This September we will be running a study course across the Brockenhurst, Boldre and South Baddesley group called Living in Love and Faith. It’s a five session course produced by the House of Bishops to help the Church of England explore the complicated, emotive and divisive issues of human sexuality and identity – in part because General Synod (the governing body of the Church of England) will be voting on issues related to this next year.
Issues around human sexuality and identity are complicated because they impact upon different cultural, generational, scientific, experiential, and scriptural (just to name but a few!) understandings of how things are. They are emotive because they are connected with matters of the heart – issues about our deepest sense of who we are and how we love and what we hold to be true and of value. They are divisive because we tend towards dualistic thinking in these matters, or as Richard Rohr writes, ‘We yell “My facts are better than your facts!” at ever-higher volume and with ever stronger ego attachment.’
Whatever we may or may not think about such issues one element of Living in Love and Faith that is of benefit to all of us are the Pastoral Principles For Living Well Together that have been formulated to help have meaningful conversations around such difficult issues, or as our current Archbishop of Canterbury has stated on several occasions, ‘One of the greatest gifts the Church should be able to offer to the world is how to live with difference well’. These Pastoral Principles can be applied to many areas of life where we live with a difference that is hard to resolve, and include:-
- To address ignorance by learning together about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage in the light of our call to be faithful to both Scripture and the church’s tradition.
- To acknowledge prejudice by welcoming people as they are and by reflecting deeply on our attitudes and behaviour in order to nurture understanding and respect between people who disagree.
- To admit hypocrisy by not condemning certain behaviours and attitudes while turning a blind eye to others, remembering that we are all weak, fallible, broken and equally in need of God’s grace.
- To cast out fear by consciously demonstrating and living out what it means for perfect love to cast out fear even in situations of disagreement.
- To speak into silence by practising deep listening without a hidden agenda that encourages open and honest conversations around areas of difference.
- To pay attention to power by being alert to attempts to control others and by following Christ’s example of service and compassion as we accompany one another in following the way of the cross.
I commend these principles to you, as I do the Living in Love and Faith course which begins on Wednesday 8th September at St Saviour’s Brockenhurst (please contact the Church Office 01590 624584 firstname.lastname@example.org for more details).
Yours in Christ