So, in the last month, that Episcopal Teaching Document, a.k.a. the ‘Teaching Document on human identity, sexuality and marriage’, has developed a name of its own. It’s now Living in Love and Faith: Christian teaching and learning about human sexuality and marriage. The announcement was made on Thinking Anglicans and in the Church Times.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone has read about this. I don’t take the Church Times. As an aside, my great-grandfather, after he lost his sight, insisted on my grandmother reading each issue to him. One of my mother’s earliest memories is of him shouting at my grandmother ‘No Lenette, it doesn’t say that, you’re making it up!!’ I must say, I sometimes feel like that with some of the things the Church of England comes up with.
Now, I’m in a tricky position here, what with being on one of the thematic working groups for this LLF document, and thus bound by a Memorandum of Understanding which prevents me from discussing the workings of that group or from lobbying. So I’m going to stick to that MoU. But I do want to open a discussion about the name of the group. What do you think? Is it a triumph of ambiguity/openness/whatever? Do we feel better that ‘learning’ is in there too, rather than it sounding like one person teaches and another just writes it all down? Do we think ‘identity’ is the right term and what does it mean to us? What does it mean that Love comes before Faith?
And then there’s the logo. Yes, that’s the one. Dr Eeva John, who is coordinating all we are doing, gave her reflections on this tree when she introduced the sessions at General Synod at which members could hear something of the work of the various groups contributing to LLF. So I’ve heard her take, which involved the Holy Spirit as the sap in the tree. Here’s my initial stream of consciousness reaction to the logo. How about you?
Tree. Tree of Life? Tree of the garden of Eden? Knowledge of good and evil? But no fruit. Leaves: lots of them. Different sizes, but all the same shape. Different colours; well, different shades of green, anyway (what does that phrase remind me of?). All the leaves are very firmly attached. This reminds me of a Godly Play exercise I once did, in which we were invited to unwrap a fabric tree (grown from the mustard seed) and pick up a paper bird and place it where we felt we were on the tree of the church. Some people quickly put their bird confidently on a big branch. Others took ages to decide, and then hid their birds in little nooks and crannies. One put her bird on the ground because she felt she wasn’t really welcome in the tree. But here, no falling leaves seem to be allowed. If we are the leaves, we are all attached. Some days, I feel more attached than others.
This tree looks healthy; quite a sturdy sort of tree, able to withstand strong winds. But what about those roots? Should the roots be as wide as the tree? Is it risky if they are not? Hang on, though, this tree has been uprooted! We don’t normally see the roots. Why are we seeing them here? And are they deep enough? There’s also a sort of top/bottom contrast here. The top part of the tree is healthy but the lower part really looks rather dead. Without the lower part, there wouldn’t be a top part.
Is this tree going to survive? And, with regard to how LGBTI+ people are welcomed into the Church of England, are we out of the woods yet?
Addition, October 2018: the tree has now been changed; see here, https://www.churchofengland.org/LLF Some of the leaves are falling off. Is this significant? I have no idea!