At the heart of the Bishops' response to the Living in Love and Faith process is the assertion that the doctrine of Holy Matrimony is not changing and that the Prayers of Love and Faith proposed by the bishops are not contrary to this doctrine.
Yesterday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally addressed General Synod.
Her job? To set out the background to the bishops’ decisions and set the tone for the discussions that will take place over the next couple of days.
Her qualification? She is the Chair of the 'Next Steps' group, who advised the bishops on their response to Living in Love and Faith.
Her argument? She set out seven strands of the bishops’ thinking - the focus of this blog is the second:
"Second, we have acknowledged and recognise the urgent necessity for pastoral change in welcoming and celebrating the Christian virtues of faithfulness, mutual love and lifelong commitment of so many same-sex couples in our churches and in wider society. That is what the Prayers of Love and Faith aim to enable.
They do so without changing the Church’s doctrine of holy matrimony. That is because they do not set the couple’s relationship in the context of a biblical and theological understanding of marriage and they do not use any of the liturgical material of the Church of England’s authorised services of marriage."
But the problem is they do – and they do so repeatedly.
This is a screenshot of the third Prayer of Love and Faith, "For the Gift of Love," in its original context – Common Worship (which forms part of the authorised liturgy of the Church of England):
And here is the fourth, "For guidance," originally from Common Worship: "Marriage Service within a Celebration of Holy Communion":
And the fifth, "For the fruit of the Spirit," which was hidden in the Common Worship Supplementary Texts for the Marriage Service:
These Supplementary texts were clearly a rich source of inspiration – with at least five more prayers from this part of Common Worship appearing in Prayers of Love and Faith - "Grace to Live Well", "Faithfulness and Peace", "Discipleship", "Healing of Memory" and "Support of Friends".
And finally, at the end of the proposed Service of the Word is the Dismissal – picked straight from the Marriage Service.
Is it possible that Rt Revd Sarah Mullally has not been properly briefed?
Or, that she had not even glanced at the written answers to questions, sent to every Synod member, where the source of each of the prayers had been set out by the Bishop of Lichfield.
Or, is this simply another example of the sophistry which surrounds the bishops’ proposals?
Who do they think they are kidding?