victoria is on the Steering Group in her capacity as an Area Dean (Bromley). She brings experience of working with churches across a range of traditions, supporting parishes in their responsibility for the cure of souls and in mutual respect. Victoria comes from a background of teaching and chaplaincy in secondary education. She is currently Vicar of St Mark’s Church, Bromley and a Canon Emeritus of Exeter Cathedral.
- The Reverend Jane Winter - Living in Love and Faith Diocesan Advocate
Jane is the Assistant Director of formation and ministry with a particular responsibility for short courses and lay formation. She established ‘Addressing Bias’ sessions (formally Unconscious Bias) which help people recognise their own biases and hold those in the context of a church which welcomes everyone. Jane says: ‘I was honoured when Bishop James invited me to be the diocesan advocate.
I am passionate about the church being a safe place for all people. God loves us all and creates us in our rich diversity. Cultural understandings of gender, sex, sexuality and relationships are developing all the time. We don’t all agree how the church should respond, but we can all celebrate God’s incredible generosity of love and relationship which we see through the lives of those who seek to live in love and faith.
- The Reverend Joel Love - Vicar of St Peter and St Margaret's, Rochester and Diocesan Living in Love and Faith chaplain.
Throughout this time, many conversations have been happening at an individual, parish and deanery level.
The Rev Jayne Shillito a curate in the North West Kent Group of Churches, is one of those who engaged with the Living in Love and Faith process. In this short film, along with others from across the Church of England, she shares her experience of doing the course:
Being part of the conversation
The Church of England's Living in Love and Faith listening process closed at the end of April 2022.
In this short film, The Rev Jane Winter, Living in Love and Faith Advocate for the Diocese, explains why it was so important that people took the opportunity to be part of the conversation.
What parishes who have taken part say
Here's what some of the parishes in the Diocese who have taken part in the conversation have to say about their experience:
"When the information and resources about LLF became available, after some discussion it was decided by the Team that the best way to tackle this for us, was to teach it on Sunday mornings, in order to reach most people.
"We did not use the material in our online services which we were doing at the time, as we felt there needed to be the place for people to talk afterwards.
"We used the 4 headings from the pastoral principles: Identity; Relationships; Sex, and Life Together. Each church Leader took one - we then, over a 4 week period, each preached on the topic in each church.
"The material was really well received, and the best outcome was the emergence of lively coffee time discussion after church on the subject matter. In all churches, there was at least one person who said something like: ‘My daughter has said she thinks she is gay’ , ‘My grandson’s in the process of transitioning.'
"The teaching seemed to give people permission to talk about it. We also then offered 1-1 chats if anyone wanted.
"I am sure there are still diverse views held on the subject and we have a long way to go - but having launched it and emphasised the importance of listening to one another and not judging and indeed disagreeing well and graciously - I am hopeful we can continue the conversation. We are going to do so in Home Groups through Lent, using the Course material, so we shall see!"
Archdeaconry of Rochester
“It’s been stimulating and interesting to hear other people’s views and experiences”... “It has provided me with information on things about which I had been completely ignorant” ... “a safe space to discuss - and cake!” These are just some of the overwhelmingly positive responses of the nearly 40 participants on the Tunbridge Wells Deanery Living in Loving and Faith course. The course has been meeting at Bennett Diocesan Memorial School and brings together nine churches representing different context and traditions.
"This joint course emerged from deanery clergy hoping to provide the best opportunity for congregations to engage with others - especially people with different views and experiences. “The neutral space provided by the school has been so helpful” feeds back one of the organisers.
“People have chatted openly with others and no doubt that’s because the course creates a safe space for important conversations.” Leading the course has proven simple as there is a wealth of resources available, including a book, podcasts, films, and an online library of additional material, all of which, according to the course leaders in Tunbridge Wells, “are expertly balanced and produced.”
Tunbridge Wells Deanery
Our Living in Love and Faith Advocate and Chaplain
Two key roles were developed within the Diocese to help support the process:
- Living in Love and Faith Diocesan Advocate - The Reverend Jane Winter is the LLF Diocesan Advocate - this is a requirement in each diocese and is an advocate for the process itself and not any particular outcome. Jane is able to point people to resources and assist with learning events, including supporting parishes engaging with the LLF course.
She is our link person with the national Next Steps group which has the task of ensuring that the church-wide process of learning and discernment will be gathered, listened to and reflected on by the bishops together with members of General Synod, as they discern the way forward for the Church of England in a process.
- Living in Love and Faith Chaplain - As chaplain, The Rev Joel Love is available to support anyone who might be grateful for pastoral support at any stage during the process. He can be contacted on email at: email@example.com
Watch this short film in which Joel explains his role:
Other groups and resources
All the key resources for the course can be found on the Living in Love and Faith Learning Hub. You need to register to access it. Once there, some of the key resources you will find include:
- Resources for Leading a course with young people
- Creative Responses Gallery
- LLF course video stories
There are also other groups within but independent of the Diocese, who are also supporting dialogue and engagement with the resources.
- Rochester Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship - The Revd Tim Edwards: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rochester MoSAIC group - The Revd Cathy Knight Scott email@example.com
- 'Living in love and faith - a concise introduction and review.' by Dr Martin Davie. A theological consultant to the Church of England Evangelical Council and lay member of the Diocese of Rochester. A concise introduction to the Living in Love and Faith resources offering a critical assessment of them from an Evangelical viewpoint. This can be obtained from Latimer Trust at https://www.latimertrust.org.
- 'Living in Love and Faith - a biblical response.' An in-depth response to the Living in Love and Faith resources designed for clergy and others who want to think more deeply about them. Published by Dictum Press on 6 April with a foreword by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. More details can be found at https://dictumpress.com/living-in-love-and-faith.
The Rev Jane Winter
Living in Love and Faith Diocesan Advocate
The Rev Joel Love
Living in Love and Faith Chaplain