THE Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project is likely to be extended, as many churches have said that they are not able to be involved with the project this year owing to the impact of Covid, the General Synod has been told.
The Church-wide engagement had been due to conclude by the end of 2021, before the General Synod considered final recommendations in November 2022, but Covid had “taken its toll” on the ability of many churches to get involved this year, the LLF Enabling Officer, Dr Eeva John, said on Saturday.
She said the Next Steps group, which is overseeing engagement with LLF, were exploring how they could extend the engagement at parish level without “compromising our commitment to reach a clear way forward by the end of 2022”.
About 5500 people had been involved in an LLF event, and 69 LLF advocates had been appointed, the Synod heard. Approximately 9000 people had registered on the LLF learning hub.
The Synod item was “Passing the Baton”: contributions were collected to be shared with the incoming members of the new Synod in November.
Jonathan Walker (Leicester) said that, as a newly elected member of the Synod this year, he wanted to thank existing members for the work that they had done, which had sent a “wonderful message of hope across the Church”.
Canon Rachel Mann (Manchester) asked what reassurances could be given to trans people and their allies, in the light of the recent announcement that the House of Bishops wished LLF to undertake more work on gender identity, that they would be leaders in that work?
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who has led the Next Steps group on LLF, said that they wanted to work with those who identified as trans and learn how to “reduce our ignorance”.
Angela Scott (Rochester) said that she was saddened that people had opted out of being involved in the process, and asked how they could be encouraged to engage.
The Revd Jenny Gillies (Chester) said that she had felt “verbally battered” by participating in the process, on every occasion at the hands of an ordained person, and that she had become someone who no longer wanted to participate in it.
Bishop Mullally said that she knew that there were people who were “frightened of being involved”, and the answer was for everyone in the process to live out the pastoral principles.
Dr John said: “My heart partly breaks when I hear people drop out or don’t feel it is safe to share.”
Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) picked up Bishop Mullally’s encouragement for people to feel joy as the process continued. There was a “long way to travel before we get to joy”, and “lament and reconciliation” were still needed. She asked for reassurances that there would not be a repeat of the 2017 report from the House of Bishops after the Shared Conversations.
Bishop Mullally said that, while she could not give “complete reassurance”, the Next Steps group was working hard to “ensure that we are in a different position to 2017”.