On Monday 9th October, the House of Bishops met to agree the way forward for Living in Love and Faith. This letter from Bishop David explains the outcome of these discussions.
Dear sisters and brothers,
I am writing to provide you with an update on the recent progress of Living in Love and Faith. I know that many in our diocese have been awaiting further details following the General Synod debate in February, and the meeting of the House of Bishops on Monday has provided more clarity.
I am aware that the LLF process has been and continues to be hugely demanding. It is demanding for those of us who are having to devote significant time and energy, including emotional energy, to teasing out the best way forward. It is demanding too for those outside of the direct conversations, who are deeply invested in the outcome but feel powerless to influence it. It is particularly demanding for our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQIA+ community, for whom these decisions have a direct impact on their lives. Beyond the boundaries of the House and College of Bishops, the confidentiality around the details of progress, necessary to allow ideas to be explored and tested, discarded, or approved, can only add a further level of frustration.
A public statement following the House of Bishops meeting has been shared in a press release that you can find here. In summary:
- Prayers of Love and Faith will be commended by the House of Bishops and available for use in public worship and private prayer. Those who are preparing to offer these prayers to same-sex couples will need to wait a little longer for the details, guidance notes, and the commendation of the suite of prayers.
- Standalone services set out in Prayers of Love and Faith will need to be formally authorised under canon law. This will involve consultation with each Diocesan Synod before being voted on by General Synod in 2025.
- Further work is underway to explore forms of pastoral reassurance and formal structural pastoral provision to ensure the conscience of everyone is respected.
I fully appreciate that our diverse diocese has a broad range of views on these decisions. From those who want to see changes and who long for them to happen quickly, to those who are concerned about the moves being made, and those in our diocese who are ready for us to reach a settled position.
Perhaps the most helpful term that has emerged in our conversations of late is that such decisions as we reach will constitute “pastoral provision in a time of uncertainty”. Individuals of course may be far from uncertain. Many have strong views one way or another. But as a description of our corporate position, it rings true. Nor do I see it as a negative term, such as St Paul uses when referring to a battle trumpet sounding an unclear note.
Rather, this uncertainty is more like that which I studied in my maths degree, where two distinct and valid states have to be presumed to coexist and not collapse too rapidly into one or the other. In the more academic circles I occasionally frequent, we refer to a dimension of religious orientation known as Quest. It describes the attraction of living with questions, committing to the journey of faith without having, or even wanting, to have all the answers. Quest scores typically increase both with the depth of a person’s faith in Jesus, and with age. If the subject interests you further, there’s plenty about it in my book, God’s Belongers!
As a member of the National Living with Difference group, I have the privilege of meeting with those of very diverse views, but who all share a passion for Jesus Christ and his Church. My endeavour remains to find a way forward that, whilst not being anyone’s ideal, will allow us in Manchester, as elsewhere across England, to hold together in the highest degree of fellowship possible. I want to do so whilst assuring those who in conscience find some aspect of our decisions difficult that their flourishing within our Church matters and their place is honoured.
I remain confident that by God’s grace and, to resurrect a phrase beloved of my predecessor, “looking to Jesus”, we can do just that. Please continue to pray for one another, for our whole Church, and for those involved in making these decisions. Thank you for all you continue to do every day for our communities.
Yours in Christ,
+ David Manchester