top of page
Search

GS2328 – Living in Love and Faith – November -A brief summary

Updated: Oct 23, 2023



Today the Church of England published "GS 2328 - Living in Love and Faith - setting out the progress made and work still to do", a 108 page document. It outlines the plans for introducing the Prayers of Love and Faith and the pastoral guidance and pastoral reassurance which will accompany them.

This is a quick summary for those without the time or inclination to read the whole document.

 

“The motion agreed by Synod in February has shaped the space within which this work has been conducted; a space where the Pastoral Principles are embedded in our life as a church and in which there is a commitment to continued learning together relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The motion also committed to new guidance and prayers for the blessing of same-sex relationships being issued but with no change to the doctrine of marriage, and no change contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.”

The Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) have now been divided into three sections:

1. Prayers for covenanted friendships – the bishops have agreed to commend these prayers.

Covenant friendship is defined as:

“Covenanted friendships are relationships of an entirely different nature to marriage. Those who wish to seal a covenanted friendship may be of the same sex or opposite sexes. The friends may be married to other people, or unmarried. The friendship is by definition not sexually intimate. It will likely be expressed in practical forms of sharing aspects of life together. As with all friendships, care will need to be taken to identify the nature of the covenant and how the bonds of covenanted friendship will complement other friendships and (where relevant) the bonds of marriage.” (p12 pdf)

The issue of covenanted friendship / marriage is explored further in the pastoral guidance:

“Covenants with respect to friendship are of a fundamentally different nature to a marriage covenant, and this difference needs to be explored thoroughly. If a person seeking to enter a covenanted friendship is married, it would be good practice to explore how this different type of covenant may impact or enrich the distinct and still deeper covenant of marriage to which they are already committed.” (p57 pdf 1.2.7)

2. Prayers of Love and Faith Resources

For same-sex couples "who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God” – the bishops have agreed to commend these prayers on the basis that they are used “as part of a regular service” that does not have the “PLF as their principal focus or structure.” (p5 pdf para 3)

But the couple can wear wedding attire, choose readings and music; certificates can be designed to mark the occasion (p 59 pdf 1.3.4-1.3.6)

3. Standalone services for same-sex couples will be subject to a formal liturgical process under Canon B2 – with a formal consultation in the dioceses and a long synodical process – with a final vote requiring two-thirds majority in each house in planned to take place in November 2025.

Work has been done to provide a theological justification for the PLF:

On the basis that, “it is a pastoral outworking for a time of uncertainty that respects the Church of England’s unchanged doctrine of marriage, ” and that it does not indicate a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.

‘On any essential matter’ are words introduced to the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure – to “enable the Synod to make small changes in matters which are regarded as doctrinal, provided that the essential doctrines of the Church of England are safeguarded.”

The Cornes amendment to the motion in February 2023 did not include the words “in any essential matter” but this appears to have been ignored.

Here are a few quotes to give an indication of the ‘theological underpinnings’

“The PLF were conceived of as a genuine pastoral response to a particular, very focused question regarding long-term, faithful, committed, exclusive same-sex relationships between Christians who are seeking to live as faithfully as then can as Christians and LGBTQI+ people. The PLF fall short of speaking of the entire relationship as a way of life, which makes them very different to marriage.” (p94 of pdf)

“The House of Bishops Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage in 2014 states, ‘As we said in our response to the consultation prior to the same sex marriage legislation, "the proposition that same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. Same sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity…., two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage. The Church of England seeks to see those virtues maximised in society" (p97 of pdf)

“The Church is called to be a community seeking to discern God’s faithful and holy love in action. God’s action in history never fails to surprise – by taking root in unexpected places and among unexpected people. While there remain significant disagreements about the extent to which committed, exclusive and faithful LGBT+ relationships carry within them the goods of holy and faithful relationships, the Prayer of Love and Faith are offered in recognition of the hope, promise and joy those relationships can show forth.” (P97 of pdf)

“Grace within the pastoral provision may be first and foremost grace towards one another, in recognition of our common humanity, our common frailty, and our collective not-knowing. It is a choice to care tenderly for one another, by listening to those who say that the traditional discipline of the Church has laid unbearable burdens upon them, which, they, after careful prayer and study, do not think are justified; and it is listening carefully to those who, after equal prayer and study, still think that the traditional teaching and discipline of the Church are right, and life-giving, and cannot be moved away from, even if the change is a change in pastoral practice rather than a formal change of doctrine. Grace is what is leading us towards trying to find ways to enable every member of the Church to live as faithfully as they can at a time when we have not discerned a common way forward.” (p99 of pdf)

The marriage service therefore blesses an individual couple, and affirms marriage as a ‘good’ within which blessing is more likely to be experienced in its fullness. This understanding of marriage does not preclude the possibility of other relationships being good, or warranting some form of blessing, but it does set aside marriage as a distinctive form of life. The Book of Common Prayer refers to this way of life as ‘the estate of marriage’. The PLF, in contrast, identify goods that bear a family resemblance to marriage, but do not define a specific way of life in its entirety as a way of blessing – there is no definition of a specific ‘estate’. As such, it gives a different context to the PLF and its optional prayer of blessing. The blessing of the PLF is a blessing on people, as with all other blessings. It is a prayer for God’s action to bring flourishing and fruitfulness, and enables the Church to stand alongside a couple to affirm their desire to walk more closely into the ways of God, and receive the blessings of the Kingdom. (p106 of pdf)


Pastoral guidance has been provided which has a number of implications for churches and clergy:

1. The decision to use or not use the prayers has been delegated to the local church - so though clergy are entitled not to use them the guidance says:

"While this more informal use of the PLF as part of regular worship is left to the discretion of the minister, it would be wise for them to discuss use in public services with their PCC and work within the tradition and sensitivities of their local context. A conversation with the PCC would need to be conducted according to the Pastoral Principles.” (p47 pdf 1.11)

“Using commended prayers as part of regular worship can only happen at the discretion of the minister with the cure of souls. No minister can ever be forced to use the prayers against their conscience. Ministers who use commended prayers must ensure that they comply with the requirement that they should not seek to replicate or imply an equivalence with Holy Matrimony, and, if they are not the minister with the cure of souls, must obtain permission to do so.” (p51 pdf 1.18)

"While use of the commended prayers from the resource sections of the PLF is down to the incumbent, it would be very wise for this decision to be discussed with the PCC, with some consultation with the wider congregation, and made known ahead of time. (p60 pdf 2.1.1)

“When there are deep differences, it can be helpful for the parties involved to take space for de escalating conflict and reflect prayerfully. This might entail a season in which a vicar and PCC are advised to take a period of time for prayer and further learning before considering again questions about the use of PLF. During this time, the disagreeing parties might undertake the LLF course together, and/or the Pastoral Principles course, or even simply agree to hold a time when the matter is not on the agenda… Bringing in outside trained facilitators would also be important, but would need to be at the invitation of/with the agreement of the incumbent. If differences over the PLF and the wider questions it connects to threaten a pastoral breakdown between clergy and PCC, the archdeacon should be brought in at the earliest opportunity.” (p64-5 pdf 2.2.2)

2. Churches should be ‘transparent about their intentions’

“For churches that choose a more limited approach, they will need to decide how far they explain this in their public presence (such as social media), and how to respond pastorally to questions from those who ask. Transparency and honesty, with kindness and generosity, are strongly recommended. Specific wording should be thought through locally and reflect the particular concerns of the parish, and make every effort to be positive without being misleading.” – suggested wording will be provided.

Churches should strive for a position of maximum transparency over their practice, so that couples who attend the church regularly would know what the stated position is, and those who are not regular attenders would be able to find out easily. It would be helpful to be clear about how far a church may go – would they offer private prayers at all, private prayers only, prayers as part of regular Sunday worship – as well as what they will not do (a standalone service following a civil ceremony, or using prayers of blessing). However, no church is required to make their position known.”

There is no formal or legal requirement for local churches to make the whole of their theological views known. Detailed statements on websites may not be the best way to convey information about deeply sensitive, pastoral matters, but this needs to be balanced by concerns for transparency, and care for those looking for a church that will welcome them….If a church does not offer the PLF, it would be pastorally appropriate to have DRAFT details of how couples can contact someone to help them find a church that does (the deanery or diocesan point of contact). (p61-62pdf 2.1.3)

3. If a couple ask for a blessing clergy will be expected to explain their position – without coercion or judgement

“If an enquiry is made from outside the regular congregation, an appropriate pastoral response needs to be made, which explains the reasons for not offering the prayers or service that a couple is requesting, without trying to coerce a couple into the church’s own perspective.” (p 52pdf 1.1.10)

“Contact with a couple should always be sensitive and generous, and avoid becoming judgemental or coercive. Local churches need to be aware that, whatever their reasons, and however well they try to explain them, the simple fact of saying ‘no’ can be taken as deep rejection and judgement. Entering into protracted conversations or arguments over this is not appropriate.” (p 53pdf 1.1.10)

“If an enquiry is made from within the regular congregation, it is possible that messaging is unclear about what the church would or would not offer out of the suite of resources. It could also indicate a lack of transparency over doctrine and teaching, and reveal how much diversity there often is in most churches, even when the leadership assume that the majority or totality of a church agrees with them. It would be helpful for local leaders to reflect on how they can engage the wider congregation in thinking about questions of sexuality, and on how ministry can take into account the reality of diversity within the congregation in the most appropriate way. An open, pastorally sensitive conversation should be had, where the couple’s perspective can be expressed safely, whether they decide to stay within the church and abide by its teaching, stay within the church and live with difference but still seek the service they long for in another church, or decide to move to another church.” ((p 53pdf 1.1.10)

4. If a couple ask for a blessing clergy will be expected to signpost them to a church that will offer the service

The couple should be signposted to a church that offers the type of service they are looking for, or to the deanery or diocesan point of contact who could do so. Every diocese has a responsibility to ensure that a system is in place to facilitate this. Whether a list and point of contact are available at deanery, area or diocesan level will be dependent on local context, sensitivities and capacity.” (p52pdf 1.1.10

5. Engagement with church schools

“The Prayers of Love and Faith have been authorised for use but not everyone will agree they should be used or want to use them, and School leaders must recognise the validity of these different positions within the Church of England."

"All relationships between schools and their parish churches and clergy should be built on mutual trust and understanding. This should include understanding and respecting the different contexts of school and parish and the particular legal responsibilities which schools exercise towards their students, staff and other stakeholders."

"At times a school may need to hold a range of views together including those of clergy, staff and parents and be a role model for good disagreement. The Pastoral Principles developed as part of the Living in Love and Faith process provide a framework for good disagreement. Whilst ultimately the guidance and the law (referenced above) must take precedence over the range of views that exist locally, school leaders will need to carefully navigate these situations and ensure that their response is proportionate. Where disagreements exist which require mediation or further support, a school should call upon the expertise within its Diocesan Board of Education.” (p67-68 pdf 2.4.1)

"All governors, regardless of how they hold office, should understand their duties under the relevant legislation. Many organisations have role descriptions in place for all governors and trustees and will ask office holders to subscribe to a code of conduct which will often be linked to the Seven Principles of Public Life (The Nolan Principles) and may contain explicit reference to the Equality Act." (p69 pdf 2.4.3)


Pastoral reassurance is still being decided upon

But these are the suggestions made:

A statement or ‘declaration’ by bishops outlining how bishops intend to behave, the establishment of a Pastoral Consultative Group and an Independent Reviewer – (Sound familiar anyone?)

Legal protection for clergy -

Who use the prayers:

“Therefore, it is possible that someone objecting to the use of the Prayers in a particular circumstance could bring a legal action – most likely under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure (EJM) 1963 – against a minister for using the Prayers. This might be on the basis of a claim that the PLF themselves are unlawful because (it might be claimed) they are contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England, or indicative of a departure from doctrine in an essential matter. The House has considered this question, and its views are set out in Annex A. However, it should be noted that the views of the House, expressed in this paper and implied in its act of commending the PLF resources, do not provide an absolute defence against proceedings. Provided the minister had used the PLF resources in accordance with the Pastoral Guidance relevant at that time, any minister subject to such a complaint could cite the House’s view in his or her defence; but it would be for a tribunal or court to make a final decision.” (p75 para 13+14)

Who are challenged for not using the prayers

“The Equality Act does not regulate religious worship and so is not applicable to the use of the PLF.” (p77 para 22)

Legal protection for lay people –

Working in churches that offer PLF but they disagree

“If the PLF are being used in the context of a regular act of worship, this would be more complicated, especially in the case of an organist or member of the choir if they have a contract, and especially in smaller churches where there may not be other organists available locally, even at deanery level. In both cases, a pastoral conversation with the lay people involved, which respects their conscience, would need to happen with a view to reach an agreement on the way forward. If employment issues arise, advice should be taken from the archdeacon and/or the diocesan registrar.”(p65-66 2.2.8)

Holding offices in church that a secular employer objects to

“A specific concern that has been mentioned is whether lay Christians may find themselves discriminated against, on the grounds of their beliefs, by their employer or in other non-church contexts – for example, an employer arguing that an employee who is a church officer in a church that takes a conservative view on LLF is behaving in a way that conflicts with the employer’s values or expectations, and either disciplining or even dismissing the employee.”

The Church of England could not of course prevent employers from taking action in this way. An employee so affected would have a case for defence under the Equality Act; though for the employee, having to sue their ex employer for unfair dismissal and discrimination is much less satisfactory than the employer not seeking to dismiss them in the first place. The Church cannot prevent such discrimination happening, nor can it undertake to stand behind everyone who claims such discrimination.

But the Church could choose – as part of its pastoral reassurance package – to seek to shape discussions about these issues, and to discourage any such discrimination.” (Further work to be done) (p78-9 para 31-33)

Need for “good behaviour” by clergy/churches

“It is important to note that, while it is appropriate that religious beliefs are protected locally, they cannot be put forward in ways that will be experienced as harmful and distressing. Irrespective of theological beliefs it is paramount that a church’s behaviour is not experienced as homophobic by those with whom they engage.”

“For example, it may be argued that the promise to “support” clergy and laity from a particular church tradition should be made conditional on those people “behaving well”, including speaking well of others from other church traditions. But some might say that making the support “conditional on good behaviour” means that support is, in practice, at the discretion of the bishop and can be given or withheld according to their preference. On the other hand, certain rules of “good behaviour” may need to be established in advance as part of any overall settlement. For example, it might be a rule that churches which are deliberately withholding their parish share should not expect to benefit from the full level of support normally expected to be offered to them.”

Formal structural pastoral provision

The bishops have “agreed to further urgent work exploring “formal structural pastoral provision” for churches and individuals” for whom “the introduction of the PLF is a matter of serious concern, requiring legal protection against being forced to use the PLF and a clear way of distinguishing their different views” (p79 pdf para 35)

A range of ideas are then described, but the report continues,

“In committing to carefully explore and consider how such provision might be taken forward, the House is not at this stage advocating for formal structural pastoral provision.

Many key policy questions remain to be considered and answered in this further work, including: how much, if any, delegation of functions, and whether that is a national policy or a policy which could vary across dioceses or regions.

The House recognised that these issues are contentious; that many would be opposed to such delegated oversight; and that for others they would not appear sufficient, falling short of more radical proposals put forward by some. They would, in any case, pose questions of ecclesiology and about the underlying theology of Church – or of being one Church. In considering these questions, the House will need to reflect on the theology of unity and how far that must condition this work. Nonetheless the House has asked for further work to be done on these issues.

All the further work described in this section will need to involve engagement with those directly affected, from a range of church traditions. (p81pdf para 35-38)

 

What happens at General Synod in November?


Several sessions have been set aside for informal and formal discusison and debate, culminating in a vote (which will require 50% (probably of all three houses) on this motion (though it is likely to be amended during the debate)


The Bishop of London to move:

‘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 feel pain 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, and encourage the House to continue its work of implementation.’


With thanks to Evelyn Clement from Unsplash for the background image


 

Anglican Futures offers practical and pastoral support to faithful Anglicans

If you would like to hear more:

subscribe to our regular emails



2,352 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All

4 Comments


Guest
Nov 03, 2023

I am shocked, but not surprised, that I have yet to read of anyone referring to the Council of Jerusalem as described in Acts 15 in the context of LLF/PLF. The conduct of the bishops in conducting all their discussions behind closed doors contrasts unfavourably with what diplomats would call the "full and frank exchange of views" that took place in Jerusalem.


Acts 15:12 refers to the signs and wonders that God had done through Barnabas and Paul as they ministered among the Gentiles. In our own day, the vast majority of growing churches are those in which God's teaching is proclaimed faithfully and in which signs and wonders are given by God to attest to that teaching. By contrast,…


Like

Guest
Oct 30, 2023

As a local vicar I'm very worried at the position this puts parish clergy in. Whatever the Bishops do or don't say, all of the interface with both parishioners, and the PCC and church members is on the shoulders of the vicar. The vicar, and the vicar alone, will be responsible for steering discussions within the churches they run (according to the dreadful 'pastoral principles', which seem to have acquired gospel status without every having been critiqued or scrutinised), communicating the position of the church to the public, and dealing with enquiries from the parish. If all this goes through, the parish clergy will end up as a human shield for the compromises of the House of Bishops.

Like
Guest
Nov 02, 2023
Replying to

Organists who do not wish to play for services where the use of PLF is intended seem to have no protection against retaliatory lawsuits on the grounds of discrimination. Expect resignations or retirements.

Like
bottom of page