During the debate I spoke on the amendment calling for the Pastoral Guidance to be published before the implementation of the Prayers of Love and Faith.
This was my speech. You can watch it here.
I welcome this amendment.
We were promised in the debate in July that we would see the full guidance before the prayers came into use, and we should take our time to make sure that that is the case. Five issues which specifically affect the clergy.
- First, whether they use or do not use the prayers, the Pastoral Guidance will provide protection for clergy from challenge. Without it clergy are exposed. Seeing legal advice might give some consolation on this point, but even had that been offered it would be necessary to see the Guidance in full before the prayers are commended.
- This means secondly that the pastoral guidance fits into the framework of clergy discipline and with the clergy conduct measure passing through Synod we need to be clear about how these two pieces of legislation join up.
- Thirdly, in theory conduct of the clergy is defined in the canons, but in practice Issues in Human Sexuality, which LLF is to replace, and the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, which the CCM is to replace have been used to define unbecoming conduct. As the introduction to the Guidelines says, they were not written to do this. They have carried a weight which they were never designed to hold and the result has been a sense of unfairness for many and misery for some. We must not repeat this mistake. The new documents need to have enough legal weight.
- Forth, the Pastoral Guidance is to be a suite of documents which will evolve and change to fit changing circumstances, our conduct judged against the guidance as it was when we acted as we did. This assumes a distinction between life and work. But we are making decisions about how we order our households, run our whole lives, with whom we may enter into a friendship [“don’t make friends in the parish”], whom we may marry. Unless we resign our orders we are bound by ecclesiastical discipline even if we don’t have a licence. You can’t evolve the rules regularly in that environment.
- Fifthly and finally, who will decide on what is to evolve and how and when. Issues is a document of the House of Bishops, but the Guidelines belong to the Convocations. We must ask how and when will the Lower Houses be involved in matters which will touch all of us and define not just our work, but our lives. Will it be the House of Bishops by fiat? Or the College after a vote? Or – if the Guidance really is to mirror circumstances, maybe the local Ordinary? That is how managers work, but we are not managed. Or will there be consultation with the Convocations? But what about the laity who are affected by how their pastors behave? So maybe the Synod; but then you can’t evolve in the way you want.
There are lots of questions here and they need to be thought through and answered properly before these prayers are commended if the clergy are not to find themselves in an extraordinarily difficult position whatever their view on the substantive issue. With this amendment it might be possible still to vote for the main motion, although my understanding of the sacrament of marriage will mean that I shall not. But without this amendment, I cannot see how any cleric of any viewpoint can offer it their support, and would ask the laity to hear these clerical concerns and also to support this amendment.