Since 2017, the Church of England has been engaging with a range of questions around identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage, through the Living in Love and Faith.
Following this seven-year process, the House of Bishops of the Church of England has commended (12 Dec 2023) a selection of readings and prayers of thanksgiving, dedication, and asking for God's blessing for same-sex couples
Called the Prayers of Love and Faith, they have been commended for use in regular public worship or private prayer, with effect from Sunday, 17 December 2023. However, given the busy Advent Season, it is likely they will be more widely used in the New Year.
They are accompanied by pastoral guidance which outlines:
- how a church may decide if to start using the Prayers of Love and Faith
- how they may relate to couples enquiring about the Prayers
Commendation of the prayers is permissive rather than prescriptive. This means they may be used, rather than must be used.
The Church’s understanding of marriage – or Holy Matrimony – remains as a lifelong, faithful, and exclusive covenant between one man and one woman. The Prayers allow for those who may wish to recognise the commitment same-sex couples make to each other and publicly pray for God’s blessing on them.
Further discussion is still to be had in the House of Bishops and elsewhere regarding:
- The provision of “stand-alone” services using the Prayers of Love and Faith resources and how these might be authorised.
- Pastoral Guidance about what is expected of and permitted for members of the clergy in same-sex relationships.
- Pastoral provision to support and protect all concerned whatever their views on Prayer of Love Faith.
Bishop Jonathan has shared a pastoral letter following the commendation of the letters. Read it here
There are several resources available to help clergy and churches work out how they may use the Prayers. Click the links below:
- Download a brochure containing the text of The Prayers of Love and Faith.
- Download the Pastoral Guidance which accompanies these Prayers and answers questions about their use.
- National Church press release announcing the Prayers.
- Bishop Jonathan's pastoral letter
Webinar drop-in (for licensed clergy)
The Archdeacons, together with Bishop Simon, will be hosting a Zoom 'drop-in' in January 2024 for licensed clergy only, to help answer questions on how churches can make and implement decisions concerning the use or otherwise of the Prayers of Love and Faith in their local context. Click to register here
Personal pastoral support
Anyone experiencing a personal pastoral need in relation to this issue is welcome to contact:
- Living in Love and Faith Diocesan Advocate - The Reverend Jane Winter is the LLF Diocesan Advocate - email@example.com
- Living in Love and Faith Chaplain - The Rev Joel Love - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Living in Love and Faith process 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 Langstaff (former Bishop of Rochester), and Bishop Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge
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.
Throughout this time, many conversations happened at an individual, parish, and deanery level.
The Rev Jayne Shillito a curate in the North West Kent Group of Churches, was 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:
The Church of England's Living in Love and Faith listening process closed at the end of April 2022.
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 can point people to resources and assist with learning events, including supporting parishes engaging with the LLF course: email@example.com
- Living in Love and Faith Chaplain - As chaplain, The Rev Joel Love is available to support anyone who might be grateful for pastoral support during the process. He can be contacted on email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch this short film in which Joel explains his role:
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: email@example.com
- Rochester MoSAIC group - The Revd Cathy Knight Scott firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev Jane Winter
Living in Love and Faith Diocesan Advocate
The Rev Joel Love
Living in Love and Faith Chaplain