Christian teaching and learning about human identity, sexuality and marriage.
Why is the Church doing this?
The Living in Love and Faith project is propelled by the Church’s desire to learn how relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of a humanity that is liberated by Jesus Christ and infused by the Spirit to reflect the image of God in which we are created.
Perspectives on gender, identity and sexuality are evolving and the Church wants to explore these matters by studying what the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences have to say. We hope to stimulate thinking and learning that helps us to understand what it means to embody a Christian vision of living in love and faith in our culture. The project is led by the bishops because of their particular responsibility for upholding and teaching the Christian 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. These are vital matters which affect the wellbeing of individuals and communities and which have a profound spiritual dimension founded on the truth that every human being is of infinite value in God’s sight.
That is why this project involves many people across the Church and beyond, bringing together a great diversity and depth of expertise, conviction and experience. We believe that the Holy Spirit will be active among us as we pray, study and deliberate together to discover Christ’s call to the Church today. We do this with a deep sense of hopefulness for a future in which Christians can follow Christ together joyfully, fruitfully and with integrity.
What are we hoping for?
We hope to produce resources that will help bishops to inspire people to think more deeply both about what it means to be human, and to live in love and faith with one another. It will tackle the tough questions and the divisions among Christians about what it means to be holy in a society in which understandings and practices of gender, sexuality and marriage continue to change.
We are planning to produce a range of resources in a variety of formats that we hope will be accessible, helpful and attractive to a wide range of people.
We are inviting everyone involved in producing and engaging with the resources to do so with a desire to see Christ in one another as we forge deeper relationships with people from whom we differ. We are embarking on this project with an openness to being surprised and challenged by what it means to be the body of Christ in England in the 21st century.
Who is involved?
A study of this breadth and depth involves bringing together many minds, voices, areas of expertise and different skills. In this first phase of work, four groups have been formed to explore issues of human identity, sexuality and marriage through the lenses of the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences. A co-ordinating group is overseeing and drawing together the work of these groups as well as engaging with other churches and other faith communities. The Terms of Reference exhorts all these groups
“to work prayerfully, attending faithfully to holy scripture and acknowledging its authority, within the community, tradition and pastoral practice of the Church in the reality of the world using God’s gifts of reason and wisdom shaped by the Spirit, in order to seek and discern the mind of Christ for the Church and the world.”
The Living in Love and Faith project is commissioned by the House of Bishops. For this reason the groups are chaired by bishops and the Co-ordinating Group has five bishops as members, in addition to consultants (who are not bishops). The project is led by the Bishop of Coventry, who chairs the Co-ordinating Group, and involves regular engagement with bishops.
Who else will participate and why?
The Living in Love and Faith project will make connections with the faith stories, views and experiences of people, so that the resources are relevant to people’s lives today. We will involve people of different ages, ethnicities, theological convictions, and sexualities and genders by inviting dioceses and a range of organisations to suggest individuals whose stories and perspectives it would be valuable for the project to hear.
The Church of England
The project is led by the House of Bishops and will involve regular opportunities for members of the General Synod to be informed about and contribute to the work that we are doing.
The Anglican Communion
The Church of England is one of many Anglican Churches around the world which together form the Anglican Communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as its spiritual leader. Given the divergence of views about human sexuality and marriage within the Anglican Communion, the Church of England wants to ensure that her sister churches are not only kept informed about this significant initiative but are offered the opportunity to respond and contribute to it as it is developing. Our intention is to complete the Living in Love and Faith resources shortly before the Lambeth Conference 2020.
We want, above all, to listen to and learn from the experiences, perspectives and wisdom of our brothers and sisters. It is hoped that in so doing, the Living in Love and Faith resources will reflect the reality of the Church’s diversity sensitively, knowledgeably and respectfully. We also intend to weave insights from the global church into these reflections.
The Church of England is bound together with other Christian Churches in a common inheritance of faith, love of Jesus Christ and life in the Holy Spirit. Some of our relationships with other churches have a formal character while others are looser associations. We want to continue to strengthen all of these relationships by sharing about the Living in Love and Faith project with other churches, learning from and engaging with them as we produce the resources.
Other faith communities
The Church of England’s historic role in the life and constitution of England gives it a particular responsibility towards the many Faith Communities that make up the vibrant religious scene of our country today. We plan to update and share information about the Living in Love and Faith project with our partners from other religions so that we can deepen our relationships and grow in mutual understanding. We recognise that just as there are a range of voices within our own church, it will be important for us to listen to a range of voices from within the range of different religious communities.
How and when will the resources be completed?
The goal is to complete the Living in Love and Faith resources by early 2020. This will make it possible for the material to be used as a resource for the Lambeth Conference in July 2020. The Lambeth Conference is a conference that takes place approximately every 10 years and brings together all the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion churches. Members of the Church of England’s General Synod will also be able to reflect on the resources in their meetings in February and July 2020.
The bishops are committed to developing the project in a way that enables people to be informed and involved throughout the project’s development. Members of General Synod and other stakeholders of the Church of England, will be invited to participate at regular intervals in the process.
Get in touch
The Living in Love and Faith project is supported by a number of staff within Church House and Lambeth Palace. Please use the form below if you have any questions or suggestions.