Review: A Deep Dive into Identity, Sexuality and Relationships

15 January 2021

Living in Love & Faith: Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage
Church House Publishing (2020)

This book is a teaching and learning manual about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage compiled for each and every one of us. It is not just for members of the clergy, for Synod enthusiasts, for those who have a ‘weird’ interest in church ideas or theology. It is for us. For many reasons, it is vital for the Church.

 

The Dean and Chapter of Exeter have responded swiftly to the appeal from both Archbishops (thank you), and will provide opportunities for us to enrich our understanding, widen the breadth of our discernment on matters to do with sexuality, relationships and marriage in our life of faith.

This working party was set up after two major events, linked to these issues, which threatened the unity of the church; one Lambeth Conference ended in chaos, and then in 2017 the General Synod did not accept a report from the House of Bishops on this subject. A few weeks after that vote, a joint letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York 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.’ This book, the videos, the podcasts and the course are the result of that challenge.

40 people have worked tirelessly for three years, with such dedication, courage, and integrity, and at great personal cost, on our behalf.

As a lay woman, who cares deeply for the ongoing health, mission and integrity of the church, I want to honour that courage and dedication. They deserve our respect and commitment in return. This will challenge us all.

The structure of the book is designed to be flexible: There are five parts; each part has several chapters; there are ‘real life’ encounters between each section, which serve to connect with the present experience of people living in faith now.

The welcome in the book invites the reader to start at any section, adding that ‘Wherever you choose to start we hope that you will want to read the other parts of the book too.’ There are other resources, which can be found by the curious, online at www.churchofengland.org/LLF. There are some very moving and courageous videos.

Significantly, the book has a question as the heading of each section. This is categorically not the book with the answer. It is an invitation to join a journey of seeking God’s will and the grace of the Spirit to be instrumental in the ministry of finding God’s Kingdom on earth by study, by dedication, on pilgrimage and in love.

The following gives an idea of the structure.

    • Part One – Reflecting: what have we received?
      A section of four chapters examining four gifts: life; life in relationship; marriage; learning;
    • Part Two – Paying attention: what is going on?
      A section with three chapters: society; science; religion
    • Part Three – Making connections: where are we in God’s story?
      A section with five chapters: a story of love and faith with hope; that embraces all of life; about being human; about ways of human loving
    • Part Four – Seeking answers: how do we hear God?
      A section with six chapters examining the Bible; church; creation; cultural context; experience and conscience; prayer and guidance.
    • Part Five
      A section with four chapters; a conversation about marriage; about sex and relationships; about gender identity and transition; about the life of the church

There are infographics which contain some very interesting, and at times dismaying statistics; the coloured background makes it easy to find the information again. It is the result of serious study, using a layout that clarifies much density of information. 

I will not pretend that this is an easy read. However I found it stimulating, challenging and in the end rather exciting. The margins of my copy have all sorts of comments, diagrams and exclamations. That is the way I learn. Get your copy now! We may well have extended lockdown. This can be an absorbing and creative use of time.

– Review by Anne Eyre

Living in Love & Faith costs £19.99 and can be ordered online from Exeter Cathedral Shop, or from Church House Bookshop

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