Ridley Hall and Living in Love and Faith
Our Principal, the Revd Dr Michael Volland, reflects on how Ridley Hall is engaging with the recently published materials from the Living in Love and Faith project
The Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources were published in early November and include a book, podcast, films and a course for small groups. The LLF Learning Hub introduction tells us that the purpose of the resources is: 'to inspire people to think more deeply about what it means to be human and to live in love and faith with one another. They tackle the tough questions and the divisions among Christians about what it means to be holy in a society in which understandings and practices of gender, sexuality and marriage continue to change.'
LLF was commissioned in 2017 by the House of Bishops. It was chaired by a former Principal of Ridley Hall, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth. The Enabling Officer for the project was Dr Eeva John, also a highly respected former member of the staff team at Ridley. Bishop Christopher and Dr John worked with a multi-disciplinary panel of more than 40 theologians, historians, biologists, and social scientists. The resources have been designed to assist the Church as we seek to learn how questions about human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture. In their introduction to the LLF book, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York invite the whole Church to immerse itself in a new learning process.
Ridley Hall is a learning and worshipping community which exists to prepare men and women for lay and ordained leadership in the Church and in which we are committed to ‘growing in wisdom to proclaim Jesus Christ’. The high value that we place on growth in godly wisdom leads us to recognise the importance of responding to the LLF authors’ invitation to listen to each other with grace and humility. We seek to listen carefully because we believe that this is the example that Jesus set for us; attentive listening to God, others, self and culture. We are mindful also, of the encouragement given in scripture to be, ‘…quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). Responding to the invitation at the heart of LLF will be something we do wholeheartedly because we are a community already committed to listening carefully, engaging rigorously and disagreeing well. A recent inspection report from the Ministry Division of the Church of England explicitly commended us for this. We strive to develop habits of attentive listening, rigorous engagement (with scripture, ourselves, others and our culture) and good disagreement because we believe that the people we send out will need to practise these things as they seek to lead and serve local congregations.
As a Theological College approved by the House of Bishops to train those preparing for public ministry, Ridley Hall is committed to upholding and honouring the current teaching of the Church of England in relation to human sexuality and relationships. This is set out in our Community Rule and members of faculty and students are expected to live within these guidelines during their training at Ridley.
Ridley is an evangelical college and the faculty place high value on our evangelical heritage and commitments. While we locate ourselves firmly in this rich tradition, like the vast majority of local churches and Christian communities, staff and students at Ridley hold differing views on important, complex and sensitive issues. We are committed to shaping a learning community at Ridley in which those with different views on sensitive and challenging questions can engage fruitfully and be encouraged to interrogate their own understandings and those of their peers in an atmosphere of prayer, worship, study of scripture, mutual respect and commitment to growing together in love for God and neighbour. Like Christians everywhere, each of us bring our love for God and our variety of life circumstances and prior experiences to our engagement with scripture and to our wrestling with the big questions of our time. We read the Bible and engage with others from the place of prayer, seeking to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we are and in everything we say and do.
Because of our commitment to listen carefully as we live together at Ridley Hall, we look forward to engaging with the resources produced by the LLF project. We hope that this engagement will help our students to grow in their love for God and in their desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with other people. We long for our students to be able to demonstrate their love for God by exercising wisdom and humility, to be committed to serving alongside the whole people of God, disagreeing graciously, being prepared to learn and grow in their own understanding or, where they hold different, even opposed points of view, to share their convictions with compassion, integrity and a concern to see others grow and flourish in the Christian faith.