“How can we respond to all that’s happened, and to the differences we experience as one family here in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. Because through our baptism, that’s what I believe we are. One family.” After the conclusion of opening worship and the commissioning of Jenny Hollingsworth as Diocesan Secretary and CEO at diocesan synod on 18 March, Bishop Michael reminded people of the Living in Love and Faith process, following the recent vote at General Synod.
He concluded his address saying, “How can we avoid this issue from derailing what we are principally about – of winning people and communities for Christ, of transforming the world so that it conforms more and more to his image, of passing on the breadth and depth and height of this extraordinary inheritance of faith that we have been given, not because we chose Jesus Christ. But because he chose us.”
Responding to one of the questions from the synod members following the update, Bishop Ruth said, “May I take this opportunity to make a public apology on behalf of myself, Bishop Michael and the church across our diocese for the ways in which we have failed to welcome, include and value our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters. As bishops we will do our utmost to do better.”
She continued, “Any use of such prayers which in the future are commended, will be a matter of personal conscience, as is the case with any decision to remarry divorcees. We bishops will be supportive of both those who choose to use them and those who do not.”
The bishops have received a number of personal letters and emails expressing concerns and hopes following the General Synod debate. They have sought to respond to each individually and the text of the substantive general part of these responses can be found on our LLF page.
Synod members had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the LLF process, ahead of Bishop Michael and Bishop Ruth attending the College of Bishops on 23 March. It was also announced that an additional diocesan synod session will be held on Monday, 26 June (venue to be confirmed).
Synod also heard the reflections on the LLF debate from Bath and Wells General Synod representatives, Revd Jo Stobart and James Cary. They both commented on the ‘respectful and intelligent’ way the ‘well-chaired’ debate was conducted, explaining that the diocesan General Synod representatives reflected the full range of views held across the diocese.
Synod then heard from the Revd Duncan Dormer from USPG about their work partnership with churches in championing ecological justice – increasing the knowledge, voices and rights of those who are being impacted by climate change. Synod affirmed their support for the work of USPG.
Bishop Michael then shared his thoughts on refreshing the diocesan strategy, his four stakes in the sand and how we can get involved in the process as we continue to seek to be ‘God’s people, living and telling the story of Jesus’.
Clergy and lay wellbeing was next to be discussed, and the results of the wellbeing survey undertaken at the last session of synod were shared. Wellbeing Adviser, Sally Walters gave an insight into the support on offer and synod members were invited to consider how we can contribute to the wellbeing of others – as a church and as individuals.
A broader update on the proceedings at General Synod followed, with both James and Jo stressing the importance of everyone undertaking safeguarding training.
Before closing the session, prayers were said for Rosemary Hasler former Lay Dean of Axbridge who passed away since the last synod. Bishop Michael also expressed his thanks for the work of Sue Rose, Vocations Team Leader and long-standing Synod member, who will be retiring in June and also for the Clergy Chair of Synod, the Revd Jane Haslam who will become Associate Archdeacon of Dorchester in the Diocese of Oxford in July.