We are inviting you to take part in a conversation. This conversation will be going on in the Church of England throughout 2021 and it will be crucial for the church’s direction in the coming years. The outcomes could have far-reaching consequences for the mission and unity of the church but this is a conversation that has been going on already for many years.
Sadly, in the past, this has not always been a helpful conversation and has sometimes been conducted in confrontational ways and with polarised views. We can do better. If we are committed to listen to one another, to articulate our own views with love and respect, and to make space for voices we have not heard thus far, we could have a really fruitful encounter. This is a conversation about sexuality and gender.
To help this conversation, the Church of England has developed Living in Love and Faith, a set of resources and a call to talk, listen, and feedback. The resources include a book; a website and learning hub with videos, podcasts, and more; group material to guide the conversation; and ways of feeding reflections back.
The Church says this about Living in Love and Faith:
“The Church of England is keenly aware that issues of gender and sexuality are intrinsic to people’s experience; their sense of identity; their lives and the loving relationships that shape and sustain them. We also know that the life and mission of our Church – and of the worldwide Anglican Communion – are affected by the deep, and sometimes painful, disagreements among us which have been debated and discussed on many occasions over the years.
These divisions have come into sharper focus because of society’s changing perspectives and practices, especially in relation to lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex people. The Church wants to understand what it means to follow Christ in love and faith given the questions about human identity and the variety of patterns of relationship emerging in our society, including marriage, civil partnership, cohabitation, celibacy and friendship.”
The materials in Living in Love and Faith are the result of a collaboration between many people of widely differing views and experiences; many of them share their own stories in videos, books, and podcasts.
So how can you get involved?
- You can buy the book, available from the Cathedral Shop.
- You can create an account on the online learning hub, for access to many materials and to the facility to feedback.
- You can join in a conversation with others in the Cathedral community.
We will introduce these conversations in gatherings on Zoom on Wednesday 3 February and hope that you will come to one of these one hour meetings:
Living in Love and Faith: A Discussion on Zoom, with Exeter Cathedral
11am and 7pm on Wednesday 3 February
Meeting ID: 851 5756 1109
Or from a phone:
Telephone: 0203 051 2874
Meeting ID: 851 5756 1109 Passcode: 983803
These will be followed during Lent by groups, each of which will meet on five occasions. In order to learn to trust one another, it’s really important to commit to the whole conversation. Of course people might have to miss a week, but we’d hope that people will see the five weeks as a whole – and especially that they will see how important it is to be at the start, when we get to know one another, establish trust, and explore what makes a good conversation; without this, the future weeks will not work.
Later in the year, we hope to have further opportunities for more of these conversations. And while we will have to start on Zoom, we hope as the year goes on that some will meet in person, which, we know, many people find easier.
Of course, questions of sexuality and gender are hot topics in our society and world too. They have an added edge in the church because of the ways in which they interact with Christian belief, ethics, and scripture. We must also recognise that they are not just questions; they deeply touch the lives of all Christians, but acutely those who find their gender identity or sexual orientation means they meet with opposition from others. This means that how we handle these questions should be a witness to the world of how to talk well together and how to care for each other even when we disagree.
It is important that you take part. This process will contribute to decision-making in the Church of England in 2022. We can be certain that there are loud voices who wish to be heard during it. We need other voices also to contribute, so that we have as broad, inclusive, and grace-filled listening as possible. Please join in.
Canon Chris Palmer