We have been asked to produce a summary of Update to General Synod of the Implementation Work for Living in Love and Faith GS2303.
We hope this will be helpful. A PDF version is available below.
Introduction (paragraphs 1-8)
The Bishops acknowledge that disagreement exists across the Church of England but that is not just about the prayers themselves but about “theology and ecclesiology.”
The Bishops have been working to implement the motion passed by General Synod in Feb 2023:
Continued acknowledgement of the way that the Church has failed LGBTQIA+ people
Formation of a Faith and Order Commission Working Group to consider theological questions raised by the process
Formation of three working groups – with reports of progress from each
Prayers of Love and Faith
Prayers of Love and Faith (paragraphs 9-13)
The Group received 226 responses in their continuing process of listening and discernment – (148 were classified as generally positive and 78 generally negative). Main concerns raised were that the Prayers of Love and Faith were too much like marriage (60 comments), they don’t go far enough (44 comments) and that more pastoral guidance would be required for their use (42 comments).
Prayers were revised by the Working Group and re-revised after consultation with Bishops in June. Likely to be further change – developing rubrics.
Principles standing behind the Prayers:
They are a suite of resources that are “versatile, varied and customisable to pastoral context.”
Prayers can be used without prayers for God’s blessing.
"We want to provide a joyful opportunity to celebrate what is good and holy in a relationship. The rubrics will make clear their distinction from the liturgies for Holy Matrimony.”
Prayers can only be used with those whose relationship is “demonstrably faithful, exclusive and permanent.”
Decision over how prayers will be commended/or authorised. Currently considering authorisation by approval by Archbishops (Canon B4.2)
Pastoral Guidance (paragraphs 14-20)
Role has been to “translate the mind of the House and College of Bishops into a more detailed and practical outworking.”
They have considered what needs to be included, how it is presented, when it is written and the status of past statements and guidance.
Worked with bishops to get a steer on way forward. “Answers do not presuppose agreement or a univocal statement: answers can be an agreement on the shape of the ‘space’ we agree to inhabit together and how far that space may stretch to include different perspectives and what boundaries there may be.”
There is “a majority desire by bishops that it should be possible to disagree and inhabit a generous theological , ecclesial and pastoral space that holds the church together in different interpretations of the answers to the questions.” They also did not want the implementation to “create a disparate and unpredictable approach across the country.”
The Bishops intend to uphold the doctrine of marriage and a commitment “to provide a generous pastoral response which is loving and celebratory to those in life-long monogamous same-sex committed relationships.”
No steer has been mentioned on the Bishops’ view of sexual intimacy for same-sex couples or whether clergy should be allowed to enter same-sex civil marriages.
Pastoral Reassurance (paragraphs 21-27)
The purpose of the group has been to provide options to the Bishops for pastoral reassurance relating to the use of PLF and wider ecclesiological issues their use raises.
The use of prayers is entirely discretionary – clergy will be free to use some combination of the prayers, or not at all. This is simple where clergy, LLMs and PCCs are “aligned in their desire to offer or not offer” PLF – but more complex where there are a variety of views (in multi-parish benefices, team ministries chaplaincies etc) – it is hoped in such settings – “prayerful discussions” will come to an agreed way forward but if not a process facilitated by Archdeacon or a consultant may be necessary.
A statement will be produced that sets out the collective episcopacy and unity in practice.
They have considered structural approaches that are congruent with:
Maximise mutual working together.
Gospel imperative for church to be one.
Future Work (paragraphs 28-29)
Following report to General Synod, clear proposals will be given to the Bishops to consider both for “authorisation and/or commendation of prayers and providing effective reassurance” – “intended for this work to return to General Synod in November.”
After implementation phase a Pastoral Consultative Group will review and refine the Pastoral Guidance, further theological work by FAOC and other wider work in Annex A of GS2289.
 Bishops – shorthand for House of Bishops and College of Bishops  [Comment] Only changes to the Prayers of Love and Faith appear to be removal of Song of Songs readings from ‘suggested’ readings (though any reading could be used) and the prayers ‘for when rings are worn’ have been combined, with the words “by your blessing” removed.
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