Peace be with you – and the Living in Love and Faith process.

Last November, I went to the Transforming Theology conference at Cambridge University, organised by Alex Clare-Young, who has been named as a new member of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) Co-ordinating group.
One of the speakers, Ph.D. student Kenneth Wilkinson-Roberts, gave a talk on peace studies and applied this to the Church of England’s Shared Regional Conversation process and its strategy of good disagreement. I was very taken with the ideas at the time and I am starting to see some of this approach in the LLF process.
Good disagreement polarises the debate, it encourages a move to more extreme positions, because there is a commitment that ‘both sides of the debate must be heard’. One effect of this is that anyone who wants their voice to be heard must be at either end of the debate and so the more moderate voices do not get heard. Another big effect of good disagreement is that it makes people solidify their views, by emphasising the differences between people’s positions and does not allow for the development of a range of more nuanced views.
At last week’s General Synod presentation on LLF, it was announced that the new approach would move away from good disagreement and would now be ‘appreciative disagreement’ which does allow for more nuanced views and emphasises understanding other points of view.
One positive effect of a peace studies approach is that it brings the discussion towards the centre and away from the silos at the extremes. If this marginalises some of the toxic views that are currently being expressed, then I welcome this. Some extreme opinions are being given a platform that is totally undeserved by the number of people holding those extreme views.
I hope that this move towards the centre will help those with power in the Church of England to realise that the current anti-gay and anti-trans positions, together with a legacy of institutional racism and misogyny have created a toxic brand that the people of England do not want from their national church.
One fear is that after LLF is complete, that it will be like so many reports in the past which have not made any lasting changes. I doubt that LLF will solve all the problems the church has with human sexuality, but if they can permanently change the nature of the debate, then it is something I really welcome.
Dr Eeva John, as the enabling officer of LLF, has the hardest job in the Church of England. Eeva John, may peace be with you.

Author: LGBTQFaithUK

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