LLF – Has There Been a Murder?

by the Revd Canon Rosie Harper, Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, Member of General Synod and Trustee of the Ozanne Foundation 

Has there been a murder or at least death by misadventure?

Has Covid -19 killed Living in Love and Faith?

We are in the middle of a global plague. People we love are dying. We have no idea how resilient churches will be in terms of attendance or finance. Where have our children gone?

Big stuff is going on.

Living in Love and Faith always was ill-conceived. It was attempting to speak into a dilemma that no longer existed even before Covid.

In the reality of today’s world a vanishingly small number of people want pick this scab. It’s over. Living in Love and Faith has died a death and we ‘d best give it a quiet burial.

Last week Bishop Paul Bayes wrote a really moving tribute to Bill Kirkpatrick. Fr Bill actually died three years ago but the deep thoughts and feelings that Bishop Paul expressed were stirred by the TV series ‘It’s a Sin’ which traced the story of AIDS. The cruelty and judgement thoughtlessly inflicted on gay men as AIDS claimed so many lives is agony to watch. Fr Bill walked alongside those who were ill and dying and he listened and reached out, and he prayed.

It leaves you wondering if things have changed.  Thankfully that answer is mostly yes. Society is far from perfect but for the vast majority of people being gay is just one of a variety of ways in which human beings are made and even folk who can’t quite get their heads around it because of the era in which they grew up want to treat it as private and personal. They’d rather not talk about it; live and let live.

If you are in sport it can be tougher, but nowhere other than the church is your sexuality open game for public discussion.

Of course there are Christians who genuinely feel this is the issue to go to the wall for, but there is an important piece of learning I’ve acquired as I’ve explored how the church can move into an era of full acceptance. One remarkable bishop that +Alan and I spoke to once he was retired talked about the cost of bringing about change. It had indeed cost him dear in many ways and we asked him what he’d do differently. He reflected that the greatest mistake he made was spending too much time and effort of the extreme conservative lobby. This sounds harsh, but as you unpack it there is sense in this. There are a group of people who live their faith believing they and others are teetering on the cliff edge of hell, and no one can sadly alter the fact that daring to change their attitude to being gay risks tipping them over the edge into eternal fire.

Unlimited discussions around Living in Love and Faith cannot possibly change this conviction -and such Christians will only engage on the basis of proving they are right.

We need to let go. To say ‘so be it.’ It must be pretty grim to frame your faith in a loving God that way.

The time for continuing with conversations which almost no-one wants, as a way of stopping doing what is right, is over.

I’ll name it:  Well-intentioned though it might have been (and I’m not even convinced about that) – it’s over! Living in Love and Faith landed in the midst of a global pandemic and turned out to be – let’s put it kindly – a chocolate teapot!

We have always had a way forward. It’s as if Paul saw this coming. Romans 14 is crystal clear. It was the usual bust up about what was morally right to eat. Paul tells them it’s not really the food or the possible idolatry that matters, it’s the judging one another.

As people of faith we are called respect the integrity of other people’s conscience. The key is in not judging -and therefore not controlling. We got there in the end with the re-marriage of divorcees. Finding a place where there is mutual respect of conscience on this matter could be the key.

I hear that it is proving very difficult to find LLF champions for the proposed discussions around the country. Maybe this speaks for itself. I have yet to meet anyone who would turn up to such a group. Gay people themselves have had years and years of generous and self-revelatory discussions. Often they have suffered abuse in that context and it is completely unreasonable to expect yet another round of such nonsense. Most people in our churches have friends or family members who are gay and they simply love them. It’s no longer a big deal, but they really, really don’t want to discuss it in public.

A lot of resource, financial and personal has gone into the construction of LLF. Senior people are heavily invested in it. I get that.

So I am asking for a grown up act of courage. Stop pretending. LLF has died.

Bury it.


This entry was posted in Human Sexuality, Living in Love & Faith, Mental Health, Rosie Harper, Safeguarding, Spiritual Abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to LLF – Has There Been a Murder?

  1. James Mustard says:

    Thank you for this. I have two comments:
    1. LLF encourages feedback from groups to Church House. So there is an opportunity for the House of Bishops/Synod to hear from the less strident voices. In other words, if LLF is old news, this can at least be expressed. It might also be the case that that loudest voices are revealed to be much less influential (and financially consequential) than the volume of their statements suggests.
    2. As a gay man in ordained ministry, my marital status determines my ability to work. If I marry, I will not get a license.That is structural discrimination. So any means by which that impasse can be broken and the institutional homophobia that lies behind it is challenged is, however clumsy, welcomed by me.

  2. I have long since left the C of E behind, having suffered a total breakdown largely at its hands. I share your sentiments and in terms of public acceptance of LGBT, I would like to note that as an A Level Sociology teacher, the number one reason all my students cite for not setting foot in a church, is its treatment of LGBT people.

  3. John says:

    As a gay Christian Anglican, I have heard a lot ABOUT LLF, from different perspectives, but mostly a very negative, it’s a complete waste of time perspective, but have yet to actually had a chance to engage with the materials themselves.

    My understanding is that this is a precursor to an actual debate in Synod which might conclude in an actual change of doctrine and policy in respect to matters impacting me as a gay man. It seems to me, that if the very people who have the most to gain from those changes are dismissing the whole process, we may as well just forget it, leave the C of E en mass and they can say, probably with some legitimacy, that we didn’t want the change.

    I realise that it’s because we have been through the shared conversations, and they didn’t achieve anything, and indeed as LLF started the conservatives already launched their full on attack. Why are we really surprised by those lowlifes actions? But if we bury LLF we are doing exactly what they want us to do. Admit defeat and disappear.

    If I was going to do that I would have done that 12 years ago when I came out, but I am a Christian and I am as entitled to inclusion, involvement and interaction with my Church, and to have the right to be treated as an equal, and if that makes me a thorn in the flesh of the anti-gay bunch I hope that I am the most painful thorn. Lord knows, they are a very painful thorn in my flesh. In my worst moments,I wish they would stop threatening to leave, and actually do it.

    If we can actually get a significant lobby of people to make it clear to those in the General Synod that they must change or die.
    Let’s make LLF THE last ditch effort to transform the C of E from within. If that fails, then I strateg should be a campaign to disestablish the C of E removing many of the perks presently enjoyed by the top brass.

  4. I can only say I think this ‘obituary’ of LLF is premature. I hold a much more optimistic view – though I am under no illusion this will continue to be a hard road to walk together. That some are simply too bruised or exhausted at this point I understand (and they include personal friends). I would encourage them to rest. My sense is that there are others who will be engaging. As to the claim that is proving ‘very difficult’ to find advocates/champions to lead this in the dioceses I do not think this is the case – though I understand it is true in Oxford. But the recent national gathering of Advocates was markedly energised and committed. So I see something coming to birth not dying at this point and urge those who can to join in. LLF is a quite extraordinary creative achievement and quite unlike any previous Church resource for theological learning and growing together. It is not perfect. But nor am I.

Any thoughts?