Something very special is going on at the heart of the Church of England. A project is underway which might just prove to be utterly transformative of the way we do things. Living in Love and Faith is the CofE’s major project on identity and sexuality, but in fact at its heart is something much more fundamental to our faith: how to love each other better by listening to and understanding others; how to move forward united by our love for Jesus when we disagree fundamentally on some important issues.
Churches and individuals who are engaging with LLF are often surprised by the high quality of the book, videos, podcasts and course at its heart. It is evidence of how unbiased it is, that both staunch traditionalists and determined liberals are equally convinced that there is a foregone conclusion in view.
LLF has pioneered six Pastoral Principles
(1) Acknowledge prejudice
(2) Speak into silence
(3) Address ignorance
(4) Cast out fear
(5) Admit hypocrisy
(6) Pay attention to power
These principles flow out of gospel values. It is not hard to see that, if we can learn to use them well, we can transform how the Church handles difference in other areas too.
The Guildford Diocese LLF team (me, Chris Bessant, Cathy Blair, Patrick Butler, Sally Davies, Jane Jones and Jane Schofield) are in touch with all twelve of our deaneries to encourage everyone to engage with LLF.
Anyone can log into the LLF website and watch sixteen videos where Christians describe their own journeys as individuals or couples with remarkable vulnerability and honesty. That will take you 80 minutes and you will hear experiences that you have never heard before. The book can be downloaded free and the podcasts are an accessible way to study further. The LLF Course is extremely well produced and walks you gently but clearly through all these thorny issues. I have heard clergy who vary theologically say that it has transformed their approach to listening to others.
Issues of identity and sexuality have divided the Church of England for over 30 years, and they are not going away. LLF gives us a package of tools to transform the way we have these challenging conversations in our churches and in the wider Church. So yes, LLF is a conspiracy: a conspiracy to help us love Jesus and our neighbours better.
Mark Wallace, Vicar of St Mary of Bethany Church, Woking.