We want to ensure that the resources make connections with the questions, faith stories, views and experiences of people who span a range of ages, ethnicities, theological convictions, sexualities and genders.
In order to do so we are extending the reach of the Living in Love and Faith project to people and churches across the country. We have created a process for identifying individuals and listening to how these matters impact their lives and relationships, as well as finding out what kinds of resources they would find helpful in living out their calling as disciples of Christ.
In partnership with the Pastoral Advisory Group we are also gathering examples of good practice by listening to churches’ own stories about how they live out what the Archbishops describe as a ‘new radical Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it’.
Why are we extending the reach of the Living in Love and Faith project and the work of the Pastoral Advisory Group?
The Wider Participation work is to make sure that these two projects are earthed in the lived experiences of churches and individuals. We want to listen to and gather the stories and concerns of all kinds of people and churches. It is not a consultation or a comprehensive survey of people’s views about sexuality, gender, marriage and related matters.
Rather, the lived realities of these stories and perspectives will be brought into conversation with the insights of the Christian tradition. In its simplest form, we are curating a conversation in which scripture and theology (and history, the sciences and other disciplines) ask questions of our experiences and practices as individuals and churches, and our experiences and practices ask questions of theology and biblical studies (and other disciplines). It is in this ’encounter’ that we anticipate significant learning to emerge.
We are inviting people in churches to an open conversation about their life together, as well as asking them:
- how (and whether) LGBTI+ people experience welcome and inclusion in their church community?
- what might others learn from their experience?
- what issues remain unresolved and painful, or perhaps unspoken?
Similarly, in the context of inviting an open conversation with individuals, we also want to hear about
- the kinds of resources they would find appealing and help them to think and learn more deeply about human identity, sexuality, gender, family, friendship, singleness, relationships and marriage.
- the questions they and their peers have about these matters in the context of our church and culture today.
- aspects of their faith journey and life story that they are willing to share.
How were churches and individuals chosen?
- We invited all diocesan bishops to consult with their colleagues to select a few individuals and churches that represent a variety of perspectives and lived experiences.
- We invited a number of organisations to take part, realising that they have a unique reach and access to individuals and churches that otherwise may not be identified through ‘official’ church contacts. These are the organisations we contacted:
- Accepting Evangelicals
- Church of England Evangelical Council
- Diverse Church
- Inclusive Church
- LGBTI Mission
- Living Out | True Freedom Trust
- Open Table Network
- Society of Catholic Priests | Affirming Catholicism | Anglican Catholic Future
- Society of the Holy Cross
- The Ozanne Foundation
- The Sibyls
We gathered the names of 89 churches and 147 individuals
The Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics agreed to act as an independent selector to identify 20 church communities and 40 individuals with whom we could engage in face to face meetings. She was asked to ensure the selection included as much diversity as possible in relation to sexuality, gender identity and relationship status.
We are sorry that it is not possible for us to meet everyone personally, but we would value hearing from all the individuals and churches that have been identified, so we will invite them to make a written submission to the Living in Love and Faith project.
For individuals these characteristics relate to:
- Sexuality - heterosexual | gay | lesbian |same sex attracted | bisexual
- Biological sex - female | male | intersex
- Gender identity - male | female | transgender | non-binary | asexual | fluid | queer
- Relationship - married | same-sex married | civil partnered | cohabiting | single
- Socioeconomic context
The conversations are likely to bring to light a range of other circumstances that have not been listed here, such as those of divorced or widowed people, or parents / children / spouses / partners of LGBTQI+ people. If, at the end of the first phase of meetings, we find that some voices are missing, we will seek ways to identify such individuals and meet with them and/or invite them to send written contributions.
We are also keen to ensure the voices of laity as well as clergy are heard and plan for at least one third of the individuals we meet with to be lay.
In work of this kind we recognise that no one person’s lived experience is representative of another’s: every story is unique. Our hope is that the stories that are entrusted to us are a means of conveying something of the wisdom we crave for exploring and discovering the mind of Christ regarding these fundamental aspects of our human existence.
For churches these characteristics relate to whether the churches are:
- Inner city | urban | rural
- North | South
- Liberal | Conservative | Unaligned
- Evangelical | Evangelical Charismatic | Middle | Catholic | Traditional Catholic
These church communities and individuals are now being contacted to arrange face to face meetings between October 2018 to March 2019. Church communities and individuals that have not been selected will be invited to send us written contributions.
We have followed the Church’s ethical policies and procedures throughout this work to ensure informed consent, to protect anonymity and confidentiality, to conform to GDPR, and to ensure the ethical conduct of interviews. Naturally, participants will be given the option of choosing whether or not they wish their contributions to be anonymous.