15 October 2023 – General Synod backs trial of special services asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples
Special services of prayer and dedication asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples should be introduced soon in the Church of England on a trial basis, General Synod has agreed. Synod voted in favour of a motion containing an amendment tabled by the Bishop of Oxford to bring forward the standalone services based around texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith. The amended motion means that the services could be authorised for use sooner, but temporarily, under separate legislation. That would enable the first standalone Prayers of Love and Faith services to take place in churches at the same time as the process of seeking permanent authorisation is under way. Listen to Bishop Steven talking with BBC Radio 4 about the motion immediately following Synod, and a much longer interview with Premier Christian Radio that describes his own journey.
9 October 2023 – House of Bishops agrees to commend Prayers of Love and Faith,
The prayers and readings in Prayers of Love and Faith for use with same-sex couples will be commended by the House of Bishops for use in public worship. Special standalone services set out in Prayers of Love and Faith will be brought to the General Synod to decide whether to authorise them under Canon B2, after consultation with dioceses. There is also further work under way to explore further forms of pastoral reassurance and formal structural pastoral provision to ensure the conscience of everyone is respected.
9 February 2023 – Prayers for God’s blessing for same-sex couples take step forward after Synod debate,
Commenting after the debate at General Synod, Bishop Steven said to the Guardian; “Same-sex couples will become much more visible and their relationships will be celebrated publicly and that, I think, will continue to change attitudes within the life of the church.” The amendment on marriage doctrine was “important to give some reassurance to those who are more conservative”, he said, but it would not stop the church “returning to this question [of same-sex marriage]” in the future.
18 January 2023 – bishops in the Church of England proposed prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and for God’s blessing for same-sex couples. Listen to Bishop Steven speak to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme after this announcement.
- September 2022 – the listening process reports are published to over 6,000 responses that were received. The bishops attend two meetings during the autumn to discuss the reports and discern what they believe God is saying. Bishop Steven's essay, Together in Love and Faith, was published between the two meetings.
September 2021 to April 2022 – we encouraged parishes and deaneries to run the LLF course and engage with the LLF materials. The national Next Steps group gathered feedback from thousands of different groups across the country.
November 2020 – the Church of England published a landmark set of resources to aid discernment and decision-making on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The resources draw together the bible, theology, science and history with powerful real-life stories designed to help every Christian explore questions in that area.
October 2018 – the four bishops of the Diocese of Oxford issued Clothe Yourselves with Love, a pastoral letter on the inclusion of and care for LGBTI+ people within the diocese. Just over a year later, the diocese launched a chaplaincy service for LGBTI+ people and their families.
Comment from our Bishops and radical inclusion for everyone
Bishop Steven wrote to the diocese following the February 2023 General Synod to share his vision for a diocese where all are affirmed, where same-sex relationships can be celebrated and where those who hold the traditional view are honoured. You can also watch Bishop Steven giving a reflection on the Fathers' Love through the parable of the The Prodigal Son; a story of radical inclusion for everyone.
A listing of media comments from the bishops is available on the Together in Love and Faith page.
What is Living in Love and Faith (LLF)?
Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage
Living in Love and Faith is the most extensive research into this area by any church, and was designed to enable a period of church-wide learning and engagement during 2021 and 2022. The materials are still available and we commend them to every church that wants to explore idendity, sexuality, relationshops and marriage. In January 2023, the College of Bishops proposed allowing blessings for same-sex unions. The proposals, which would enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or civil partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing were welcomed by General Synod.
Download the draft documents
This page will be updated with the papers for the November 2023 meeting of General Synod as soon as the papers are available.
A response from the Bishops of the Church of England about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
- Draft Prayers of Love and Faith.
Responses from church-wide engagement
As part of the church-wide engagement with the Living in Love and Faith resources, everyone who took part was invited to share their learning, insights, and reflections. Over 6,000 responses were received, through questionnaires, focus groups, creative responses, and a variety of other forms. These responses have been gathered into a report, Listening with Love and Faith. This is accompanied by a more detailed technical report, and a reflective essay, Friendship and the Body of Christ. These and the LLF resources will support the bishops in their ongoing discernment process as they seek to discern what they believe God is saying to the Church of England today.
Do contact any of the LLF Advocates if you wish to talk through the LLF process.
The deadline for offering feedback has passed, but the LLF materials remain available to use. We believe the material is useful for churches to use to together discuss faith, marriage, sexuality, and gender. Those who haven't yet run the course can do so at a time that suits them. All course material is available for free when you register on the LLF hub. There are also printed copies of the course booklet which you can purchase from Church House Publishing.
We won't be running any more LLF Course Facilitator training sessions, but you can download the handy short guide to Facilitating Living in Love and Faith Groups. The LLF Advocates are also available to talk to you about facilitating a group or any other questions you have about running the LLF Course.
In June 2021 we hosted three introductory webinars to introduce LLF to the diocese. These events were attended by more than 400 people across the diocese and received excellent feedback from those who attended.
You can watch the presentations within these webinars by clicking the links below. The presenter was the Revd Dr Eeva John, the Church of England’s Enabling Officer for LLF.
Please feel free to contact any of the LLF advocates below to find out more about how the LLF process might work in your context.
God, whose name is Love,
Whose gift is life,
Whose word holds all in being;
Bless Living in Love and Faith to your church
As we seek to grow together
Into the truth of our humanity and longings,
Into communities where all find welcome,
nto the fullness that is your image in us;
Through the Word made flesh,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.
A comprehensive suite of LLF resources
- Living in Love and Faith book - amid the biblical, theological, historical and scientific exploration, each of the five parts includes encounters with real, contemporary disciples of Christ whose stories raise questions which ask us to discern where God is active in human lives. Order from Church House Publishing.
- A five-session course for small groups - including videos and a booklet to use. Order your free copy of the LLF Course booklet. For more copies, order packs of six or single copies from Church House Publishing.
- Living in Love and Faith learning hub - an online resource library of over 300 resources to draw from including story films, podcasts, and teaching resources. Log in/register for the LLF hub.
Other links and useful information
- Clothe yourselves with love - The pastoral letter to the diocese that sets clear expectations of inclusion and respect towards LGBTI+ people.
- Contact the diocesan LLF Advocates.
- LGBTQIA+ Chaplaincy Service - The LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy service in the Diocese of Oxford offers listening, support and prayerful affirmation for LGBTQIA+ people, their families and friends.
- Resources for use with young people - Log in to the LLF Hub to find session notes to run the LLF course with young people.
It may not always be practical to run all five sessions of the course, so we've created a shorter session plan, or use this day session plan.
Although not officially part of the LLF resources, these materials for use with children, young people and families might be helpful.
- Find out more behind the LLF project.