Living in Love and Faith has been a major exercise in learning and listening undertaken by the Church of England, not only about the question of same-sex relationships but on many issues touching on our understanding of the human person, made in God’s image, in relation to marriage, sexuality, gender and relationships. We are grateful for all who have led and contributed to this work, which we believe has a value not just within the life of the Church of England, but as a contribution to the deep reflection on these matters which is taking place within every part of the universal Church. We are of the view that continuing theological work in this field will enrich our understanding of the many complex issues arising.
The Church of England has issued a statement (available at www.churchofengland.org) on the proposals which will be brought by the House of Bishops for consideration at General Synod in February, following a period of reflection by the national College of Bishops on the Living in Love and Faith resources.
We welcome and reinforce the clear commitment to maintain the doctrine of marriage as the Church of England has received it, and which is shared with the great churches of East and West. We are glad that no changes to the Canons or authorised liturgies of the Church of England as they touch on Holy Matrimony are proposed.
Prayers and other guidance have been published in draft form, for consideration at General Synod. If commended in due course by the House of Bishops, these prayers would enable clergy, at their discretion, to offer services of thanksgiving and dedication for committed, faithful same-sex couples, and to ask God’s blessings on them.
The use of these prayers will be entirely discretionary, and they would be commended by the House of Bishops in accordance with Canon B5 which requires that such forms of service are commensurate with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England. We will study this material carefully when it is published and, in due course, we anticipate issuing pastoral guidance to the clergy who look to us for oversight as to how best these prayers might be used locally.
We note the commitment by the House of Bishops to rescind Issues in Human Sexuality and to replace it with new pastoral guidance. A number of legal as well as pastoral questions are raised here, which will require significant further work.
+ TONY WAKEFIELD
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield,
Chairman of The Society’s Council of Bishops
The Rt Revd Stephen Race, Bishop of Beverley
+ PHILIP BURNLEY
The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley
+ MARTIN CICESTR
The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester
+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
+ WILLIAM LEWES
The Rt Revd Will Hazlewood, Bishop of Lewes
+ NORMAN RICHBOROUGH
The Rt Revd Norman Banks, Bishop of Richborough