Personal stories of modern Christian relationships featured in a special presentation on Living in Love and Faith given to the June meeting of Synod.
The Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, led the hour-long session on the Church of England’s invitation to all worshippers to consider questions of sexuality, gender and identity within our communities.
Backed by a book, courses and a library of more than 300 resources, Bishop Helen-Ann set out three ways in which Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is a radical new approach.
She said firstly, it was part of the bigger framework of the Christian understanding of ‘being human’, then that LLF is about learning together – acknowledging complexity and understanding different perspectives better
Thirdly, it aims to engage the whole church in learning that feeds into discernment and decision-making.
“The Bible has a lot to say about what it means to be human, but so do other disciplines therefore LLF takes a multidisciplinary approach (Bible, theology - but also sociology, biological sciences, history) which enriches our understanding,” Bishop Helen-Ann said.
“This is always against the backdrop of real life stories to remind us these matters affect people profoundly.”
Supported by LLF Advocates from across the diocese, Synod members watched three films that captured the differing relationships people have with the church and went into Zoom break-out rooms to discuss initial thoughts.
Courses start soon and on Saturday, June 19 there will be a webinar for clergy in our diocese led by Dr Eeva John, the national enabling officer for LLF.
A new web section with advice and links to national resources can be found here
Bishop Helen-Ann said the goal was to learn together about complex matters and different perspectives and thus deepen our understanding of who God is and who we are.
“But doing so is not easy!” She said. “It can be painful and we can easily offend one another and fool ourselves.
“So we need the pastoral principles as a way of examining ourselves as individuals and as a church – so that we can truly learn, listen to each other and listen to God.
“It’s about learning in ways that are braver and safer.”
In his Presidential Address to Synod, Bishop Nick endorsed this new era of engagement.
“Some people have assumed that LLF is aimed at smuggling in a decision to change the church’s teaching or to simply bolster the status quo.
“In fact, LLF is about bringing together Christians of different experience, conviction and perspective in order to place argument or discussion within relationship.
“It might be that no one changes their mind on these issues; but, it is hoped that their mind, attitude and thinking might at the very least be shaped by new relationships that allow honesty, integrity and faithful belief to be heard, witnessed and appreciated for what it is,” he said.