This year, the Church is inviting us all to join in the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project.
Some of you will be very well aware that the Church has been wrestling for years with questions about sexuality, gender and relationships. LLF comes out of those discussions, but the aim is to help the Church think about them more widely and deeply, through asking questions such as:
how do questions about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage fit within the bigger picture of the good news of Jesus Christ?
what does it mean to live in love and faith together as a Church?
These are big questions! And they are about much more than Church law. We are all invited into a process of learning, reflecting, speaking and listening which I hope will deepen our understanding of the faith we share, and strengthen us as the body of Christ together, united in one mission which is expressed through our diversity.
In this Diocese, we are encouraging everyone to participate as they feel able in that conversation. Some parishes and other groups have already begun to study and reflect on the resources the church has produced (you can find them at https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/living-love-and-faith), and that is very welcome.
For the Diocese as a whole, we will be encouraging everyone to engage from Easter onwards, particularly through using the LLF Course, a five-session course for group reflection.
Whether you are using the course or not, there will of course be a lot of diversity in how we approach it, in such a diverse Diocese as ours. But whatever you do, you are encouraged to reflect on the material with people whose background and views might be different from your own – and to do so as a process of mutual learning. There will be plenty of time before and after the summer for us to engage with the project, and we are intending to round off our Diocesan learning in November with a Diocese-wide event.
I have been asked by Bishop Christopher to lead for this for the College of Bishops, and Canon Wendy Robins will have a key role in enabling all that we have planned. A Steering Group for the process is working with us, reflecting a wide diversity of views and backgrounds.
We know that discussing these issues is likely to be difficult for many, and particularly those who feel that their own lives are in the spotlight, so we are also establishing a network of pastoral support for anyone who needs a listening ear beyond their own parish or community.
I hope and pray that LLF will indeed enable us to live more fully in the love and faith of Christ.
Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon