The Listening Church
Updated: Jan 13
Learning to Listen to The Faithful
Picture: Pope Francis in Listening Mode / Credit: www.wbur.org
T'is the season for consulting the faithful! "Synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium," Pope Francis November 29, 2021.
What kind of church fits the shifting social sands of the twenty first century? The Church of England and the Catholic Church have initiated listening exercises among their laity. Hoping to keep in step with their congregations in these dynamic times.
This blog looks first at the Church of England's Living in Love and Faith followed by the Catholic Church's Synod 2021 - 2023.
The Church of England: Living in Love & Faith Together?
Image: Living in Love & Faith resources / Credit: www.stalbans.anglican.org
In October 2020, The Church of England set itself the task of reconciling its differences on identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage under the umbrella of Living in Love and Faith. Two sentences frame two gateway questions followed by a What's Next? explanation.
How do questions about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage fit within the bigger picture of the good news of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to live in love and faith together as a Church?
"Living in Love and Faith seeks to invite the whole Church to explore these questions using a range of resources – a course, a book, podcasts, films and an online library – to pray, study and learn together.
The Bishops of the Church of England invite worshipping communities across the country to use the LLF resources to learn together during 2021 and early 2022. They hope that congregations will consider learning together with people who have different perspectives and lived experiences, perhaps by joining with another church nearby. They hope that deeper relationships between people who differ in their lived experiences and perspectives will be forged as a result of learning together using the LLF resources.
Importantly, the Bishops are themselves committed to learning using the resources and to listening to what is emerging as worshipping communities across their dioceses feedback and reflect on their learning. This will enable the whole people of God to feed into the Bishops’ discernment for the Church in 2022."
The Art of Listening to the Other
YouTube video: Living Love and Faith - an interview with Andrew Goddard
The Hub became aware of the Living in Love and Faith initiative through a correspondent sending a video with the words: "You might like to listen to this interview."
Being a Catholic, The Hub's Faith posts have, perhaps inevitably, been dominated by Catholic content. But the spoke was set up as a safe space for people of all faiths and none to explore common values. That aim remains an aspiration. So the video was a welcome eye-opener to currents in another Christian tradition.
The video shows Rev Dr Andrew Goddard being interviewed on issues of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The interview takes place in the pews of St James the Less in Pimlico where Andrew is an assistant minister and his wife Lis Goddard is the vicar.
Andrew is a Senior Research Fellow of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics and teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena and Westminster Theological Centre. He has written on a number of areas in ethics and on Anglicanism (his study of Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: His Legacy, was published by Lion in January 2013) and is currently researching and writing a book about Christian sexual ethics.
The video opens with Andrew explaining he is talking because he was part of the team who created the LLF resources. The interviewer introduces Andrew as on the traditional wing on identify and sexuality and invites him to set out the basis for beliefs. She gives Andrew the opportunity to describe his hopes and feelings about LLF while later reminding him she is of the opposite opinion.
The video is a fascinating window into a live wire issue in the Anglican church. Sadly there is no second half where Andrew listens to the interviewer responding to the same questions. Round 2 please!
Cancelling Cancel Culture
Picture: Interior of St James the Less Pimlico / Credit: londonchurchbuildings.com
Regardless of your opinion of the issues discussed in the video, for or against, indifferent or in the middle, hopefully you will agree it is encouraging to hear two people proactively discuss across such a divide.
A refreshing counter to the current vogue for cancel culture. Justifying not listening to the other simply because of disagreements of opinion. Hopefully examples like this can encourage society into greater dialogue. As a means to understanding differences and exploring common ground.
The Catholic Church: Synod 2021-2023
YouTube video: Vatican News 09 October 2021 - Pope Francis: Moment of Reflection
Involving All The Faithful
"The Church of God is convoked in Synod. With this convocation, Pope Francis invites the whole Church to question itself on synodality: a decisive theme for the life and mission of the Church. This site will accompany the two-year journey (2021-2023) of reflection and sharing of the whole Church."
The site explains "synodality" as: "Synodality indicates walking together and listening to one another but above all to the Holy Spirit. To deepen this essential characteristic of the Church, the upcoming synod is unlike any previous one. It starts with, and involves all the faithful at local Churches across the world, promising to listen to all, especially to lay people. That is why this Synod is a 2-year process, starting from October 10, 2021, to October 2023."
Picture: The logo of the Catholic Church's Synod 2021-2023 /
The diocesan listening phase will run until April 2022 and will be followed by a continental phase from September 2022 to March 2023. The final “universal Church phase” will culminate in the traditional assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican in October 2023. Bishops from around the world will meet in Rome to discuss the theme:"For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission."
T'is the season for consulting the faithful! "Synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium," Pope Francis said on November 29, 2021.
The Synod page sets out the hopes for the consultation:"By walking together, and together reflecting on the journey made, the Church will be able to learn from what it will experience which processes can help it to live in communion, to achieve participation, to open itself to mission."
The Hub's parish of St Joseph's, Epsom has embarked on a series of three session discussions with parishioners, online and in person, to explore the themes of the Synod.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills, New York has set up a parish Synod page that could be a useful template for other members of the Universal Church. After introducing the Synod the page poses a "fundamental question" to parishioners:
Catholics all over the Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens are asked to respond to the fundamental question of the synod:
A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?
Before attempting to answer this question, it is helpful to remember that “journeying together” occurs in two interconnected ways. First, we journey together with one another as the People of God. Second, we journey together as the People of God with the entire human family. These two perspectives enrich one another and are helpful for our common discernment toward deeper communion and more fruitful mission for our times.
We also recommend that you take the time to read the synod background document before responding. This document presents 10 core themes and related questions that will help you to reflect on and explore the meaning of the synod more fully.
Submit Your Feedback
The next paragraphs give parishioners links to the background document and feedback forms under the heading: Submit Your Feedback.
"Individuals are invited to read this Synod Background Document: 10 Core Themes and Definitions (pdf format), then use our Google feedback form to give your thoughtful responses on the 10 questions. Thank you.
You may also use our PDF form (you can fill out the form in your browser, save a copy to your computer, and email it back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or print the form, complete it, and mail it back to the rectory)."
We will see how these concurrent periods of consultation and listening go.