The Church of England project, Living in Love and Faith, was set up following a debate at General Synod in February 2017 that rejected a report calling for continued opposition to same-sex marriage.
That June, bishops responded by setting up this wide-ranging consultation to look more deeply into diverse opinions on human identity and sexuality.
The project is chaired by the Bishop of Coventry Dr Christopher Cocksworth and the “enabling officer” is Dr Eeva John.
Over the initial 18 months, four working groups, covering biblical studies, theology, history and social and biological sciences, studied academic papers. A co-ordinating group oversees and draws together the work of the groups and engages with other churches and faith communities.
Drafting the report began this year and will be published for the Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops in 2020. It will produce a set of resources rather than a document that arrives at a decision. Dr Cocksworth said it would help the Church learn how to think and understand better.
The project page says: “At this first stage of the project’s development, priority was given to finding people with the appropriate subject expertise, while also paying attention to achieving a balance of theological perspectives and representation by LGBTI+ people.
“In forming the individual groups, it has not always been possible to find both, although across the groups there is a good balance. Naturally, not all members wish to disclose publicly their personal stories, their identities or even perspectives, so face-value conclusions about representation cannot be drawn.”
- 15 October 2018 Eleven bishops posted an open letter on the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council, warning the project against suggesting an “Anglican fudge” and hinting the worldwide church could split if the church’s traditional teaching on marriage were not upheld.
- 1 February 2019 A transgender priest, the Rev Dr Christina Beardsley, withdrew from the co-ordinating group, saying not enough attention was being paid to the experiences of LGBTI+ churchpeople and questioning the neutral stance. Alex Clare-Young, a trans ordinand, replaced her.
- 1 March 2019 Dr Eeva John told General Synod that the working groups had assembled 80 academic papers and 200 stories, including oral histories of LGBT people.