'Painful' Church review of gender and sexuality can bring deeper understanding, says bishop

The Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, updates Synod about the Living in Love and Faith process

The parliamentary body of the Church of England will spend time on Saturday considering the progress being made by Living in Love and Faith (LLF), a major dialogue on gender and sexuality.

The Church-wide dialogue is taking place over several years and is being overseen by the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, who told Synod that while it was a "painful" exercise, it provided the Church with huge opportunities to learn together. 

"This is a painful process and for some, it will be more painful than others [but] I really do believe in the promise of learning and I do find myself getting quite excited about the opportunities of learning together, asking questions together, though deep and painful in all sorts of ways," he said. 

"That can be something that somehow brings a deeper understanding and perhaps even an experience of joy." 

When challenged by one Synod member as to whether LLF would lead to a clear position, the bishop clarified that the purpose was not to reach a final conclusion in the areas of gender and sexuality, and that this would come further down the road. 

"What we're engaged in is a learning exercise together," he said.

"We're trying to ask those questions together. We're trying to draw close to the Lord and dig deeply into Scripture and learn from each other. It's not an exercise that's trying to come to the sort of conclusions that you are hoping we will.

"It is a process by which we learn together so that at the right time, those sorts of conclusions will be able to be made."

He continued: "This isn't an exercise in trying to hold a lot of views together, but it is an exercise in trying to understand what those views are, to allow those to be articulated and understood and done so clearly.

"I do think that we can come to some very clear conclusions about fundamentally who we are as human beings and so I think there will be a whole lot of things that we can say together."

Saturday afternoon of Synod will not follow the usual plenary session format but rather be given over to a range of seminars on LLF to help Synod members think through the issues. 

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Christine Hardman, said that LLF was about "challenging ourselves about our prejudice, the silence we sometimes keep, our ignorance, our fear, our hypocrisy, our abuse of power in which we are all caught up". 

"So come along and help us all to discover a way in which we learn to treat ourselves and one another with the loving dignity and respect that each one of us deserves," she added.