What is now being proposed for Living in Love and Faith?

Andrew Goddard writes: Yesterday, the latest proposal as to the way forward in relation to Living in Love and Faith (LLF) appeared in the form of GS 2358, to be added to all the previous General Synod papers since January 2023. This 31-page paper provides the motion (p. 17) the House of Bishops will be proposing at the July General Synod and supporting paperwork for it.  What follows offers a brief overview of its main proposals and the issues they raise with much more detailed analysis and supporting argument in this longer article: GS 2346 Synod July 2024.

The proposal – explicitly still an “emerging proposal” – comes from the LLF Programme Board chaired by the Archbishop of York with a preface from Martyn Snow, the Bishop of Leicester as Lead Bishop. Behind it lies the work of 3 working groups, particularly at a residential in Leicester (10th to 12th May) and discussions at the College and House and Bishops, most recently on 12th June. 

What is being sought?: From “three spaces in one Church” back to “a generous space” for a new “period of discernment” 

It is clear that not all of these contributors are quite on the same page from the fact that the language of “three spaces” which Bishop Martyn introduced only two weeks ago (and I explored and Ian Paul has critiqued) has been withdrawn late in the process (para 10, p. 4). Instead we have simply returned to the language of “a generous space where all can thrive and where different theological convictions are honoured, recognising also that there are many congregations where a diversity of views of held” (para 4, p. 1). Despite having questions about how “three spaces” was being used, this is I think a retrograde step as it risks avoiding the need to face the deep doctrinal divisions we are facing and their implications for the nature of our unity.

The first part of the proposed Synod motion is a commitment “to support the overall proposal and timetable set out in GS 2358”. Given the fluid and provisional nature of the proposal it is not quite clear what such overall support means but one of the central new features of the paper is that there now be

a three-year period of discernment in the life of the church to enable the exploration of differing developments and practice while holding together as one church (para 15, p. 5).

Although it is immediately stated that “This is intended to be ‘discernment’ and not ‘reception’” the distinction between these two is never clarified or defended.

This clearly has significant implications for the timetable and it does appear that part of the facing up to the reality that is happening is that this whole process is going to take a lot longer than the bishops originally said. There now appear to be two stages: the shaping of this emerging proposal over the next year (July 2024-July 2025) and then a three-year period of discernment (2025-2028) leading to a report in 2029. During this period there will be new General Synod elections in 2026.

Unity matters in our debates about sexuality—and so does truth

Last week, Martyn Snow, the bishop of Leicester and current lead for the Living in Love and Faith process debating sexuality in the Church of England, wrote an article in the Church of England Newspaper arguing that ‘Unity Matters—it really matters’. The article, and comments he makes in support of it, set out some remarkable and revealing claims.

Martyn’s central use of Phil 2.2 ‘being in full accord and of one mind’ is fascinating. He deploys a classic rhetorical strategy by bundling together something we would obviously reject with the thing he wants to challenge: ‘this verse does not imply sameness or agreement’. We would naturally reject the idea that we should all be ‘the same’—but why does this verse suggest we should not be in agreement on core Christian teaching? Indeed, he immediately notes how both Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria draw on this passage to prove points of Christian doctrine. 

The first of Paul’s two terms, sumpsychos, occurs only here in the New Testament, but is a compound of a well-known term psyche, sometimes translated ‘soul’ but really referring to a person’s whole life. The compound term Paul uses here has the sense of being in harmony, a deep unity of life. It is a striking contrast to the effect of the direction of travel some bishops are pushing the Church, causing deep division and anxiety. There is not a denomination anywhere in the world where pushing for a change in the historic understanding of marriage has not led to division and decline. One English bishop even told their evangelical clergy that, if they did not like the direction of travel ‘you can leave the Church’. This is not a picture of harmony! If ‘unity really matters’, we might ask why so many of the English bishops are pushing us down such a provocative and divisive path. If ‘unity really matters’, why has Justin Welby gone down a route which has split the Anglican Communion?

The second of Paul’s terms is clearly important to him, since he repeats it: ‘being of the same mind [literally ‘thinking the same’] … and of one mind [literally, ‘thinking the one (thing)]. The verb phroneo refers widely to our thinking; of course this includes our attitude to and regard for one another, but this cannot be separated from our understanding of faith. The related noun phronesis refers to the faculty of thinking and planning, the ability to understand, have insight, and be intelligent. It is a term Paul uses often in Philippians, in Phil 3.15 associating it with maturity of faith. 

Resetting LLF: Whose unity? Which doctrine?

Andrew Goddard writes: A new article by the Lead Bishop for LLF, Martyn Snow, offers some promising signals as to how the LLF “reset” is progressing, particularly in relation to the importance of doctrine and its relationship to the form of our unity, but it also leaves major questions unanswered. The following article explores six … Continue Reading

The followers of Jesus are kept, sanctified and sent in John 17

The Sunday lectionary gospel reading for Easter 7 in Year B is John 17.6–19, the central section of Jesus’ so-called ‘High Priestly Prayer’. The reading omits the introduction and opening sentences of the prayer, and stops short before the often-quoted ‘that they might be one’; I have previously commented on the use of this phrase, … Continue Reading

The followers of Jesus are kept, sanctified and sent in John 17 video discussion

The Sunday lectionary gospel reading for Easter 7 in Year B is John 17.6–19, the central section of Jesus’ so-called ‘High Priestly Prayer’. It continues to weave in a range of interconnected ideas from earlier in the gospel, drawing them together into a picture of Jesus’ followers sanctified in the world and sent to proclaim … 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

Grieving the Anglican Communion: English Primacy and the Anglican Consultative Council

Andrew Atherstone writes: After the high drama of the Church of England’s General Synod, we had one day to wash and repack before flying to Ghana for the eighteenth plenary meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), hosted by the Province of West Africa. It was like being evacuated from the battlefield to a temporary sanctuary, … Continue Reading

Good disagreement? This isn’t it

Christopher Landau writes: It is a deep, sad irony. The Archbishop of Canterbury is an accomplished peacemaker, with reconciliation as a key priority in his ministry, and yet he is now presiding over some of the deepest disquiet and disunity seen in the church in two decades. Across the theological spectrum, the bishops’ pastoral letter … Continue Reading