The path to Prayers of Love and Faith: time for a reset?

Jan 18, 2024 by

by Andrew Goddard, Psephizo:

The commendation of Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) as 2023 drew to a close marked a significant development in the life of the Church of England. Whatever one thinks of that step, multiple aspects of the process that led up to it were for me more concerning and revealing about the current state of the Church and its senior leadership. As we enter the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and as the College and House of Bishops gather, a year on from deciding to set a direction for the church in relation to the LLF process, it is good to take stock by looking back on what has happened. This is important also in helping us decide how best to move forward as there are still major decisions to be taken and there is now new leadership—the Bishops of Newcastle and Leicester—for the work. A much fuller account, with more specific references and sources for each area outlined below, is available as a PDF here.

On reflection I have identified a dozen key disturbing features of the last year but before turning to those it is important to remember where we were just over a year ago:

  • Aware of the seriousness of the issues and their potential for division, much work had been done since the collapse of the bishops’ previous process in the February 2017 General Synod to prepare to make important decisions;
  • That Living in Love and Faith (LLF) work was, however, not focussed on the contentious issues but was much more wide-ranging in scope;
  • While LLF set out traditional teaching and alternative views it did not evaluate these or consider possible theologically coherent positions or ways forward;
  • The bishops only began their corporate discernment work in a focussed way in October and unsurprisingly when they gathered again in December there was little clarity or consensus and it looked like they would come to the February 2023 General Synod with a range of possible pathways to be weighed and discussed. In retrospect, that was probably a much better plan;
  • Somehow by mid-January a definite proposal had taken shape and was signed off by the bishops (even though the prayers, not even discussed as texts in 2022, were not quite finalised) to be brought to Synod for a binary yes/no polarising debate and vote.

Charting the main features of what happened from that January bishops’ meeting onwards is a depressing account of failures in terms of good process, effective change management, paying attention to power and wise and godly leadership.

Read here


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