Monday, November 23, 2020

Living in Love and Faith: what will its reception history be?

Very recently the Church of England has published a book (and associated resources) called Living in Love and Faith. The website associated with this project and thus with lots of links is here. From that website we read:

"What is the purpose of the Living in Love and Faith resources?

The hope is for people in Church of England churches across the country to use the LLF resources to study and pray together. The resources are designed to encourage and enable engagement and learning in a variety of settings. This church-wide learning together, listening to one another, and listening to God is part of discerning a way forward for the Church of England in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The purpose of the resources is to enable the Church of England churches across the country to participate in a process of learning and praying together as part of discerning a way forward in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

The Church of England is keenly aware that issues of gender and sexuality are intrinsic to people’s experience; their sense of identity; their lives and the loving relationships that shape and sustain them. We also know that the life and mission of our Church – and of the worldwide Anglican Communion – are affected by the deep, and sometimes painful, disagreements among us which have been debated and discussed on many occasions over the years.

These divisions have come into sharper focus because of society’s changing perspectives and practices, especially in relation to lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex people. The Church wants to understand what it means to follow Christ in love and faith given the questions about human identity and the variety of patterns of relationship emerging in our society, including marriage, civil partnership, cohabitation, celibacy and friendship.

The LLF resources explore these matters by studying what the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences have to say, and by telling the real-life stories of followers of Christ with diverse experiences and convictions. Find out more about what the learning outcomes of the resources are.

We hope that people in worshipping communities across the country will get involved and use the resources to learn together. That is why there is a range of resources in a variety of formats.

We believe that the Holy Spirit will be active among us as we pray, study and deliberate together to discover Christ’s call to the Church today. We do this with a deep sense of hopefulness for a future in which Christians can follow Christ together joyfully, fruitfully and with integrity."

My post today is primarily to inform Down Under readers of this development and to point yourselves and myself to the website and its resources, though for me personally I have no time at the present to digest them.

Secondarily, I am also pointing readers to some responses:

Ian Paul writes at Psephizo on "(How) should we engage with Living in Faith and Love?"

Paul Handley at Church Times offers a "quick guide" to the Living in Faith and Love book.

Prof Diamid MacCulloch, writing in 'critical review mode' at Modern Church about Living in faith and Love, offers this "drawing the reader in, to read the next sentence" opening sentence:

"The end-result of the Living in Love and Faith process, all 482 pages of it (hereafter LLF), is a good deal better than it might have been."

Thereafter he offers many thoughts on marriage and such like, not all of which are agreeable (it would seem - me having Tweeted this article the other day and receiving some critical responses, not least to what he says on 1 Samuel 20:41).

Comment as you will but to attempt to be clear, I am not myself offering these links to argue anything, one way or another. Perhaps at a later point in time I will have time to offer my own thoughts on Living in Faith and Love.


Anonymous said...

Peter, I will pass on this topic.

If you look at it again eg next summer, so will I.


Peter Carrell said...

Good decision, Bowman!

And, prompted by another comment on this site, I shall attempt a little thinking on providence in a forthcoming post.

Father Ron said...

The Church of England does seem to be making heavy work of this particular issue. After 4 years of further study and conversations on matters of gender and sexuality; the Churches' bishops and other interested parties, seem not yet to have moved to a place where they can officially allow for the Blessing of Same-Sex civilly celebrated partnerships, of which, from all accounts there are many existing in the Church - of clergy, laity, and even a couple of bishops!

At least we in Aotearoa/NZ (and notionally at least, in Australia) have moved towards the actual Blessing of such relationships! Mother Church does seem to take a long time to recognise what's happening in the outside world. "How long, O Lord, how long?". Meanwhile, the world moves on, and wonders!

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, I noted this comment on today's Jesuit 3-minute retreat:

'For everything created by God is Good and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving'(1 Timothy 4:4)

"God is love. It is impossible for God, whose essence is love, to create anything that is not good. Sometimes, our own labels of "good" and "bad" get in the way of our ability to see the goodness of God in its fullness. Paul challenges Timothy, and us, to renegotiate our categories and to simply receive all that God creates with thanksgiving. We believe that God created us and loved us into being. God continues to provide for all our needs, in sometimes surprising ways."

This is a poignant message for LGBTQ+ people who who have no other way of being - than what creation has given them. The Church must recognise this.

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, your Jesuit exegete points to Israel's founding insights (1) that only the Creator is divine, and (2) that our collaboration with his creative will is worship. I do not hear verbal echoes of Proverbs and Job in the Greek text, but the thought itself plainly agrees with words from Lady Wisdom and the whirlwind's Voice.

But the true thought that the Creator delights even in such strangeness as Leviathan and Behemoth, offers a soul none of the guidance that Lady Wisdom promises. In itself, *luv* or blind affection without recognition of God's creative intent for the object has nothing for any of us and Nothing for all of us.

The Body does not need to embrace nihilism to warmly welcome Christians with unusual sexualities. How anyway can it forget precepts that have evolutionary roots, scriptural recognition, and millennia of helpfulness?

Eve Tushnet, a Catholic lesbian here up yonder, has put her wise finger on our actual ignorance: "One cannot live a negative identity," she says. Yet the Body does not know what positive identity to suggest to her, and that in turn makes it harder for us to recognise her through that missing identity as a sister in the Lord. Our scriptural clarity about the duties of those who will be fathers and mothers did not cause this identity to go missing, nor are they an obstacle to our finding it.

The Body does need to believe with St Paul (and the authors of Proverbs and Job) that even when the Creator's thoughts are not as our thoughts, and his ways not as our ways, he is (as the East puts it) "a good God and loves humanity." Knowing that this is the God who gave us the scriptures enables us to accept them from his mysterious goodness. They are all the more valuable to us for their testimony that he creates more than we can understand. Where the Creator's exuberance has creates something new (eg democracy, capitalism, nation states, medicine, etc), continuity with that faith of ancient Israel enables the pilgrim Body to discern a path in the labyrinth of time. Eventually, we will recognise Eve as we should.


Anonymous said...

Postscript-- Offhand, I cannot think of anything in the gospels or epistles that is not a gloss or meditation on the Judaic insight that only the Creator is divine. Scholars of Judaica such as Daniel Boyarin and Peter Schaefer persuasively argue that these writings are not so much laying an unprecedented new layer atop the Jewish tradition-- still less abandoning it-- as reconfiguring motifs from its foundation near the end of the Second Temple.

Perhaps one of + Peter's scripture-soaked readers will find an exception. But even so, it nearly always untangles a knot of controversy to track the views in contention back to the founding Judaic faith in the Creator.

That would be obvious to many children in church school, but we often get lost by trying to instead track views back to the West's distinctive preoccupation with original sin and justification. Since we habitually turn to Reformation categories to make sense of priest-craft, we often do the same with matters caught up in grander propositions of dogmatics. And there we get stuck, unable to find our way back to the heart of Abraham's God.


Anonymous said...

Historical Notes

(1) Reading the Postscript just above, + Peter's readers might wonder how Boyarin and Schaefer could possibly see a divine Jesus in the earliest stratum of Judaic tradition. Critical scholars recognise two personae in that stratum-- one older, one younger-- that can both be described as the Creator. Readers of the Five Books (not least church fathers) have often identified the younger with the mysterious figure of the *Angel of the Lord*. Daniel vii 13 shows that, even a few centuries before Jesus, two thrones in heaven were a thinkable thought for many observant Jews. So to Boyarin and Schaefer, Jesus was born into an identity that had existed from the dawn of Judaic tradition. If that is the context of the apostolic writings, then it is indeed striking how often Jesus is shown (eg on ritual handwashing, marriage) invoking a pre-Mosaic tradition.

(2) So then how was Jesus a surprise? As the incarnate Lord he was and did more than either the *angel of the Lord* or a classical *man of YHWH*. Jesus's teaching that the kingdom of YHWH was present before the end of history, yet not in a form of the Jewish state, contrasted with the usual hope of the Pharisees. In the cross and resurrection, Jesus remains the warrior God of the earliest tradition, but because the enemies he vanquishes are the dark powers that divide and exploit humanity, he is a figure of cosmic unity "in whom all things hold together." The manifestation of the Holy Spirit's third throne in heaven was the innovation that the rabbis of later generations could not accept.

(3) Surprisingly to some, Byzantium is a port from which one can sail toward these Judaic waters. The East has a view of the traditions behind the scriptures that is less cluttered by the West's preoccupation with original sin.

(4) Kindly note that I am not West-bashing in the foregoing. The questions posed and answered in the West have ecumenical importance. However, there is a danger in taking later and dependent traditions such as our own as one's point of departure in every single matter that arises. The dream or nightmare of denominational autarchy is chasing after the wind.