Last updated 28th March 2023
Since 2017, the Church of England has been journeying together exploring how questions about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage fit within the bigger picture of the good news of Jesus Christ.
This exploration was supported by a suite of Living in Love and Faith resources, first published in November 2020.
The resources were commissioned by the House of Bishops following three years’ work by an LLF Coordinating Group of more than 40 people from across the Church.
Everyone who took part in LLF consultation was encouraged to share their insights, stories and reflections in order to contribute to the bishops’ discernment process.
After further discussions at General Synod in February 2023 as part of deciding how discernment is translated into a way forward for the Church, General Synod subsequently voted in favour of an amended motion. Read the full text of the motion here.
At our diocesan Synod on March 15, 2023, Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, spoke to the latest developments regarding LLF following General Synod's vote. See further below for links to the General Synod debate livestreams to catch up on what was said there.
Bishop Philip spoke of his concerns about the potential impact of the latest phase of the LLF process on the Church locally and nationally.
Despite those concerns, Bishop Philip said he was hopeful strong relationships established over many years across the Diocese in Lancashire, coupled with the importance of listening and having honest conversations, could ensure we can move forward here in unity.
At the same time he expressed his fundamental belief in the importance of continuing to spread the Good News without interruption, saying: “It would be a tragedy beyond imagining if our disputes meant that the Word of God went unproclaimed and souls went unsaved. There can be no pause button on salvation.”
In saying this he acknowledged the difficulty of the path ahead adding: “Our unity is not of our own making. It is God’s gift. We must also ensure that our debates and conversations are framed by the pastoral principles agreed by General Synod five years ago.
“We need to lament and repent of homophobia in all its forms. Even in a time of deep disagreement, it is important to bear with one another and see each other as Christ sees us.”
Bishop Philip, who is soon to become the next Bishop of Blackburn following an announcement in January, said: “Since the vote I have heard a huge range of reactions. Some of you are content with this way ahead and are pleased that the Church is seeking a way of affirming the good that can come from faithful same sex relationships.
“Others are deeply distressed, both by the process and by indications that The Church of England is in effect changing its teaching on sex and marriage and thereby crossing a red line.
“Meanwhile, some of you see new possibilities for mission opening up, while others are dismayed by this apparent departure from the authority of scripture or the sacramental integrity of the Church.
“For some on both sides of the debate who would identify under the LGBT umbrella all this is especially personal and painful.”
Bishop Philip also spoke of his reasons for abstaining in the final General Synod vote; the pastoral commitment he and his episcopal colleague (Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Anglican Bishop of Lancaster) share to ‘every person and parish’ in the diocese no matter their personal theological convictions; plus the importance he places on prayer and listening to God in the months ahead.
The bishops of The Church of England invited church communities from across the country to use the resources to learn together, to listen to one another and to God.
Everyone who took part was encouraged to share their insights, stories and reflections in order to contribute to the bishops’ discernment about matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
The 'Moving Forward' video available on this page captures highhlights from the six-year Living in Love and Faith journey and the reflections of people who have been involved.
The film was made during January 2023 and focuses on the work of LLF as well as the deliberations of the College of Bishops.
It reflects the bishops’ discernment about the way forward which bishops brought to Synod for members to contribute to, reflect on and debate. Synod voted in favour of this way forward with an amended motion on 9 February 2023.
To review the deliberations on Living in Love and Faith at General Synod in February, you can watch the livestreams here for the relevant sessions on Tuesday 7, Wednesday 8 (afternoon) and Thursday 9 (morning) February.
The full motion, as amended, put to Synod was:
‘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;
(g) endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.’
Ronnie Semley; new page created March 2023 from an original page started in 2020 and now archived