Thinking Anglicans

Pre-General Synod Press Release

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London next month, and the usual pre-Synod press release, copied below, was issued today.

Synod meeting to focus on implementation of Prayers of Love and Faith
20/10/2023

General Synod papers published for November 2023 Group of Sessions

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet next month in London to discuss the steps being taken to implement texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith, which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples.

In February of this year, Synod agreed a motion welcoming the texts and calling on The House of Bishops to further refine and commend them for use in the Church of England, together with new pastoral guidance and proposals for pastoral reassurance.

Earlier this month, The House of Bishops agreed in principle that the Prayers of Love and Faith should be commended for use, also concluding that special services for same-sex couples, based on the Prayers, should go forward for consideration to be formally authorised under canon law. Synod also voted for no change to the doctrine of the Church of England around marriage and sexual intimacy.

In November, Synod members will be presented with the work that the House of Bishops has carried out on the Prayers of Love and Faith since February. They will also have the opportunity to discuss the draft pastoral guidance, specifically supporting the Prayers, which has been shared for the first time.

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who has co-chaired the Living in Love and Faith steering group, said: “This twin-track approach means that prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples will be available for use in church very soon, as Synod has asked. A means of offering special, standalone services for same-sex couples will go forward to be considered for formal authorisation at a later stage.

“While we do not all agree about questions of marriage and sexual intimacy, a long period of discernment has shown that a majority of people would like to see a change in the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships. Based on what the Church has told us, no change is not an option.

“There are those who would like to see us go much further, and those who believe we are going too far. Yet we have expressed our heartfelt wish to remain together as one Church. The pastoral provision must protect and value both those who struggle so much with this that they need reassurance, and those who wish to place same-sex relationships before God in prayer.

“In other words, it will be ‘both and’, not ‘either or’. We are implementing what Synod asked us to, prayerfully and with the hope of God’s Grace.”

Papers for the November 2023 Group of Sessions were published and sent to members today.

Synod will consider and vote on the first consideration of the draft Redress Measure which makes legal provision for the creation of a national redress scheme for victims and survivors of Church-related abuse. This delivers on the commitment made by the Church in its response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The draft Measure lays the groundwork to deliver a Scheme which offers redress in a range of forms including apology, acknowledgement, therapeutic, and financial support to survivors of abuse perpetrated by a person acting under the authority of the Church of England. It makes provision for a single ‘redress body’ to deliver the Scheme and also makes provision for the financing and includes further details of the Scheme’s operation.

The Bishop of Winchester, Philip Mounstephen, chair of the Redress Project Board, will introduce the draft Measure and take questions from members.

The Measure is expected to return to the Synod for the Revision Stage in July 2024 followed by the Final Drafting and Final Approval stages.

More information

Read the Papers and find out more about the November General Synod meeting

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Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
5 months ago

Just a first reaction: I’m still reading and re-reading GS2328. I’ve been ordained since 1992 and NO ONE has ever asked me about conducting a service of Covenanted Friendship which has absolutely no legal standing and carries no obligations or rights whatsoever (e.g. financial, next of kin). Have I missed some gigantic pastoral need out there? What is the evidence of pastoral need? I’d be interested in reading the research which suggests that either the wider public or even regular communicants of the CofE are crying out for this. Whereas we have plenty of evidence of pastoral need for services… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 months ago

Absolutely Judith. On the basis of this, inclusive minded clergy like me will ignore these rather mean-spirited and be-grudging commended prayers, and (continue to) adapt material ourselves from the marriage service and thanksgiving after marriage to create stand alone services for gay couples, irrespective of possible CDM action. What a woeful and inadequate response.

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 months ago

The only situation in which I can see two people asking for CF prayers is a same-sex pair of friends who aren’t gay but who share a home, and are fed up with everyone in their very conservative congregation assuming they’re gay. I’m even more baffled by the statement in this GS document that married people can also be in CFs, but with no mention of whether their spouse has to consent to the CF. Isn’t that undermining Holy Matrimony?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 months ago

I think it was created simply as a response to conservative claims that celibacy was not being seriously considered and honoured in the LLF discussions. But on conservative blog sites the idea is treated with great suspicion.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 months ago

There is quite a long relevant history here. Descriptions of profound loving friendships between same sex couples have become a standard Christian narrative. In certain cases these relationships were formalised, with the couples concerned creating some form of covenant, or by going through a marriage ceremony. From a historical distance it is, however, difficult to asses from the limited available evidence if these were purely asexual/celibate friendships, or a cautious homosexual couple getting as close as they could to marriage within the constraints of their day (some of those who entered a same-sex marriage ended up on the gallows.) Coming… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

For those who want to follow it up (and with apologies for mansplaining if this is well known to others!), John Boswell’s book The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe was a ground-breaking exploration of something like covenanted friendship in church history; Robert Song’s Covenant and Calling is a recent theological attempt to articulate this from a contemporary evangelical viewpoint.

Last edited 5 months ago by Charles Clapham
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Charles Clapham
5 months ago

Thanks Charles, I was relying on that book for my comments. Boswell describes many periods when same sex relationships were recognised and accepted in Roman, and then Christian, Europe.

Sadly that was not always the case.

“Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome” by Gary Ferguson tells a less pleasant stories of various attempts at same sex marriage which fell foul of the law.

Last edited 5 months ago by Simon Dawson
Peter
Peter
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

Simon,

I think you make some very good points. My question is why does it need novel liturgy ?

We already do and say all sorts of things, including in public ministry, that affirm and encourages mutuality and friendship.

The notion of covenanted friendship is a piece of political gimmickry that demeans the importance of Liturgical practice.

Peter
Peter
5 months ago

Conservatives do, as David Runcorn observes, encourage a high view of celibacy.

It’s a bit unnecessary to therefore pin the blame for the idea of a covenanted friendship on them.

It is an entirely confected and frankly silly notion.

Nor for the first time, the bishops find a way to make the position more rather than less confused.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Peter
5 months ago

‘Insist on’ rather than ‘encourage’, surely? But no one is blaming here. We are trying to trace where the idea came from in the first place. It was a response to strong conservative concerns.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  David Runcorn
5 months ago

I am sure you are right, David, in regard to why the Bishops have coughed up this new category of “covenanted friendship”. The substantive issue is that it is a silly idea ! Conservatives have a high view of celibacy, but there is nothing at all in our perspective that leads towards the notion of “covenanted friendship”. We encourage close, celibate friendships between believers. It may be a friendship between two people. It may be a friendship between more than two people. There is simply no theological basis for attributing liturgical significance to a friendship between two people in distinction… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Peter
5 months ago

‘Conservatives have a high view of celibacy’. Well yes and no. The evangelical world I have always known has more often been focussed on marriage to the exclusion of single people. Singles were ‘not yet married’. I know that from personal experience. In the evangelical church where I arrived as a single curate I discovered some felt I should not be in that role because I was not married. (‘Be the husband of one wife – remember?). Many evangelical clergy are still photographed on the church website with their wives beside them (it doesn’t tend to happen when the clergy… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  David Runcorn
5 months ago

“Many evangelical clergy are still photographed on the church website with their wives beside them (it doesn’t tend to happen when the clergy are women).”

I would venture that the number of female evangelical clergy who have wives is really quite small.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Jo B
5 months ago

Espescially as the CofE is currently constituted! David surely means that they aren’t depicted with their husbands.
More seriously, having been both evangelical Anglican, pressured to conform to celibacy and evangelical Freechurch, pressured to be married, in my past as an ordinary congregation member, both outlooks are equally annoying! I can empathise with David

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Jo B
5 months ago

In America, consecrations for ACNA bishops have an additional rite where the new bishop’s wife receives laying on of hands by the wives of the consecrating bishops. This is done at the front of the nave, not in the sanctuary. Bizarre (my opinion, of course).

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Richard
5 months ago

If we take Gary Macy at his word in ‘The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination’, it seems like the ACNA have actually revived a rite that’s been dead for about a thousand years.

Back in day – pre Scholasticism – the Latin ‘ordinatire’ still drifted closer to its classical meaning of ‘to be appointed to an office’. Since bishop’s wives did often run the diocese when their husband was away, it was not underheard of for them to receive some rite after their husband was consecrated. Certainly an odd thing to revive, but perhaps more oddly, not without precedent.

David
David
Reply to  Peter
5 months ago

This is the famous horse designed by a committee, which turns out to be a camel. Useful in its own way, but definitely not a horse.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  David
5 months ago

David, You are a kinder man than me !

Ok, lets call it a camel

Last edited 5 months ago by Peter
Helen King
Helen King
5 months ago

I’m also wondering where the Single Consecrated Life fits in here; although of course it is about celibacy as a gift not as the inevitable consequence of your sexuality, their website does use that word ‘counter-cultural’ which is thrown around a lot. Can you live an SCL with a CF? https://www.singleconsecratedlife-anglican.org.uk/ states “Celibacy is an invitation, a gift and a means of grace. Those who seek to make a vow of celibacy, usually through a bishop, do so in a way similar to that which others choose when they make a vow of marriage”

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Helen King
5 months ago

You have hit the nail here, Helen. The key question to explore is the distinction between those for whom celibacy is a gift and a true vocation, and those for whom celibacy is imposed inappropriately because of their doctrinally unacceptable sexuality. Personally I feel that a vowed covenanted friendship can have a place for some of those who are following a grace filled celibate vocation. There may well be a pastoral need, albeit in very limited numbers. Such covenanted friendships are not a new invention but have a longstanding history within the Christian tradition. It would be a pity if… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
5 months ago

If people aren’t familiar with friendships which could be covenanted I suspect they inhabit a largely cis-het world. In my experience people who have been through a gender transition are disproportionately likely to be in a friendship of that ilk, not least people who are in close relationships which survive transition but where, on one or both sides, there is no longer any sexual attraction. I have also known a couple where the woman deliberately avoided the relationship with her trans man boyfriend becoming sexual because she didn’t want to be the reason he opted for phalloplasty but the relationship… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
5 months ago

The only discussion of celibacy in the New Testament is in 1 Cor 7. The context was life in a community who believed the eschaton was imminent. ‘The time is short. From now on, let even those who have wives be as those who had none’ (7.29). The decision to forsake marriage and the commitment to celibacy was for a very specific reason.  It was ‘an emergency measure enabling the Christians to concentrate on God, who will very soon bring the world to an end’ (Moore). After all what long-term arrangements of any kind are appropriate when the consummation of the cosmos could… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
5 months ago

Can I respectfully disagree David, I think there is more about celibacy in the NT than the text you cite. I would argue that the famous eunuchs text from Matthew 19.12 fits here. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Many commentaries make the mistake of treating this verse as a stand-alone text. I would argue it is important to treat… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

You are right Simon about the meaning of that passage but I disagree on a minor point, namely that celibacy is properly described as “a difficult vocation”. So far as we know Jesus didn’t actively describe Himself as celibate and I suspect that neither do most of those with a true vocation for celibacy. I think it’s a quiet vocation. Indeed I suspect many of us know people with the vocation of celibacy but don’t particularly recognise it because they don’t proclaim it. There are also people who have been pressured into celibacy without a true vocation and, for them,… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Kate Keates
5 months ago

Thanks for the feedback Kate. We may have to agree to disagree on whether Jesus himself followed a celibate vocation, but there is much else in your post I can affirm strongly. The description of true celibacy as being a quiet vocation is wonderful, and your third paragraph is very insightful and matches what I have begun to think.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

I don’t much doubt that Jesus was celibate, I just don’t think there is Scriptural evidence that he made a song and dance about it so I suspect we are largely in agreement.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Kate Keates
5 months ago

As opposed to the Church Fathers, who seemed to bang on about it the whole time.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

Thanks Simon. I could have made myself clearer perhaps. 1Cor 7 is one of the few windows we get into a local church trying to work out faith in the light of its theology. How it relates to those words of Jesus is not clear. Did they know them, as we do? Paul does not choose to make them the starting place for his pastoral response – unless ‘for the sake of the kingdom’ is all the connection needed?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
5 months ago

And one thing I forgot to say, David. I am not convinced that the celibacy and lifestyle encouraged on his disciples by Jesus was eschatologically motivated, although that was obviously different for the post-Pauline church.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
5 months ago

Could someone clarify something for me.

Am I right that since the PLF aren’t a marriage that no fees can be charged?

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Kate Keates
5 months ago

Correct, Kate, and GS2328 states that explicitly. It also says that, as the prayers don’t have legal status, there’s no certificate – but that churches can design a commemorative certificate to mark the occasion. It must not have anything in the wording or design that could suggest marriage. I find that quite odd!

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Helen King
5 months ago

A clever draftsman could circumvent that.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Helen King
5 months ago

It definitely seems odd.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Kate Keates
5 months ago

The whole business is odd. These quarter-loaf prayers were supposed to be bland and non-committal enough to placate conservatives. That obviously failed, so if they’re going to strain at the gnat why not just bring forward the camel for them to swallow and stop wasting everyone’s time.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
5 months ago

I don’t watch TV very much. Last night I watched about 30 mins of BBC 1- at 6 pm on a Saturday- prime time viewing. The first programme was a quiz show. It was won by a gay couple. This was followed by a trailer for Drag Race. Then followed Strictly, featuring a same sex couple. Prime time BBC1. This is where the nation is at. And the Church of England, which once fancied itself the national church? If the Church of England thinks it has a future, does it see its future as a broad church for the nation… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Gerald Beauchamp
Gerald Beauchamp
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

Do you know about this? https://www.inclusive-church.org/

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Gerald Beauchamp
5 months ago

It was the first organisation mentioned in my post.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

I’ve been involved for almost all my Christian life with conservative evangelical churches, both CofE and Free; the sort who see themselves, as my wife puts it, as ‘real Christians’. (The rest, apparently aren’t quite the ticket.) Although I won’t go down that road now, the one thing they all have in common is a view of the ‘church’ (whatever denomination) as a body you have to opt into by a public, personal declaration or profession of faith; simply turning up, or being subjected to certain rituals as an infant isn’t good enough. I’m in two minds on that, by… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

Fr Andrew, I fully endorse what you advocate in your final paragraph. Changing Attitude England has been around for longer than the organisations you mention, 28 years, and has done and does more than purport to be a voice for LGBTQIA+ Christians. Representatives of twenty contemporary organisations have been meeting as a Coalition for the past two years, the number of groups included growing over that period. We are already talking together. What we haven’t begun to talk about is organising a practical programme, not just for inclusive parishes – in theory Inclusive Church is already doing that. I believe… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
5 months ago

Thank you Colin. I was just giving a sample of example organisations and not deliberately excluding Changing Attitude of course. I realise work and talking is going on (though I do wonder if 20+ groups might involve a little duplication) but it does seem like LGBT affirming groups are forever being outflanked. There is also the perennial cry of ‘stop talking, time for action’ which, in this instance, is a cliche whose time has come. Behind the scenes lobbying, trusting the bishops through LLF and its predecessors has got us nowhere. Following the procedural pathways set by the bishops has… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

Fr Andrew, I would be reluctant to lay any criticism for failure to change things at the door of the various pro LGBTQ groups. They have been working hard here for years but they face a huge structural problem. If you study the history of so many other successful LGBTQ campaigns it is often the use of the Law that has been the vital deciding factor. For example, Rank Outsiders, the armed forces LGBTQ campaigning group, forced the Government to change the armed forces gay ban through the European Court. Similarly it was the threat of a European Court judgement… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

Thank you Simon… I should be clear that I’m not laying blame at the feet of pro LGBT groups: blame belongs entirely with the episcopate.

We need a new stratagem and these groups are the ones with skills, experience and contacts to plan and lead it. The frustration for those of us without the experience, skills etc. working in parishes is we know we need to do something to change the dire situation but don’t know what. We can act individually locally but it’s not very hopeful when at every turn we are thwarted by the church hierarchy.

Last edited 5 months ago by Fr Andrew
Graham Watts
Graham Watts
5 months ago

Just a mention to members of General Synod, just because the administration of the broadcast have form on this, can you be aware and/or enquire that the informal session on Monday afternoon, ‘Between 4.30 p.m. and 6.15 p.m., Synod members will be invited to engage informally with Living in Love and Faith’, should be streamed and not excluded on the grounds that it isn’t business. I assumed that this ‘engagement’ will be in the main chamber.
Hopefully there was a learning from previously (but I wouldn’t put it past them!!)

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