Living in Love and Faith is ‘the Task of Our Generation’
“I really believe in what we are doing with Living in Love and Faith.
“This is our moment, this is the task of our generation in the Church, to be thinking about gender, identity, sexuality and marriage, and from the resources of our faith and spiritual life, to share in these important conversations.”
The Bishop of Crediton, the Right Reverend Jackie Searle, is the Diocese of Exeter Advocate for the Living in Love and Faith process.
The project aims to help Christians think about issues of gender identity, relationships, sexuality, and faith through the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ book, online resources and a five-week course for churches and small groups.
It is the result of a three-year national working group and will culminate in discussions and decision-making at a national level in mid-2022.
Bishop Jackie said, “I’m really hoping that everyone in Devon who is part of the Church of England will get involved with one of the courses.
“The whole ethos of the course and the process is that we learn from one another within our diversity, not just in the church but in our culture.”
Bishop Jackie and her fellow bishops in Devon are currently doing the LLF course together as part of an online group.
The teaching material is video-based and features a number of powerful testimonies from people sharing openly and honestly from their own exerience.
Each session also includes factual information, Bible study and time for discussion.
Some churches are choosing to run the course on Zoom, others are waiting to be able to run it in church buildings or homes.
It is hoped that every Mission Community in Devon will have run it by December 2021.
“The approach of Living and Love and Faith is deliberately different from the debating style of the General Synod,” added Bishop Jackie, “There is no outcome that is already conceived.
“We really want people to engage and to send their feedback as part of the LLF process.”
Bishop Jackie says she is coming to the LLF process, “with a great desire to listen and to learn.
“Personally, I’m someone who would like to see change, but I also really love the Church of England. I want us all to be able to find a way of remaining committed as sisters and brothers in Christ and as the family of God.
“That, to me, is what seems really important about this, that we really listen and learn from one another, for the glory of God and for the strengthening of the Church.”
She says she feels now is the time to resolve some of the grey areas over sexuality and relationships in the Church once and for all.
“There are people living with a huge amount of uncertainty and anxiety because of the views of the Church as they are held at the moment.
“If I think of friends in the LGBTQI community, there have been questions that have been asked again and again. When these questions are about one’s own identity and place in the Church, it can be exhausting. I believe there needs to be a resolution.
“On the other hand there are people saying, the Church’s mind is clear, but we need to find a way of expressing the love of Christ for all people in a way that has listened and heard those who are hurting from this at the moment.'”
Bishop Jackie recognised that some church leaders might be anxious about running the course for fear of opening conflict, but said they shouldn’t shy away from doing it.
“I think for too long we have been worried about causing division, but in that people have got really hurt.
“I don’t think we can do that any more, we need to be much more open and listen to the experience of others where they have felt hurt or excluded from church.
“I realise that there is a lot of anxiety around at the moment from all sorts of people and for all sorts of reasons. But the answer is not to brush things under the carpet but to go forward in trust, seeking God’s grace and guidance.”
The Diocese of Exeter is offering facilitator training for people running the course, as well as having a small team of LLF Chaplains who can be contacted confidentially by anyone who has been affected by the issues raised.
Bishop Jackie said, “My deepest hope is that we can find a way, both to be a radically inclusive Church and to hold together as the Church of England, with all its breadth and diversity of church tradition and within our understanding of life experience, gender and sexuality.”