What is Living in Love and Faith?
Living in Love and Faith is a process initiated by the Church of England in 2017 to consider questions of sexuality, relationship and marriage. Over five years everyone was invited to come together to learn and listen to one and other and to God.
The findings of the responses to this churchwide engagement were published in September 2022 under the title, ‘Listening with Love and Faith’. A resource, ‘Friendship and the Body of Christ’, was also published to encourage reflection and conversations about what it means to be church with diversity and difference. They can be found here.
What was the outcome of this consultation process?
The College of Bishops gathered on three occasions between September 2022 and January 2023 to agree on outcomes from this process.
The proposals, announced on 18 January, offer the fullest possible pastoral provision for all relationships without changing the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony. This would be provided through a range of draft prayers, known as Prayers of Love and Faith, which could be used voluntarily in churches for couples who have marked a significant stage of their relationship such as a civil marriage or civil partnership.
Same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church but could have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership.
The formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorised liturgies – that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life – would not change.
The prayers would be optional for ministers to use or not and could be used in different combinations reflecting the theological diversity of the Church.
The House of Bishops met in October and agreed in principle that the prayers should be commended for use. They decided that special standalone services for the blessing of same sex relationships should be considered by General Synod in 2025 after consultation with all diocese through their synods.
What happened at the most recent General Synod?
These decisions were taken to General Synod in November, where, after very lengthy debate, a motion was agreed that said:
That this Synod, conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by Living in Love and Faith, that we are in a period of uncertainty, and that many in the Church on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis, on the timescale envisaged by the motion passed by the Synod in February 2023.
The voting on this motion was:
Bishops: 23 for, 10 against, 4 abstained
Clergy: 100 for, 93 against, 1 abstained
Laity: 104 for, 100 against, 0 abstained
What will happen now?
This means that the Prayers in Love and Faith will be commended for use in ordinary church services. It is likely this will happen around mid- December.
The standalone services will be put forward for consideration under Canon B2. This is a legal process that will take approximately 2 years and will involve all diocese being asked to debate the matter in their synods.
In the meantime, standalone services may be introduced on a trial basis sooner than this under a different legal process (Canon B5A).
To find out more about General Synod see here.
For more information on the General Synod and the diocese members see here.
You can find out more about the Living in Love and Faith journey here.
If you wish to discuss the LLF process or you are finding it is affecting you personally, you are welcome to contact our team of LLF Chaplains, led by the Bishop's Chaplain Steve Benoy, who represent a diverse range of views and experience. Email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org to put you in contact with an appropriate Chaplain.