Andrew Goddard writes: This article seeks to make sense of the LLF process and what sort of story it might be. It does so in the light of some of the key new information about LLF to be found in answers to questions at General Synod yesterday, particularly those relating to legal advice and its place in the discernment of bishops and Synod.
One answer provides a helpful (though incomplete) dated list of written legal advice which reveals a number of interesting new points including a three month delay in delivery of apparently highly relevant material to the bishops. That list, when put alongside what is already known and other answers, also helps provide greater clarity concerning six key components within the LFF story each of which is examined. The greater clarity revealed includes:
Support for the view that the initially crucial sharp distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony appeared suddenly in December or January and then disappeared, without public explanation, over the summer of 2023.
An inaccurate answer which had to be corrected to reveal an apparently key document concerning this distinction, authored by both legal and theological advisors, for the October meeting of the House of Bishops, the substance of which has never been made available. This would appear to offer explanation as to why the current legal position at that point no longer relied on distinguishing the two institutions.
That the support for the amendment passed by the bishops in October concerning the relationship between these two institutions was taken while theological advice from FAOC was still awaited on this matter and despite the legal advice having changed on it.
That the bishops were given legal advice that PLF did not comply with the February Synod motion and their stated aim in July but concluded, apparently without theological advice addressing the issue directly, that the departure from doctrine being indicated was not in “an essential matter” and so PLF were legal.
That although legal advice was prepared in September relating to the use of Canon B2 and Canon B5A (signaling this was when these routes became the “favourites” in terms of canonical processes) it was not shared with the College in September, the House in October, or Synod in November. This was despite all three of these meetings taking crucial votes on this important issue and Synod being told that nothing was being hidden. This advice perhaps included some of the stark risk assessment now published about these routes which indicates how weak the legal basis is for using B5A.
The House voted in October for clergy to be permitted to enter same-sex marriage apparently with “no specific advice on the particular question” from theological or legal advisors and the legal advice on this matter remains as it was in GS 2055 back in 2017.