A response to the Bishop of Oxford's recent announcement and publication
As members of the Ridley community may be aware, on Friday 4 November the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, published a 52-page essay titled Together in Love and Faith: Personal Reflections and Next Steps for the Church, in which he argues that clergy should have the freedom to bless and marry same-sex couples. This development, should it receive the approval of Synod, may require some restructuring of the Church of England to accommodate those who could not accept such a move. Publication of Bishop Steven’s essay was reported widely on various media platforms including the BBC. John Inge, Bishop of Worcester and Martin Gorick, Bishop of Dudley, also published a joint letter to the clergy of their diocese, articulating the same view as Bishop Steven and commending his booklet.
There will be a variety of responses to the publication in the dioceses of Oxford and Worcester, in the wider Church of England, the Anglican Communion, in partner denominations, in the Universities of Cambridge and Durham, the Cambridge Theological Federation and here, in this community at Ridley Hall.
Some will be delighted to see two senior bishops, both of whom are members of the House of Lords, speaking publicly in support of what they feel is an issue of justice and dignity, articulating something they believe is right and which they hope and pray is the outcome of the LLF process. Others will feel confused, wondering what it means for some bishops to speak now while others refrain from sharing personal views, where this leaves the LLF process, and what may happen next. Yet others will be deeply hurt and saddened, concerned that the authority of scripture is being undermined, the received teaching of the church put aside and the possibility of a split in the Church of England or wider Anglican Communion becoming more real.
Whatever your theological position and your thoughts and feelings, I urge us as a community here at Ridley Hall to remember first our shared identity as those who are baptised into Christ Jesus. We seek to be a community of prayer and worship, striving to honour God in all that we are and in the ways in which we think, speak and act. We are called to be a learning community of rigour and also of grace. We hold different views on important questions. It is important to admit that we disagree and to work hard to disagree well. The way we conduct ourselves will set an example to others and will contribute to shaping the church that emerges in the coming years.
The vicar of St Ebbes in Oxford, the Rev Vaughan Roberts, has published a response to the Bishop of Oxford’s essay. Titled, Together in Love and Faith? Should the Church Bless Same-Sex partnerships? A Response to the Bishop of Oxford. I commend this to you for reflection as you think and pray through these matters. Vaughan’s response is comprehensive and theologically rigorous. Crucially, his writing has a kind and respectful tone which, he explains, he has experienced in Bishop Steven. Vaughan and Bishop Steven shared their work with each other before publication, providing opportunity for consideration and comment. In his introduction Vaughan writes, ‘…there is much we disagree about, but we are united in recognising the integrity of the other, as one who is seeking to be faithful to Christ.’
This is an excellent example to the members of the community at Ridley Hall. As we listen, read, think, discuss and pray, there will be much we are eager to say. Personal identities are involved, issues of the highest importance are being considered. I urge us, as those baptised into Christ and called to be future leaders of the church, to heed the scripture that encourages us to be, ‘quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19).
Let’s continue to explore our own convictions and hearts with rigour and honesty, encourage one another to engage carefully with scripture and to think and love more deeply. As those who are secure in our identity as the baptised people of God, we are able to admit our differences and exercise gentleness, patience and self-control.
Above all, let’s pray. For the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, for our bishops, General Synod members, those involved in leading the LLF process, for any who have been hurt or excluded, and for all Christians seeking to discern the leading of the Spirit of God in deeply challenging times.
Members of the Tutorial Staff Team were given the opportunity to read and comment on this statement before publication and have expressed their support for the key messages.
The Revd Dr Michael Volland, Principal
 Announcement on Diocese of Oxford website, 4 Nov 2022: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/news/same-sex-marriage-in-cofe.php
 Text of letter from +John and +Martin to clergy of Diocese of Worcester, 4 Nov 2022: https://www.cofe-worcester.org.uk/living-in-love-and-faith--a-letter-from-our-bishops.php
 Link to downloadable PDF of Vaughan Roberts’ response to the Bishop of Oxford, 4 Nov 2022: https://2713aced-d665-4866-bcd0-8f7d81f2f5fe.usrfiles.com/ugd/2713ac_4f9a3958db324778b807e9507fb7c1b3.pdf