Sunday 26 January
It brought me deep joy yesterday morning to be with a group of clergy and laity on the final day of a two-year programme called THRIVE as they continued to reflect together on what it means to be the Church in their different contexts. At the heart of it is the generous love of God, and as we gathered in a room with a roaring fire, I reflected on continuing to fan into flame the gift of God within us as we live and share the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.
The bishops of the Church of England are also coming towards the end of a two-year programme. ‘Living in Love and Faith‘ is a project which will result in the production of ‘resources that will help the Church to learn how questions about human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture’. It is led by the bishops and therefore I was deeply frustrated and saddened in the way that the House of Bishops statement re civil partnerships was published on Thursday. I recognise that it has fanned into flame unnecessary pain and distress and I wish to acknowledge my part in that.
I cannot deny seeing the content of the statement at the meeting of the House of Bishops in December and in terms of factual content the statement is reiterating that in the light of the recent change in law allowing civil partnerships to be extended to opposite-sex couples, nothing has changed regarding the legal and doctrinal position of the Church of England. There should have been no surprises for anyone in that. However, I am complicit in making wrong assumptions in December and not asking questions about how this statement was to be used. For me, the publication of the statement in cold isolation from anything else, on a seemingly random day and lacking any pastoral ‘surround’ or mention of the Living in Love and Faith’ process, has been perplexing and upsetting. This is even more so as it has been released just days before the College of Bishops convene once more to focus on ‘Living in Love and Faith’ as we stand in the present looking to both the past and the future.
This week the bishops will continue what has been a process of openness, vulnerability, and often robust disagreement in a place of trust and relationship, rooted in scripture, prayer and the vision of the kingdom of God. This is also the week when we will formally leave the EU, and as bishops we have been urging people to fan into flame the spirit of reconciliation. The word ‘love’ emanating from the generous love of God is one that needs to be heard and lived and I am extremely sorry that it has not been heard in the publication of the House of Bishops statement.
This week I will actually be the bishop on duty in the House of Lords and I will be reflecting even more deeply on what it is I should and should not be fanning into flame.
Today many worshipping communities gather as members together of the body of Christ, and in our brokenness we will remember Christ’s body broken for us and for our broken world. As we are nourished in broken bread and wine out-poured may we be sent out to nourish the world, living out Christ’s love and hope among the people and places of our week.
Friday 31 January
Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert commend this statement to you following the recent meeting of the College of Bishops
Statement from Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Sentamu following the College of Bishops Meeting
We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement<https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/civil-partnerships-opposite-sex-couples> last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.
At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project<https://www.churchofengland.org/LLF> which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage.
This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.