In November 2020 the Church of England published a landmark set of resources drawing together the Bible, theology, science and history with powerful real-life stories as it embarked on a new process of discernment and decision-making on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
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Pastoral Letter from Bishop Rose
20 January 2023
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
I'm in no doubt that you will all have seen some of the news (and some of the 'noise') that has emerged from the meeting of the College of Bishops earlier this week and their recommendations for a way forward for the Church on questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage. The Church of England's press release on this matter is available here and the full report containing the detail of the Bishops' proposals is available here.
Much has already been said on this. Emotions are understandably running high. As Archbishop Justin has already said, for some these proposals appear to go too far - for others, it is not far enough. There is much frustration and pain around these issues, which we must acknowledge.
Into all this noise, I want to say a few brief things. Firstly, I want to affirm with my fellow Bishops, ministers and those across our churches that LGBT+ people are made in the image of God, are loved by God and should have our care and respect. The Bishops have issued an apology to LGBT+ people for the pain they have endured over many years at the hands of the Church. It is crucial to recognise this - and to acknowledge that these recent proposals will continue to be a source of pain for many. I want to express my deepest gratitude to our LGBT+ sisters and brothers for their courage in sharing their stories, in making themselves vulnerable in this process - even though it has often not felt safe to do so. Thank you for bearing with us. Please make use of our LGBT+ chaplaincy network. I look forward to meeting with some of you at June's Open Table event.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for all our Church family. We hold many different views - on sexuality as well as on many other areas of life and faith. We have a rich diversity of culture, knowledge and experience. At the best of times, our diversity is one of our great strengths, enabling us to more fully to reflect the beauty and complexity of our world and our Creator. However challenging we may find life together, it is unChristlike for us to use our diversity as an excuse for separation and withdrawal from one another. Our Lord’s command is to love and serve one another. As your Bishop, I will always seek to follow that command and I ask the same of you.
We are all children of God, who created each of us in his image, and we are the followers of Jesus Christ, who reaches out and draws all people to himself. In him our hope is found. In him, our messy offerings may become a blessing to one another and to our world. Let us never lose sight of the one who leads us. Let us never fail to sing with joy for what he has done for us. Let us never fail to share the good news that gladdens our heart, even though the challenges of this world surround us. Let’s do this all with kindness and care, for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
Yours in the service of Christ,
The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover
Living in Love & Faith Resources
The product of three years’ work by more than 40 people, led by the Bishop of Coventry, Living in Love and Faith includes a 480-page book, a series of films and podcasts, a course and an online library of other publications, in what is thought to be the most extensive work in this area by any faith group in the world.
It comes as the House of Bishops issues an appeal to the whole Church of England to participate in learning together, using the resources for open, honest and gracious discussion, listening and learning. A group of bishops, chaired by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, will lead the process of discernment and decision-making about a way forward for the church in relation to human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. It is anticipated that the period of church-wide learning and engagement would take place during 2021. The House of Bishops would then bring the discernment and decision-making to a timely conclusion in 2022 which would then be put before Synod.
We will be planning to create some specific opportunities for focused conversations on these materials early in 2021 and will share details of that in due course. In the meantime, please explore, read, reflect and pray with the resources - alone or with others.
If you find that engaging with these issues brings up stuff that you'd like to discuss or pray with someone about, you can get in touch with a range of organisations here, or contact someone at the Living Well, who can offer listening and prayer - and, of course, our Safeguarding Team is also available to you.