What sort of story is ‘Living in Love and Faith’?

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.
  • There have been a number of votes on pastoral provision which have never been previously announced, the latest of which in October was amended to ask that further work on “additional formal structural pastoral provision” be done and decided on by the House “as soon as possible”.
  • There is now significant evidence in the public domain to support the concerns expressed in the dissenting statement issued by a dozen bishops after the meeting of the House in October relating to its handling of legal and theological advice and raising questions concerning “due regard to the obligations of good and proper governance”.
  • Although all this paints an even gloomier picture as to the sort of tragic story LLF has become we can still hope and pray that it may yet prove to be what Tolkien called a eucatastrophe and turn to explore areas of agreement in order to seek a better way forward.

To try to make sense of what is going on in our own lives, the lives of those we know and love, the world, or the church, we need to have a story so that we are not left feeling that “life is just one damned thing after another”. Sometimes knowing what the story is, is easy, sometimes it is hard (and we may be tempted to solve the problem by some conspiracy theory). Over the last year, telling the story of LLF has not been easy even for those of us who pay close attention to each “damned thing after another”.

It’s also been hard trying to work out what sort of story LLF is. There have been amusing moments—one recently was when I heard about the new House of Bishops Transparency Group meeting and asked “sorry, did I miss the announcement of that?” only to be told “not announced yet”!—but it is really impossible to see it as a comedy.  To be fair, the answers to Synod questions do give considerable detail about this encouraging development (including that it has already met, see answers to questions 67, 69 and especially 172-174). The nearest it has come to being any form of comedy has been the sense at times of descending into farce or there being yet another case of “Another Fine Mess” (written I see just before the last Synod). 

The sense is much more of a tragedy. We had years of careful preparation and education of bishops, Synod members and the whole church (Helen King’s recent tweet—“7 yrs of discussing and writing not in vain?”—captured how I’ve often felt) for what everyone knew was going to be one of the hardest decision-making processes for the Church of England in recent decades and it often feels it has all crumbled to dust with a chaotic cack-handed rush to “do something” but that being “something” that, in a significant sense, nobody wants. A tragic story in which we have experienced LLF bringing deeper and more painful conflict and division at every level of the church and raising concerns about the use of (archi-)episcopal power. 

It has at times also felt like a story of suspense in which we are on a juggernaut being driven at an irresponsible speed on a windy cliff-edge with the inevitable terrifying consequences.

Perhaps because I enjoying watching various mystery and detective series and I want to find some enjoyment in watching the LLF process I have at times approached it as having elements of that genre. The run-up to Synod is then always a “fun” time as there are first Synod papers (I reviewed the latest here and in more detail here) and then answers to questions.  These give, if you like, more “clues” to piece together to work out what has happened and decide or guess, where appropriate, “Whodunit?”.

The difficulty is that with so many questions (225 this time) and so many of those on LLF (61, Questions 16-76) and others elsewhere having some bearing on LLF, it is very hard—to shift the analogy—to put the pieces together and see the big picture. So what help do the answers give us in making sense of LLF and what sort of story it is? 

What follows attempts to offer some initial thoughts on a number of areas. Sadly, the fact answers only appeared less than 48 hours before writing, the length of the materials (95 pages of answers), the complexities of the process, and the evidence that although there is thankfully much greater transparency there are still signs that “old habits die hard” all mean that, once again, there are certainly gaps and perhaps errors in what follows for which I apologise and welcome correction.

Questions answered on legal advice

One of the big contentious topics at the November Synod surrounded the question of legal advice and whether anything was being hidden from Synod members. The answers include the (in one sense unsurprising, but, in the context of recent events, reassuring) statement that “The House is aware that it must act in accordance with Canon law and having taken relevant theological and legal advice considers that it has done so” (Q58, p. 26). While there are other areas of importance, it is therefore questions relating to legal advice and the discernment process of the bishops and the decision-making processes of the House of Bishops which are particularly of interest and, it turns out, illuminated by the new material.

I was asked yesterday which question and answer I thought most significant and, though there are a number as we shall see, I think perhaps it is that given to questions from John Dunnett and Richard Denno (questions 52-54) as in relation to legal advice they finally enable more of the story to be told.  Although long and complex questions and answers they are set out below and you may, as you read, wish to indulge any inclinations you have to solving detective stories. A timeline of key dates and events (not including those now revealed in answers to questions) is here to give the wider context.

The Revd Canon John Dunnett (Chelmsford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:

Q52 What documents have been prepared since September 2023 by the Legal Office to assist the bishops in their discernment regarding PLF, when were they drawn up, and when and with whom were their contents shared?

Mr Richard Denno (Liverpool) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q53 At what points since Sept 2022 has written Legal Advice on matters relating to the LLF discernment process been prepared, and on what date were the following made aware of its content: (a) the Bishop of London, (b) the Archbishops, (c) the LLF steering group, (d) the College of Bishops, (e) the House of Bishops, (f) members of General Synod? 

Mr Richard Denno (Liverpool) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q54 In relation to GS 2346, on what dates were the Legal Office’s assessments of (1) the legal risks concerning use of Canon B 5A and (2) the legal options concerning clergy entering same-sex marriage shared, verbally or in writing, in whole or in part, with: (a) the Bishop of London, (b) the Archbishops, (c) the LLF steering group, (d) the College of Bishops, (e) the House of Bishops, (f) members of General Synod? 

The Bishop of Leicester to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops: A With permission, I will answer questions 52, 53 and 54 together.  

The legal advice provided to the House of Bishops was given over a period of time, sometimes orally, sometimes in writing, often in response to questions as they arose for consideration. Legal advice was contained in, but not limited to, documents prepared by the Legal Office as follows: 

Discerning in Love and Faith: Some Legal and Pastoral Issues, prepared by the Secretary General and the Legal Office in January 2023 – provided to the College of Bishops in January 2023.  

Living in Love and Faith – Analysis of Legal Issues: prepared by the Legal Office in March 2023 – provided to the College of Bishops in March 2023. 

Prayers of Love and Faith: Authorisation for Experimental Use and Approval by the General Synod: prepared by the Legal Office September 2023. Shared with members of the staff team and lead bishop September 2023 and circulated to the House of Bishops in December 2023. 

Living and Love and Faith: the Current Legal Position: prepared by the Legal Office October 2023 – provided to the House in October 2023. 

The substance of legal advice provided by the Legal Office has been shared with the General Synod in GS Misc 1339, GS 2328 and GS 2346. 

A number of general observations might be made on this answer. 

Firstly, although a very welcome and much more transparent account, it admits that the data given is still not complete. Some of that, as the Bishop of London stressed in November, is because legal advice was given orally and not only in written form. However, it is also stated that legal advice “was contained in, but not limited to, documents prepared by the Legal Office as follows”. This means that there may be other documents from the Legal Office alongside those listed here which were prepared and shared at the times listed or at other times (as became obvious as I wrote this piece – see below).

Secondly, Q53 asks for the details “since Sept 2022” which is when the LLF discernment process moved to its focussed and episcopal stage and the College of Bishops met in Oct/Nov and again in December. However, the first document listed is “Discerning in Love and Faith: Some Legal and Pastoral Issues, prepared by the Secretary General and the Legal Office in January 2023 – provided to the College of Bishops in January 2023”. This 17th January meeting was reported at the time as

The third in-person meeting of the College of Bishops to discern a way forward for the Church of England on questions of identity, sexuality and marriage was held on Tuesday 17 January 2023. The meeting marked the culmination of a process of discernment…The meeting, which was held over the course of one day, reviewed the bishops’ response to the process and considered a number of draft papers which will form the basis for use at General Synod in February as well as background materials for further discernment. All of these papers will be finalised and made publicly available from Friday 20 January.

The fact that the list only starts here therefore suggests that either (1) no written legal advice was given to the bishops until this very final stage of their process (key decisions were leaked immediately and had to be followed by a further press release the next day) or (2) it was thought best not to refer to earlier documents except by acknowledging that legal advice was “not limited to” the advice listed. Unless (1) is a sign that the legal advice being used was still that summarised in Annex A of GS 2055 from 2017 (which does not advance a strong difference between civil marriage and holy matrimony), it would suggest an alarming disregard for the constraints of the law in deciding how to proceed and a focus on desired ends without consideration of feasible, including law-abiding, means to the ends. The latter raises the question why transparency has not been extended back into 2022 and whether earlier legal advice prepared for and shared with the bishops was significantly different from that which was prepared in January and which is presumably what is presented in GS Misc 1339.

Thirdly, there is an analysis of legal issues prepared in March which has, as far as I know, never been publicly acknowledged as existing before and the substance of which has certainly never been shared with General Synod (although it was shared in confidence with those of us who served on the Implementation Groups from April to June, including a number of Synod members, to assist us in our work advising the bishops).

Fourthly, three of the four documents were prepared and provided immediately to the College and House (in January, March and October) but one document was prepared in September 2023 (presumably for the College and House which met on the 18th to 21st) but at that point only “shared with members of the staff team and lead bishop” and not circulated to the House of Bishops until three months later in December 2023. This document is entitled Prayers of Love and Faith: Authorisation for Experimental Use and Approval by the General Synod. This points to it relating to the use of Canon B2 and Canon B5A, matters which were reportedly voted on in an indicative vote at the September College, definitely voted on by the House in October (rejecting B5A) and then by General Synod in November (asking the House to reconsider B5A where most members of the House of Bishops supported use of B5A including the two Archbishops and the Bishop of London).

Fifthly, apart from that document there is no reference to any documents being prepared and provided for the December meeting of the House and yet GS 2346 contains much new material in Annex A and Annex B that was apparently not available in November at General Synod.

With now a fuller sense of the story of legal advice, and drawing on other answers to questions, it is possible to review the situation in relation to six of the key aspects of the LLF story over the last year.

  1. Distinguishing civil marriage and holy matrimony

The fact that the first document listed as drawn up by the Legal Office since September 2022 is one for January 2023 (whose substance is then conveyed in GS Misc 1339) supports the presumption that I and others have made that the legal argument distinguishing so sharply between civil marriage and holy matrimony was one which was only fully articulated, and perhaps only originated, in late 2022 after the December College or in early January 2023 before the College reconvened.

This gives weight to the concern that it was not one offered to the bishops in their discernment but a post hoc argument developed in order to unblock the constraints of the previous legal advice of GS 2055 and allow the bishops to commend prayers while claiming to uphold the doctrine of marriage and remain within the law. This argument then was effectively, but not explicitly, withdrawn after significant legal and theological questions were raised during the summer, perhaps with explanation in “Living and Love and Faith: the Current Legal Position: prepared by the Legal Office October 2023 – provided to the House in October 2023” and the document not listed in the answer here or any other original answer (see below).

However, GS 2346 revealed for the first time that on October 9th the House of Bishops passed a motion which sought to resurrect the distinction sufficiently for it to provide a basis for the prayers and for the draft pastoral guidance opening up same-sex marriage to the clergy:

At the House of Bishops’ meeting in October 2023, there was also an amendment brought which asked that: ‘this House agree that same sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony such that same sex marriage is not seen as impinging on Holy Matrimony in a way that contradicts the Church’s doctrine.’ This amendment was carried (by 20 votes in favour, 15 votes against, with 2 abstentions) (GS 2346, p. 15).

Here the answer to Questions 62 and 63 is interesting not least because it had to be corrected:

Mr Stephen Hofmeyr (Guildford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q62 When the majority of the House of Bishops voted on 9 October 2023 for the amendment concerning Holy Matrimony and same-sex marriage reported on p15 of GS 2346 had they received theological or legal advice that pertained to these matters and has that advice now been fully published? 

Mr Jacob Wigley (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q63 Did the House of Bishops receive legal or theological advice at or prior to their October 9th meeting that set out the implications of passing the amendment that “same-sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony such that same-sex marriage is not seen as impinging on Holy Matrimony in a way that contradicts the Church’s doctrine” and what was the content of that advice?  

The original answer was:

The Archbishop of York to reply as Vice-Chair of the House of Bishops: 

A With permission, I will answer questions 62 and 63 together.  

No specific advice on the particular question was provided on that occasion but some advice which covered the question had been given to bishops at an earlier stage in the LLF process. That advice, in the form in which it was given, has not been published but it was in substance that set out in GS Misc 1339. 

This would have meant that, “Living and Love and Faith: the Current Legal Position: prepared by the Legal Office October 2023—provided to the House in October 2023” did not give specific advice on this question which would entail that “the current legal position” at this point was no longer that in GS Misc 1339. Despite this the House of Bishops passed the amendment which means that they did so on the basis of “some advice which covered the question” that “had been given to bishops at an earlier stage in the LLF process” which “was in substance that set out in GS Misc 1339”. In other words, this answer suggests that the House at this point ignored “the Current Legal Position” they had been provided with by the Legal Office and instead reverted to something more like that set out in GS Misc 1339.  

However, a new answer has now been given to the question:

In preparation for the meeting on 9 October 2023, the House of Bishops was provided with a joint paper from the Chief Legal Adviser and the Theological Adviser entitled Living in Love and Faith: Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony. Although it was not prepared with the amendment in view, it contained advice on various aspects of the relationship between civil marriage and holy matrimony. As the position has yet to be considered in detail by the House of Bishops in light of further advice from FAOC, the substance of the advice has not so far been published.

This is important on at least six counts.

First, it identifies an additional paper from the Chief Legal Adviser not listed in the answer setting out papers prepared and shared for the crucial October meeting.

Second, by noting it “was not prepared with the amendment in view” it is signalled that the fact that the recently announced votes were on amendments means they were not developed within and supported by the work of the legal and theological advisors.

Third, it makes the question of what this joint statement on a crucial question actually says a very pressing one particularly given the fact that the paper on “the current legal position” apparently contained “no specific advice” on the particular question of the distinction between the two and its implications.

Fourth, it acknowledges that the decision in October was taken while work was still being done by FAOC.

Fifth, given that GS 2328 in November makes no mention of this question, it makes even less convincing the claim then in relation to legal advice that “nothing is being hidden”.

Sixth, given the title of the paper and its joint authorship it is surprising that anyone drafting an answer to the question and referring to papers circulated for the October meeting missed its relevance and gave the original answer and/or that the Archbishop of York did not remember its existence and recognise the inaccuracy in his original answer.

All this might explain why in their dissenting statement after that October meeting the bishops stated, “legal and theological advice the House has received suggest clearly to us that the decisions of the House may fall short of this commitment [that the final form of the prayers should not be “indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”]” and “we believe that bishops must have due regard to the obligations of good and proper governance”. It would also explain why that vote was not announced and the view it expressed not articulated in GS 2346. This does, however, all cast doubt in relation to this matter that “The House is aware that it must act in accordance with Canon law and having taken relevant theological and legal advice considers that it has done so” (Q58, p. 26) 

  1. Legality of commended Prayers of Love and Faith

There has been concern about the legality of the commended PLF and this is raised, with reference to the dissenting statement quoted above by Q45 (pp. 20-21) asking when legal and theological advice relating to PLF and the law which was seen by the Bishops might be published or otherwise made available for the whole Synod.  The reply is that “Details of that advice and the House’s conclusion based on it were set out in GS 2328, Annex A at paragraphs 14 to 26 and published in October 2023, in advance of the November 2023 group of sessions”. This points to the material I discussed at the time and supports the view that the legal advice (presumably in the document prepared in October) included the advice that “it would be difficult to say that making the PLF available for same-sex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships was not indicative of any departure from the Church’s doctrine” (para 17). 

In other words, the PLF were acknowledged to be contrary to the February Synod motion and the intention of the bishops as stated to Synod in July. The bishops, however, then judged that they were legal as the departure indicated was not, in their opinion, “in an essential matter” which is the wording of the Canon. As a theological assessment this would be a matter for the bishops to determine not the Legal Office as set out in the answer to Q59 (p. 26) but it is not clear what theological advice (if any) they had received concerning the question of what constitutes essential doctrine:

Each member of the House of Bishops is conscious of his or her duty to teach and to uphold sound and wholesome doctrine, as required by Canon C 26. The theological and legal advice received by the House has been of central importance in the decisions taken by the House, but decisions are taken by the House of Bishops collectively and not dictated, or taken on our behalf, by our advisers.

  1. Standalone services

The question of standalone services, a category that arose at some point last summer, remains one of the most contentious areas and where the answers now provided are particularly concerning.

It is now clear from the answer to questions 52-54 above, that a document entitled Prayers of Love and Faith: Authorisation for Experimental Use and Approval by the General Synod was prepared by the Legal Office in September 2023. It is stated elsewhere, in an answer which does not explicitly mention this document, that “The House of Bishops received a number of assessments of the issues involved in authorization or commendation of materials through different routes through 2023” (Q64, p.28) so the preparation of a paper specifically on this only in September would suggest that it was only at this point that serious attention was given to use of Canon B2 and, with that, the possibility of the use of Canon B5A for standalone services. This would fit with the update given to General Synod in July. 

That same answer—to a question about whether “any of the assessment of routes for PLF standalone services summarised in the table on pp. 12-13 of GS 2346 (a) drawn up or (b) shared with the House of Bishops prior to the Synod debate in November”—continues to state that the House of Bishops “were not provided with an assessment of canonical routes specifically relating to standalone services until papers were circulated for their meeting in December. This is summarised in GS 2346”.  This makes an interesting connection with the earlier answer about the September document which states that after being prepared in September it was “shared with members of the staff team and lead bishop September 2023 and circulated to the House of Bishops in December 2023”.

Given these dates and the paper’s title it would be surprising if none of the stark assessment of the disadvantages of using B2 or B5A for standalone services was contained in the September paper 

  • Canon B2 only – “Possibly unlikely to pass with a 2/3 majority, without an agreed settlement”
  • Canon B5A overlapping with B2 – “Pastoral consequences if B2 failed. Contestable use of canons. Raises legal questions. Medium to high risk of successful legal challenge”
  • Canon B5A followed by B2 – “Pastoral consequences if B2 failed. Long time period. Still considerable risk of successful legal challenge”

If none of this was present in the September paper then it would appear to be seriously flawed but if it was there then its failure to be shared with a wider group than “members of the staff team and lead bishop” until December is, even by LLF process standards, remarkable.  It means it was not seen by the College in September (assuming it was prepared before then) when it took indicative votes supporting use of B5A or by the House when rejecting that decision (though that sudden shift may be because this written advice was communicated orally in some form?).

It also means it was not shared with Synod when it was considering whether to ask the House to reinstate Canon B5A. With knowledge of that September legal advice and given the November claims to Synod that “nothing is being hidden”, the originally hypothetical question which is left unanswered in the written answers becomes even more pressing: “why and by whom was it decided not to share it with members of General Synod despite requests for legal advice and given its relevance to the amendment from the Bishop of Oxford?”. In fact it would appear now to be extended to include “decided not to share it with members of the College and House of Bishops”.

The revelation of this piece of legal advice may (though may not) also be relevant to the question concerning the decision of the Archbishops, the Bishop of London and the majority of the House to reverse their October 9th decision when voting in the November General Synod. It had appeared that this “reverse ferret” was because of the distinction noted above between “Canon B5A overlapping with B2” and “Canon B5A followed by B2”. The Bishop of London answering a question in November said that “further clarity has been that, actually, you could run experimental services alongside the B 2, which is where the amendment comes from”.

It is unclear what this “further clarity” refers to as in answer to Q47 concerning legal advice being drawn up and provided to the bishops between the October House and November Synod (the content of which may have explained the change to favour B5A) we are now told—consistent with the documents listed above—“No new legal advice was prepared or provided to bishops between the October 2023 meeting of the House of Bishops and the November 2023 group of sessions of the General Synod” (Q47, p.21).  So what was the “further clarity” concerning the use of Canon B5A and Canon B2 that explains “where the amendment comes from”?  

Furthermore, the disadvantages produced in December (and so potentially, perhaps even presumably, contained in the document seen by some people in September but only given to the House in December and not to Synod in February) also make clear that, at whatever point the option to “run experimental services alongside the B2” was recognised, the advantages it brought of speeding up the process were combined with significant disadvantages: that it was a “contestable use of canons” which “raises legal questions” and which would increase the “risk of successful legal challenge” to the process from “considerable” to “medium to high”. Yet none of this legal advice was made known to Synod when it debated the Oxford amendment about the use of Canon B5A and it appears none of it was made known to the bishops until December. Far from it being the case that “nothing is being hidden”, crucial information was hidden between September and December from the College, the House and the General Synod on the central contentious aspect of PLF which they were each voting on in September, October and November.

  1. Clergy in Same-Sex Marriage

The paper for General Synod confirmed the previously leaked vote at the October 9th House of Bishops meeting:

At the House of Bishops meeting in October 2023, the House were asked to ‘agree that further work be done on part 3 (Ministry) of the Guidance for issuing as soon as possible.’ An amendment was moved to insert at the end of the motion: ‘with the intention that it remove all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex marriages, and on bishops ordaining, licensing and granting permissions to officiate such clergy.’ This amendment was carried by a narrow majority (18 votes in favour, 15 votes against, with 2 abstentions) and the amended substantive motion was also carried (23 votes in favour, 13 against, with 1 abstention). (GS 2346, p. 14).

The answers to questions again helpfully shed some light on the legal advice pertaining to this. This advice, as Annex B of GS 2346 shows, makes it very clear how difficult it is to implement that motion within the constraints of current doctrine which the bishops have repeatedly said, and told Synod, they do not wish to change.

One question transparency about this vote raised was whether the vote happened because legal advice at that time suggested that it was more achievable.  This has now been given the following answer (p. 27):

Mr Stephen Hofmeyr (Guildford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q61 When the majority of the House of Bishops voted on 9 October 2023 for the amendment concerning clergy entering same-sex marriage reported on p14 of GS 2346 had they received theological or legal advice that pertained to these matters and has that advice now been fully published? 

The Archbishop of York to reply as Vice-Chair of the House of Bishops: 

A No specific advice on the particular question was provided on that occasion but some advice which related to the question was included in GS 2055 and some additional advice had been given to bishops during the LLF process.  

This would seem to signal that the bishops voted on this amendment with no new legal advice but aware of the constraints set out in GS 2055 and the importance of those constraints is confirmed by another answer (p. 30)

Mr Jacob Wigley (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

Q74 In what ways is the legal advice in relation to clergy in same-sex marriages now different from that as set out in Annex 1 of GS 2055? 

The Bishop of Leicester to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops: 

A The substance of the legal advice remains as set out in Annex 1 to GS 2055.

It may be that the change of answer to Stephen Hofmeyr’s and Jacob Wigley’s other question noted above could require a revision of the very similar answer here. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the “joint paper from the Chief Legal Adviser and the Theological Adviser entitled Living in Love and Faith: Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony” explored the implications of answers to this question for the question of clergy entering same-sex marriages. If so it again raises the question as to the relationship between the substance of the amendment passed and the substance of the theological and legal advice with which the bishops had been presented.

  1. Pastoral Provision

This crucial question (identified by various phrases) has, to some extent, gone on the back-burner. This is in part because the extent of such provision will depend upon answers to the questions concerning standalone services and particularly the content of the pastoral guidance. There is, however, now, in response to Q55 (pp. 23-25), a very full account of the House of Bishops’ decisions. 

This reveals that in May, preparing for the July Synod, a proposal that the House recognise “the need for provision to ensure that those who use, and do not use, the prayers are properly protected as part of the legitimate theological traditions of the Church of England” had the words “for provision” removed (by an amendment from the Bishop of Bath and Wells) by the narrowest of margins: 21 to 20. An amendment from the Bishop of London referring to “work on pastoral reassurance” did not get voted on in June. This was because the part of the motion it sought to amend was deleted to remove the list of work the House agreed. 

In October, however, faced with a motion to “agree with the elements of pastoral reassurance” in the paper before them (and now found in Annex F Section B of GS 2328), the House (after rejecting an amendment calling for independent legal advice to be obtained and presented to Synod) voted in favour by 18 to 4 with 13 abstentions. A motion “to agree further work on additional formal structural pastoral provision” (as then set out in Annex F Section C of GS 2328) and originally only “for decision by the House of Bishops at a future date” was amended unanimously, as proposed by the Bishop of Guildford, to read “for decision by the House of Bishops as soon as possible”.

It would therefore seem that over 2023 the House became increasingly aware of the need, and urgency, to do work on this area and make decisions concerning it although as yet no significant proposals have been published.

  1. House of Bishops Meeting of October 9th

In the light of all this the significance of the October meeting of the House (as might be expected given it led to so many present publicly dissenting and expressing grave concerns) becomes even clearer.

It now appears that:

  • It received new legal advice (Living and Love and Faith: the Current Legal Position: prepared by the Legal Office October 2023 – provided to the House in October 2023). It is stated that the substance of this is what appears in GS 2328 Annex A. 
  • It received a joint paper from the Chief Legal Adviser and the Theological Adviser entitled Living in Love and Faith: Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony whose content is still unknown.
  • It proceeded to agree to commend PLF for use in regular services even thought it was legally advised that to proceed with commending the PLF would be to fail to comply with the February General Synod motion and the intention of the House in its paper to the July Synod.
  • It decided that this non-compliance was however not a departure in “an essential matter” despite having, as far as we know, no theological advice that would justify such a conclusion either from FAOC or the Theological Adviser (Annex H in GS 2328 in articulating a rationale based on “pastoral provision in time of uncertainty” does not address the essential/non-essential question).
  • It decided to proceed with standalone services without using Canon B5A but was not provided with relevant written legal advice (Prayers of Love and Faith: Authorisation for Experimental Use and Approval by the General Synod) prepared by the Legal Office and shared with members of the staff team and lead bishop in September. The release of this to the House in December, assuming it is reflected in the summary in Annex A of GS 2346 supports that October decision as it reveals how difficult it is to use B5A without raising major questions as to the legality of such a process (so the House may have been informed of its content orally, leading to the decision it took overturning the earlier College vote in favour of Canon B5A).
  • It voted in favour of an amendment concerning the relationship between civil marriage and Holy Matrimony despite FAOC having only just begun work on this. It also had as yet unpublished advice in Living in Love and Faith: Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony (which was not revealed in the original answer to this Synod and is not addressed in GS 2328 despite claims that no legal advice was being hidden from Synod in November). This may say nothing on the matter or be anywhere between fully supportive of the amendment or evidence that the amendment was passed disregarding its joint legal and theological advice.
  • It voted in favour of an amendment concerning clergy in same-sex marriage despite having received no advice on that matter for the meeting (unless it transpires the joint paper did address this) and the advice therefore remaining as it was in GS 2055.
  • The two amendments would, in the light of this, appear to be an attempt by the majority of bishops (a successful one by a narrow vote of 18-15-2) to commit the House to the one slim remaining pathway to allowing clergy to enter same-sex marriages set out in GS 2055 but to do so without, or perhaps even disregarding, legal and theological advice. Taking that legal and theological advice seriously and making it more widely but perhaps not fully known in GS 2386 is now revealing how difficult it is to achieve this end within current doctrine and law.


In the light of all this the story of LLF in 2023 (which I initially tried to tell here and returned to here with fuller respective accounts here and here) looks even more chaotic and dark. Whatever happens over the next few days at Synod there appears to be much which needs Lenten reflection and perhaps repentance as part of any “reset”. But the story is not over yet and Lent leads us to Easter. 

If we ask what sort of story we are living in with LLF there is still the possibility that it could prove what Tolkien, drawing on his faith in the Christian Easter gospel, called a eucatastrophe. The Tolkien Gateway describes it in these terms:

Eucatastrophe is a neologism coined by Tolkien from Greek ευ- “good” and καταστροφή “sudden turn”. In essence, a eucatastrophe is a massive turn in fortune from a seemingly unconquerable situation to an unforeseen victory, usually brought by grace rather than heroic effort. 

His account in “On Fairy-Stories” fills out this definition:

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist’, nor ‘fugitive’. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

Perhaps the challenge we all face, whatever our hopes and fears about where we are headed with LLF, is to pray for its story to become such a eucatastrophe. Ultimately such an ending will only be “a sudden and miraculous grace” but perhaps we need now to try to seek to discern together, across our differences, where we can find some agreements. These agreements may be concerning such matters as where we find ourselves, what we need to change in the processes, the need to respect or change our law and doctrine rather than undermine them, the ultimately doctrinal nature of our differences, and the significance of the differences. It may be that we can then begin to talk together and even begin to agree on some of the things we now need to do in order to avoid repeating the errors and prolonging the travails of the last year or acting in different ways that lead to an even darker outcome than that in which we currently find ourselves.

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre(WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF and the subgroup looking at Pastoral Guidance.

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96 thoughts on “What sort of story is ‘Living in Love and Faith’?”

  1. It should be common ground among evangelicals that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

    The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

    But are these messages believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?

    The clear answer to that is “No”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, and the need to help the homeless and those in dire need, very important though such things are!

    That being the case the time has come to follow the remarkable example set out in Galatians 2:11-14:

    “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”’
    where one Apostle who met Christ on the Damascus Road openly rebuked another Apostle on whom Christ said he would build his Church.

    What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the whole Church about this failure.

    A serious effort by the CEEC and Church Society to do everything possible to organise this would involve mobilising all the Diocesan Evangelical Groups to support such a letter
    together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.

    I have suggested this to CEEC and Church Society more than once without any response. What do you think please?

    Email comments, positive or negative, are welcome, to [email protected].

    Philip Almond
    (former member of Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Network)

    • Philip, I’m reading Cat Jarman’s ‘The Bone Chests’, a book about Winchester’s Anglo-Saxon history.
      Ordinary Christian witness rarely gets a mention, it’s all about Kings, Queens and Clergy. Today’s antics will go down in history in much the same way. Did not Jesus say the violent push in? No doubt the great minds, both spiritual and temporal, of today will get their reward– a footnote in history.

    • I’ve been attending churches of various stripes, including significant periods in cofe churches my whole life. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a church leader admit they were wrong or model any sort of repentance ever. In that time there has been an explosion in the uncovering of abuse – sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual. The people who are supposed to be moral leaders have behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated in a secular job.

      Unfortunately church leadership has become like politics where getting caught is the only real sin and the only real consequence is having to “lie low” for a few years

  2. What an astonshing feat of recording and analysis. Thank you.
    Having merely skimmed some on my phone, an overall cummulative summary would be a malodrous abuse of process.
    It beggars belief that no notes were taken of seeming significant oral legal advice, either by the advisors or recipients, unless there were an edict against recording in any form.
    At one place, in this article, it is indicative that decisions were taken contrary to advice.
    It would therfore be incumbent to make known that advice to all vested interested parties particularly ministers, parish councils who would be vulnerable to legal claims and counter-claims.
    To my mind it would be a serious derogation of duty, either individually or collective, not to do so.

  3. Thank you Andrew.

    Let us hope that the Church of England begins now to vomit out those leaders trying to get it to bless or endorse that which holy scripture calls sin.

    • Welby’s idea of ‘variable geometry’ means telling each party what it wishes to hear, regardless of what is said to other parties. But both sides have seen through that trick.

      If he wants to talk about fear, how about fear of the Lord? It is commended to the believer in Christ in several places in the New Testament, but Welby has none of it or he would not dare trample on scripture as he does.

  4. The documents presented by Andrew Goddard are all very interesting, but I suspect I am not alone in wishing to see far more emphasis placed on obtaining proper and coherent pastoral provision for those who wish to follow the clear teaching of Our Lord and the rest of Holy Scripture. Without this primary essential, the future for the orthodox becomes impossible. All this other stuff is pure waffle.

    • He’s not wrong, Geoff. But among the bishops and their apparent supporting majority in General Synod there seems to be the kind of self destructive madness which means they’re not willing to listen. We’re seen much the same madness among people in all walks of life at present; I’d suggest the same destructive power is behind it…

  5. Legally since Parliament devolved determining C of E doctrine from itself to the Church Assembly (now Synod) whatever is legal in the C of E is what a majority of the Bishops and Synod decide. A majority of the House of Bishops and a majority of the House of Clergy and House of Laity having voted for PLF for same sex couples while preserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples means that is by definition legal within the C of E. No further legal advice was needed

  6. Oh yes there is: misrepresentation, withholding vital information on which to make an informed judgement -an abuse of process and position, ripe for judicial review and injunction.
    And Jesus went to the cross jeered and sponsored and cheered by self preserving Church leaders because….they didn’t know Him…

  7. Andrew, you’ve surpassed yourself on this one. As an example of shining a light on what can only be described at best as culpable incompetence and at worst rank dishonesty, it is beyond impressive in its attention to detail and application of logic. Considering the effort necessary to navigate and make sense of the labyrinthine route through which our dear bishops have crawled over the last 12 months, the effort of will required of us readers to plough through it is small in comparison.

    However, it’s the damning overall picture this article reveals which must drive anyone of integrity to conclude that a church whose leadership and governing body is of this mind cannot and should not continue to exist: the institution may stumble on for years or decades but the vision is corrupted, the spiritual power gone. It can command neither the loyalty of the faithful nor even their preference for continuing to worship and witness under its banner.

    I’ve always thought (and said) that LLF was an ill conceived project which was foisted on the church by a subversive internal group which has itself been captivated by an ideology fundamentally antithetical to Christianity. A marked tactic of those who promote the ideology is to distort language so that it takes what is good and corrupts it in such a way that it then promotes what is confusing and corrupt.

    Only a new spirit fired with determination to do what is right in God’s eyes rather than espouse the ideology of the broken world around us can rescue the Church of England from its present decaying state. This can only happen under a fresh leadership, one which is prepared to be humble before God but radical in determination to confront error and teach truth. We might look upon such a leadership as a rescue party for liberating the church from its present captivated state and the misery which we must all be feeling. That kind of radical rescue is born not of hate or tribal antagonism; it’s driven by love – of God, of the truth, and of those for whom Christ died and rose victorious: everyone.

    • Don

      There’s a big question for the cofe (and most UK denominations) with the advent of same sex marriage. How to react to it? In my mind LLF has been a total failure in that it has not addressed that question, nor more broad questions about what to tell LGBT people, especially children.

      I’m same sex married and we have two children (although one is fast approaching adulthood). If we showed up at a cofe church what should we be told? Should we divorce and our kids be separated from us? Should we be tolerated, but make it constantly clear that we are sub human? Would our kids be allowed to attend Sunday School or Youth Group? What would they be told there about their parents? Would they be told there are different kinds of families or nothing or that their Dads are evil pedophiles?

      What about the gay teen who is able to be open about their orientation in the rest of their life, but doesn’t know how it can interface with their faith. Is the church going to tell them they must be single and isolated their whole lives? Are they allowed to have posters of Hollywood stars they like on their wall or is that a sin for gay kids?

      None of these basic questions have been answered.

      Instead its a confusing mishmash of “same sex relationships are still wrong, but you can have one as long as you don’t show any kind of sexual interest in one another and you can be blessed, but not married, and the blessing is just for you as individuals, not for your relationship, but it might be illegal and the ABC doesn’t want anything to do with them”

      LLF answers none of these questions. Its been a colossal waste of time.

      • Given conservative evangelicals oppose any recognition of same sex marriage at all and liberal Catholics want full same sex marriages in church and both of those blocks would block the other getting its way in Synod, LLF was the only compromise that could get through Synod. Hence LLF has been approved and prayers of blessing for same sex couples married in English civil law in C of E services but not full same sex marriage

        • Correction: In reality there is no such thing as a liberal Catholic The ethic and essence of Catholicism does not allow for twisting or changing Catholic doctrine. Those who call themselves Liberal Catholics, regardless of who they are …are not Catholic in the sense of validly partaking of the sacraments. If they receive the Eucharist at Mass they are in fact committing grievous sin, and if this sinful behaviour is not addressed it will result in eternal damnation.Any priest who knowingly administers heretics the Eucharist will suffer the same fate. It’s tough, no nonsense and everyone knows where they stand. No one gets a fatwa in the mail if they decide to leave the CHURCH. It is not compulsory to be a Catholic. It just has to be understood that Catholic doctrine cannot be changed to suit the cultural norms of the age.

          • They are not Catholic in the sense of not being conservative Roman Catholics no (or the few remaining conservative Anglo Catholics left in the C of E who have not gone to Rome). However in the Church of England liberal Catholic Anglicans are probably a plurality of Synod members now, hence they got LLF through even though conservative evangelicals managed to block full same sex marriage going forward for debate

        • The blessings aren’t a compromise though. They are (at best) no practical change, which is beyond frustrating for LGBT+ people who were promised radical inclusion, with the appearance of inclusion, which forces a red line with conservatives.

          What I find frustrating is that there were some areas of general agreement at the start of the talks, but these have not been acted on (for example ending conversion therapy on those who hadn’t consented, zero tolerance for homophobia) because all the focus has been on opposing same sex marriage

          • They are practical change, before LGBT couples could not have authorised prayers of blessing for them even within services as they do now.

            If liberals want broader change than that then they will have to campaign harder at Synod elections, because at present conservative evangelicals are over 1/3 of Synod and can therefore block any proposal for same sex marriage in the C of E as well as put up strong resistance to a conversion therapy ban etc

          • T1

            But the bishops say that these are not blessings for relationships, just individuals…and at least one bishop has threatened legal action against anyone who uses them.

            Prior to 2014 nobody was being threatened with legal action for blessing gay individuals.

            A true compromise would be to enact all the improvements to LGBT treatment that have broad agreement – ending exorcisms, setting out a minimum expected standard of behavior for clergy towards LGBT people, zero tolerance of homophobia, clear guidance for how to address congregants in same sex relationships and same sex couples with children etc etc

          • PLF makes clear they are prayers for the same sex couple, not just them as individuals . ‘A selection of readings and prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples can be used in Church of England services for the first time from Sunday, December 17, following approval by the House of Bishops.’

            One rogue bishop can try what he likes but given PLF has been proposed by the Bishops and approved by Synod by majority vote he has not a leg to stand on legally.

            Many conservative evangelicals support exorcisms, oppose any recognition of same sex couples and oppose same sex couples having children and support conversion therapy. So there may not even be scope for broad agreement even on that, it would at least again require a clear majority Synod vote for all of the above to get through

          • Support exorcisms?
            -So when Jesus did exorcisms you would have been there standing against him and wanting the evil spirits to remain?

            Oppose same sex couples having children?
            – No, it is nature that opposes that, or rather makes it not happen.

            Conversion therapy
            -It is well recognised by the intellectually trained that this is an incoherent phrase. But that point has been made to you and has passed you by.

          • Given Welby led the Bishops in proposing prayers of blessing for same sex couples in services to Synod, the idea he is threatening any legal action against churches in his church now already conducting the prayers for same sex couples is laughable

          • T1

            Justin Welby said in a TV interview that the prayers were not for relationships, but for individuals and also that he didn’t personally endorse them.

            A different bishop was threatening clergy with legal action if they used them.

            Whatever this is, its not a compromise

          • The C of E’s own website makes clear ‘The Church of England’s General Synod has welcomed proposals which would enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or civil partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing.’
            They are prayers of blessing for same sex couples NOT just individuals. I also see no reference anywhere by Welby to them just being prayers for individuals, he wouldn’t use them due to his position as symbolic leader of the Anglican communion, including Africa where in many nations homosexual activity remains illegal.

            It is as good a compromise as could get through Synod. Remember well over a 1/3 of Synod voted against even PLF, led by conservative evangelicals and Ozanne’s amendment to consider full same sex marriage in churches was rejected by a majority of Synod

          • T1

            Compromise would be allowing same sex marriage to be a local issue.

            Gay people could receive blessings before 2014

          • You can’t do that without Synod and Bishops approval either as the C of E is an episcopal and Synod led church and again conservative evangelicals would veto it as they would say allowing any C of E church to perform same sex marriages changes doctrine and needs a 2/3 majority to be allowed. There was no authorisation from Synod for prayers of blessings for same sex couples in services until December last year

          • Before 2014 gay people were just people and priests were allowed to bless them. Now we have bishops warning priests that blessing gay people may lead to legal action. Do you see how that’s not an improvement?

          • Before last year priests could not bless same sex couples whether they could bless individuals or not. Now after the Synod vote they can have prayers for same sex couples in services, that is a big change. The odd dissenting bishop can warn what they want but as a majority of the House of Bishop and a majority of Synod voted to allowed prayers for same sex couples their warnings are legally irrelevant

          • T1

            No, that’s not true. Priests absolutely could bless gay couples. The result of LLF has been to specially identify gay people, and gay people alone, as a class of person that it may be illegal to bless.

      • Given that the lobby group associated with your views has successfully removed freedom of speech on these matters; that members of this group regularly ask street preachers such questions specifically to trap them and then ring 999 (Oh for an equally quick police response to a burglary!); and that the police nearly always accept the word of the caller without hearing the preacher’s side, is it surprising that you aren’t getting answers?

          • But the police take the side of the gay lobby when they should be impartial. They should interview the street preacher on the spot as well as the complainant, and decide whether to take it further at that point – instead of arresting the preacher and telling him that he can have his say in court. That happened to one preacher I’ve met, and I’m glad to say he gave the police a bloody nose in court when he sued them for wrongful arrest.

            In any case, Peter, I asked you a question: in view of this behaviour of the police, and in view of wrongly named hate speech legislation (put in place thanks to LGBT lobbying), are you surprised that nobody answers your questions? Please answer this time.

          • Anton

            If there were gay people in the street yelling at Christian passers and the police did nothing to stop them, but were arresting Christian street preachers then I would agree with you.

            I think the law is not clear about what is acceptable public speech and is not. I think if the police did nothing and then there was violence they would be in the wrong too. I think most of the reporting of these instances is simply a read out of the arrested preachers point of view.

            I now live in Maine. My husband and I feel accepted and tolerated as part of the community. When we were dating and he visited me in England for a week we were yelled at in the street for nothing more than holding hands three times by people who didn’t like that gay people exist.

          • Anton

            To answer your question, its a long time ago now, but yes, I did take Justin Welby at his word. I did think there would be a genuine attempt to address gay inclusion and that it wouldn’t just all be about same sex marriage

          • “If there were gay people in the street yelling at Christian passers and the police did nothing to stop them, but were arresting Christian street preachers then I would agree with you.”

            Come with me. LGBT activists ask deliberately provocative questions of naive street preachers and then start shouting when a scriptural reply is given. It’s not hard to find.

          • Anton

            That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about harassment of passers by, not people who choose to engage the bullies

          • In the UK hate speech, whether against LGBT people or Christians in public is a criminal offence under the public order act. Whereas in the US hate speech is protected under the 1st amendment unless it incites criminal activity or contains specific threats of violence

          • I’m not going to waste my time discussing with people who assert the category of hate speech. It is to pretend to have a window on men’s souls and is merely a rhetorical phrase used to suppress opposing points of view voiced peaceably. As such it is revealing.

            Harassment of passers-by? You mean warning them of the fate that awaits the unforgiven and accurately explaining what they need to do in order to avoid it?

          • The Met was led by a a partnered homosexual.

            It doesn’t mean she twisted the London Mets policing policy… but that you were not correct.

          • Ian

            Just because there have been a handful of gay senior police officers does not mean gay people are in charge of the police.

            Its a known phenomenon that people with a majority characteristic perceive people with a minority characteristic as being overrepresented in powerful jobs, even when they are actually underrepresented.

          • Anton

            That’s nearly always why they are arrested. Do you know any street pastor who has been arrested?

            It hasn’t happened to me personally, but it has happened to people I know – they are doing ordinary shopping and unsolicited a street pastor starts laying into them about being gay

          • I already told you that I do. See my post above of February 26th at 0758.

            Be as gay as you like in this wonderful society that we have created since 1967. But if you want to meet the biblical criteria for salvation, think again. And if you want to shut down those who simply try to warn the gay community of what the Bible says, what right have you to call yourself Christian?

          • So your friend was not accused of insulting or harassing anyone, just randomly arrested for no particular reason?

          • Peter, if you are not going to respond to what I actually write then there is no point.

            I refer other readers to the description of what happened in my post of February 26th here at 0758.

            I do not believe that the complainant was distressed or alarmed. He told the police that, but I believe he was merely angry.

        • Maine maybe, Alabama you would probably have received a worse reaction than in England (and in London and the big cities few bat an eyelid about same sex couples in public now)

          • T1

            I was yelled at for holding my then boyfriends hand in London (to be specific it was fairly near Kings Cross) in about 2016. Reading the various news stories of people being gay bashed I’m not sure its improved all that much since then.

            Since I moved to Maine we haven’t had a problem. We recently visited Texas and didn’t have a problem there either, but we tried to be a bit careful about not appearing gay in public.

            Actually big cities can be the worst. They are concentrations of all different types of people which in general forces the general mood to be more liberal, but also can concentrate bubbles of the far right.

          • On the basis that there are far more people concentrated in big cities then yes statistically you are more likely to be abused given you are likely to encounter more people walking about. However overall they are more supportive of same sex relationships there than provincial areas. Although a majority in both the US and UK now back same sex relationships, with opposition mainly now coming from conservative evangelicals and traditionalist Muslims and Orthodox Jews

          • T1

            I don’t really agree that big cities are always more supportive to gay people. Maine is the most supportive place I’ve lived my whole life and we have no big cities. Its 2/3rds the size of England with a population of 1.3 million. The most gay supportive nation of the UK is Scotland, which again is very rural

          • Overall they are, remember in 2004 when Bush opposed same sex marriage, most voters in rural, small town and suburban areas backed him but cities voted mostly for Kerry.

            However while a majority of the US and UK in polls now back same sex marriage the most vocal opposition to it comes from evangelical Christians and conservative Muslims and orthodox Jews to it and you are right that they tend to be found in higher numbers in cities

          • T1

            I don’t think Kerry supported ssm? I thought Biden was the first major party candidate who supported same sex marriage? (Obama didn’t support it until after the election)

      • Scenario 1:

        A man and a woman come to your church. They are not married, but have their own children (by the normal means).

        Scenario 2:

        You live in a part of the world where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading. However in the surrounding culture polygamy is allowed. A man with four wives plus children accepts Christ and they come to your church.

        • (Whoops pressed ‘Post’ too quickly.)

          Neither scenario is in accordance with the CofE’s current doctrine about marriage and sexual relationships.

          How does address these?

          Does one change the Church’s doctrine and/or practice to permit or even celebrate these cases? Does one produce a liturgy to bless these case?

          • Scenario 2: Continue as they are but he may take no more wives while all of the present ones live.

            Scenario 1: Presuming they are nonbelievers, make them welcome (not as communicants) and offer them the gospel.

          • We have answers to your two scenarios. The unmarried couple are encouraged to marry. The polygamous family are permitted to stay in their polygamous marriages (but not allowed to add to them).

            There are no answers to Peter’s questions. Even now, you’ve avoided providing an answer.

  8. One thing that puzzles me is why does the House of Bishops need theological advice? To me it suggests that the Bishops don’t know what the Bible says and it seems that their actions have proved it.

    • They do know what the BIBLE says but what it says clashes with their preferred stance. Could you explain to me how or why any Christian can take them seriously?Are these Bishops followers of Christ? How do they justify not upholding Biblical teaching?

    • Curious argument from the schismatics though – if you disagree with them, you’re apparently denying their existence. Very “woke”.

      • The schismatics are those seeking to detach the Church of England from the Bible and 2000 years of tradition.

        For a summary of the mere crumbs that were on offer to the historic position at this Synod, see:


        Note particularly point 5:

        just to enter the negotiation, the orthodox must give up their bargaining chips… The Commitments require the orthodox to put aside the use of civil courts, or even church discipline, to challenge the legality of what is being proposed, which is nothing less than an attempt to provide a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for those in the College of Bishops who are backing these changes.

        At this point it is a blessing that no one umbrella group speaks for the historic position, because the liberals cannot prevent resort to law by, say, Nicky Gumbel, if he has not joined a grouping which knuckles under in the way described, or if he resigns from such a grouping in order to resort to law.

        I am aware that St Paul instructed Christians not to take each other to law (in 1 Corinthians 6). But that was about matters such as unpaid rent rather than doctrine, and the CoE does have a body of law related to doctrine. Also, it is questionable whether those who subordinate scripture to their desires and dispute the meaning and authority of the relevant scriptures are actually Christian. Secular gays find no difficulty understanding those scriptures, whatever they think of them them. Which did Jesus find worse, sexual activity outside marriage between man and woman, or hypocrisy?

        • C of E law is made by Bishops and Synod, both have voted for LLF so by definition prayers of blessing for same sex couples in its church services are now lawful

          • Interpretation of scripture OK for you but not for me?

            I took pains to explain it above. There is no guidance in the NT for an Established church.

          • Good to know you think my interpretations of Scripture are valid. I think that’s what we call progress.

            But what you’re arguing here strikes me as almost cartoonishly liberal position: the New Testament says nothing specifically about how an established Church should behave so we can safely ignore it (whatever it says about taking each other to court). It’s akin to someone arguing that the New Testament says nothing specifically about same-sex marriage so we can safely ignore it (whatever it says about marriages and same-sex sex). That’s not how I read and apply the Scriptures, and you probably don’t want to either.

          • Specious analogy. The constitution of the church is tied up with that of the nation, which was not the case in pagan Corinth.

            Twist my words as you like. That’s unstoppable, for the gospel is not written like a watertight legal contract but an invitation. It’s your loss.

        • You keep mentioning Nicky Gumbel in connection with some legal challenge. The only evidence you have suggested for this is the two ramblers on Anglican Unscripted. But they make it clear he hasn’t done anything – not that I think they have any idea one way or another, it’s just idle speculation.
          But please bring it on Nicky.

          • Once again, you are ascribing an authority to the Archbishop that he just doesn’t have. General Synod has taken these decisions. Not the Archbishop. And as GS made clear welt this week, they wish to proceed with the decisions they have already taken,

          • Welby is deeply influential in deciding what gets put to Synod, and he personally promoted to the expiscopacy over half of its number, ensuring that they are in line with his heretical view, of course.

          • There is no guarantee that Gumbel would win in “this present evil age”, of course. But it is necessary to fight the good fight.

  9. Ian could you help me about the 5th Bullet Point which seems to cry out for honourable explanation or strong rebuke, confession and metanoia.
    At Synod how was this dealt with, if at all?
    Was it challenged as inaccurate? Was there an attempt at explaining what went on as honourable and worthy of a CofE Bishop? Was there a rebuke or a demand for explanation.
    Was it dealt with by the chief culprit on the basis of “Never confess, and chose a closet for any ‘repentance’ at having allowed oneself to be found out”.
    Did it come out as to who ordered /decided that the lid on this can of invertebrates be lifted?


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