Comment from our Bishops, General Synod - February 2023
Prayers for God’s blessing for same-sex couples take step forward after Synod debate: Church of England
The Rt Revd Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, who supports marriage equality, said the vote was a “significant and historic step”. He said:
“Same-sex couples will become much more visible and their relationships will be celebrated publicly and that, I think, will continue to change attitudes within the life of the church.” The amendment on marriage doctrine was “important to give some reassurance to those who are more conservative”, he said, but it would not stop the church “returning to this question [of same-sex marriage]” in the future.
Bishop Steven Croft: A letter to the Diocese of Oxford - 10 February
Bishop Steven Croft shares his vision for a diocese where all are affirmed, where same-sex relationships can be celebrated and where those who hold the traditional view are honoured.
Bishop Steven Croft: BBC Radio 4 World Tonight - 9 February
The Bishop of Oxford shares his hopes for the Church to continue to reflect and change, listening to contemporary science on human sexuality and respecting the 'good fruit' on show in so many LGBTQIA+ relationships.
Bishop Alan Wilson: LBC Radio - 9 February am
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, speaks to LBC Radio on the final day of debates at General Synod ahead of the vote.
Bishop Olivia Graham: LBC Radio - 8 February pm
The Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, follows up on her earlier interview after the first day of debates at General Synod.
Bishop Steven Croft: General Synod address - 8 February | Read the transcript
The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft speaks in favour for the General Synod motion on the blessing of same-sex relationships and shares his vision for a diocese where all are affirmed.
Bishop Olivia Graham: LBC Radio - 8 February am
The Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, reflects with LBC Radio on this 'watershed moment' and the 'robust debate' ahead.
Bishop Alan Wilson: ViaMedia.News - 6 February
The Bishop of Buckingham and his chaplain, the Revd Canon Rosie Harper, share their thoughts on the pros and cons of Living in Love and Faith so far, ahead of the General Synod debates.
Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage
Living in Love and Faith is the most extensive research into this area by any church, and it's designed to enable a period of church-wide learning and engagement during 2021 and 2022.
In January 2023, the College of Bishops proposed allowing blessings for same-sex unions. The draft texts below come as a result of this proposal to be discussed at the February 2023 General Synod.
- A response from the Bishops of the Church of England about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
- Draft Prayers of Love and Faith.
“As I’ve listened to the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ people, all of my pastoral instincts pointed to finding a way of interpreting the Bible to allow for greater love and support, tolerance and the blessing of their partnerships. It is very good for us to be able to say today that the church can now offer public services of blessing, but we know that we have further to go.
“I also look forward to the publication of new pastoral guidance in the coming months and confidently expect this will enable our clergy to order their relationships according to their own conscience and allow them the freedom to enter into same-sex civil marriage.”
Bishop Steven Croft
The Bishop of Oxford spoke to Sky News on Friday 20 January about the latest announcements and draft prayers. Watch in full on our YouTube.
Together in Love and Faith: a new essay from Bishop Steven
We've been exploring questions around human sexuality for more than a decade. Now is the time to take the next steps, but how? A new essay from the Bishop of Oxford, Together in Love and Faith, was published on 4 November and recieved widespread media interest. Over 52 pages, Bishop Steven considers the most pressing question: the Church of England’s response to same-sex relationships. Sharing his personal journey from evangelical ministry in Yorkshire to serving Bishop of Oxford, and recounting poignant conversations with the LGBTQ+ community and conservative Christian groups, Bishop Steven offers reflections and practical suggestions on this challenging topic.
Find out how to order your copy here
Watch "Wisdom from Above" with Bishop Steven
On 18 January 2023, bishops in the Church of England proposed prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and for God’s blessing for same-sex couples. Hear Bishop Steven speak to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme after this announcement.
You can also watch Bishop Steven speaking at Sacred in Christ Church Cathedral on his essay, on the affirmation and support of equal marriage in church, what's happening at February Synod, and a reflection on the Fathers' Love through the parable of the The Prodigal Son; a story of radical inclusion for everyone.
Living in Love and Faith: responses from church-wide engagement
As part of the church-wide engagement with the Living in Love and Faith resources, everyone who took part was invited to share their learning, insights, and reflections. Over 6,000 responses were received, through questionnaires, focus groups, creative responses, and a variety of other forms. These responses have been gathered into a report, Listening with Love and Faith. This is accompanied by a more detailed technical report, and a reflective essay, Friendship and the Body of Christ. These and the LLF resources will support the bishops in their ongoing discernment process as they seek to discern what they believe God is saying to the Church of England today.
Do contact any of the LLF Advocates if you wish to talk through the LLF process.
Our journey so far
In October 2018, the four bishops of the Diocese of Oxford issued Clothe Yourselves with Love, a pastoral letter on the inclusion of and care for LGBTI+ people within the diocese. Just over a year later, the diocese launched a chaplaincy service for LGBTI+ people and their families.
In November 2020, the Church of England published a landmark set of resources to aid discernment and decision-making on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The resources draw together the bible, theology, science and history with powerful real-life stories designed to help every Christian explore questions in that area.
We encouraged parishes and deaneries to run the LLF course and engage with the LLF materials between September 2021 and April 2022. This timetable was to allow time for a proper focus on regathering after the lockdowns and, we hope, to enable the conversations to be onsite as well as online. The national Next Steps group have gathered feedback from thousands of different groups across the country.
The listening process reports were published at the beginning of September 2022 and the bishops have attended two meetings during the autumn to discuss the reports and discern what they believe God is saying to us today. Bishop Steven's essay, Together in Love and Faith, was published between the two meetings. The bishops will present at General Synod meeting in February 2023, where it is expected a clear sense of direction is reached.
The deadline for offering feedback has passed, but the LLF materials will continue to be available to use. We believe the material is useful for churches to use to together discuss faith, marriage, sexuality, and gender. Those who haven't yet run the course can do so at a time that suits them.
We won't be running any more LLF Course Facilitator training sessions , but you can download the handy short guide to Facilitating Living in Love and Faith Groups. The LLF Advocates are also available to talk to you about facilitating a group or any other questions you have about running the LLF Course.
All course material is available for free when you register on the LLF hub. There are also printed copies of the course booklet which you can purchase from Church House Publishing.
In June 2021 we hosted three introductory webinars to introduce LLF to the diocese. These events were attended by more than 400 people across the diocese and received excellent feedback from those who attended.
You can watch the presentations within these webinars by clicking the links below. The presenter was the Revd Dr Eeva John, the Church of England’s Enabling Officer for LLF.
Session 1: How can we learn well together
Session 2: Studying the Bible together
Session 3: Thinking about friendship
Please feel free to contact any of the LLF advocates below to find out more about how the LLF process might work in your context.
God, whose name is Love,
Whose gift is life,
Whose word holds all in being;
Bless Living in Love and Faith to your church
As we seek to grow together
Into the truth of our humanity and longings,
Into communities where all find welcome,
nto the fullness that is your image in us;
Through the Word made flesh,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.
A comprehensive suite of LLF resources
- Living in Love and Faith book - amid the biblical, theological, historical and scientific exploration, each of the five parts includes encounters with real, contemporary disciples of Christ whose stories raise questions which ask us to discern where God is active in human lives. Order from Church House Publishing.
- A five-session course for small groups - including videos and a booklet to use. Order your free copy of the LLF Course booklet. For more copies, order packs of six or single copies from Church House Publishing.
- Living in Love and Faith learning hub - an online resource library of over 300 resources to draw from including story films, podcasts, and teaching resources. Log in/register for the LLF hub.
Other links and useful information
- Clothe yourselves with love - The pastoral letter to the diocese that sets clear expectations of inclusion and respect towards LGBTI+ people.
- Contact the diocesan LLF Advocates.
- LGBTI+ Chaplaincy Service - The LGBTI+ chaplaincy service in the Diocese of Oxford offers listening, support and prayerful affirmation for LGBTI+ people, their families and friends.
- Resources for use with young people - Log in to the LLF Hub to find session notes to run the LLF course with young people.
It may not always be practical to run all five sessions of the course, so we've created a shorter session plan, or use this day session plan.
Although not officially part of the LLF resources, these materials for use with children, young people and families might be helpful.
- Find out more behind the LLF project.