All around us we see changing understandings of human identity, changing patterns in relationships and families and changing sexual attitudes and activity. What does it mean for followers of Jesus to walk in love, faith and holiness today? Nationally, the Church of England is encouraging as many people as possible to engage in a process of reflection and learning around these difficult and sensitive matters and, having done so, to feed back their thoughts and feelings into a process of discernment as to how the church might best minister in these changed and changing times. The process is called ‘Living in Love and faith’ (LLF). Both in the parish and the wider Deanery we are offering the chance for people to come together (either in person or online) to work through the course material.
21st April 2021Church News
The Church of England has been struggling for some time to find ways of resolving the disagreements that exist at all levels within the church on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, and on our pastoral practices in relation to these questions. These are questions which some of us may not want to consider and may instinctively seek to avoid. For some of us they may be painful and difficult to contemplate. But they will not easily go away and we cannot ignore them for much longer.
Following the General Synod meeting of February 2017 the Archbishops issued a joint letter in which they said that
‘We need a radical new Christian inclusion in the church. This must be founded in Scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and a proper twenty-first century understanding of being human and being sexual.’
This led to the Living in Love and Faith project, the results of which were published earlier this year in the form of a set of resources, including a book, a short course, video materials and a comprehensive reading list.
The Bishops of the Church of England have invited every one of us to engage with these resources and to learn ‘…how the Christian understanding of God relates to questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.’ Above all they exhort us to walk with them ‘…in a new stage of our common life in Christ so that speaking the truth in love, godly discernment and right decisions can be made over contested matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage’. Their prayer is that ‘…all of us, the people of God, take time and listen and learn together.’
It is important to note that there is no agenda behind these materials. The aim is enlightenment, to shine a light on what for some people are dark corners and to discern ways in which Christians might understand the issues. Where there are disagreements and doubts, and there will be some, the hope is that we can all co-exist together and live with them and be guided ultimately by love.
The Diocese of Durham discussed this at Diocesan Synod in May and everyone is encouraged to study the materials and, if possible, attend a Living in Love and Faith study course which parishes and deaneries are being encouraged to provide later this year.
It is planned to hold a Parish course in church. There will also be a Deanery course on 6 Thursdays using Zoom.
On six successive Wednesdays commencing 15th September we will run the LLF course in church at 7.00pm for any who wish to attend. (An online course covering the same material will be offered on Thursday evenings (7.00pm) commencing October 21st over Zoom). The course involves discussion, study of scripture and listening (both to one another but also to the stories of others made available to us through video and audio material).
All are welcome.
September 15th: Learning Together: What does it mean to learn together as followers of Jesus Christ?
September 22nd: Identity: How does our identity in Christ relate to sex and gender?
September 29th: Relationships: What kinds of relationships does God call us to?
October 6th: Sex: Where do our bodies and sex fit in to all of this?
October 13th: Life together: How do diversity and difference affect our life together as a church?
October 20th: What next?
A huge range of course material has been made available online. Whether you are able to attend a group or not you may wish to investigate this:
Living in Love and Faith materials are available at https://www.churchofengland.org/LLF You can download a pdf version of the book and/or access a wide range of videos and other materials and it’s all free.