Seeking a Way Through LLF/PLF: Seeing the Forest Not Just the Trees

Andrew Goddard writes: In dealing with complex questions and decisions it is always important to keep in mind both the big picture of “the forest” and the detailed specifics of “the trees”. Arguably the whole Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process to date has not been particularly good at ensuring this happens.

Three new groups (whose membership has recently been announced) are now setting to work on “the trees” (of standalone services for Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF), the new Pastoral Guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality, and the complexities of pastoral reassurance) under the oversight of a new Programme Board chaired by the Archbishop of York. There is the real danger that these will (like their predecessors a year ago and the whole PLF process through 2023) lack the time to step back and discern how all these have to be fitted together. Even doing that is, however, not sufficient. There also needs to be a sense of the much bigger picture of the task and challenges that the Church of England is addressing in relation to these three areas.

This is what the original work on the LLF resources sought to help the church to do. Their concern was to consider the big “forest” questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. They refused to focus in simply on “the trees” of specific decisions about same-sex relationships and the possible pathways for the church in relation to these. Though this approach was in many ways admirable and necessary, in retrospect, that stage of the LLF process (in giving a guide to the “forest”) was too reticent about addressing what we all knew were the specific major political questions and decisions ahead. Then, when addressing those questions from September 2022 onwards, the bishops jumped to answering the liturgical question without addressing (either adequately or at all) the questions relating to doctrine, pastoral guidance or ecclesiology. In addition, they have rarely if ever explicitly drawn on the work of LLF to explain their approach.

If we return to the fruit of the earlier work on LLF it highlights (at least) two major theological features of “the forest” that must not be ignored or forgotten in the determination now to “reset” the process and broker some sort of “settlement”. Neither of these have been prominent in the discussions thus far but making them more central may help clarify the deeper issues and problems we face and the options between which we have to make a choice. They relate, on the one hand, to questions of ethics and doctrine and, on the other hand, to questions of ecclesiology and development.  What follows looks at each in turn and argues that seeking to resolve specific questions (about standalone services, expectations concerning clergy patterns of life, and structural provision) can only be adequately and coherently achieved if these more “big picture” questions are considered first, aided by the earlier work of LLF and lessons from the wider church.

Can we find a way forward for LLF together?

Andrew Goddard writes: In this article, I offer a summary of what happened at General Synod in February and its procedural consequences. I then look at the recently announced structures for taking LLF/PLF forward and set them out in the context of the past structures and a review of the past motions of General Synod. … Continue Reading

The Pope, same-sex unions, and the blessing of fornicating boxers

Joshua Penduck writes: ‘Pope says Roman Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples’ declared the BBC News website. It was not alone in this. Anglo-American newspapers, news outlets, and websites emblazoned across their banners this seemingly huge shift in the ethics and polity of the Roman Catholic Church. Liberal Roman Catholics such as James Martin SJ … Continue Reading

B2 or not B2, that is (still!) the question: Thoughts on B5A and the Prayers of Love and Faith

Andrew Goddard writes: Back in June I wrote a number of posts concerning the various canons that might be used to introduce the proposed Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) into the liturgical life of the Church of England. In three parts it considered the original proposal to commend for use at the discretion of the … Continue Reading

On Drag Going to Church

Mike Starkey writes: In recent years drag has gone mainstream. Actually, it’s bigger than that. Drag has become all-conquering, ubiquitous, the performance art of the moment. The art of cross-dressing for entertainment has a long history, often confined to spaces frequented by consenting adults. By the late 20th century in Britain, drag was drawing an enthusiastic … Continue Reading

The future of LLF: cakeism or coherence?

Andrew Goddard writes: Twenty years ago, Archbishop Rowan began his presidential address to the July 2003 York General Synod by asking “Does the Church of England exist?”. He replied that “there are several different ‘Churches of England’” and we need “to find out what it is that makes these diverse ‘churches’ one” because “if we can’t … Continue Reading