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C of E appoints second Theology Adviser in attempt to reconcile LLF differences

by Donna Birrell

The Church of England has appointed a second Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops in an attempt to draw a line under recent controversy which led to Rt Rev Helen-Ann Hartley stepping away from her role as co-lead bishop for the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the appointment of Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin, currently Canon Residentiary for Learning and Outreach at Ely Cathedral, to work alongside Rev Dr Tom Woolford.

Last week, Bishop Helen-Ann who is the Bishop of Newcastle, announced she had “serious concerns” about the appointment of Dr Woolford who holds a conservative view on the issue of church blessings for same sex couples. Bishop Helen-Ann who holds a differing view, also said that neither she nor her fellow co-lead bishop Rt Rev Martyn Snow had been involved in the appointment process.

LLF is the Church of England’s learning process around finding a way forward on matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

In a statement on the Church of England website the Archbishops said: “In the last week, there has been a lot of public commentary about the appointment of the Interim Theology Adviser to the House of Bishops.

"This has required care to resolve, not just for individuals involved or affected by this appointment, but for the wider LLF process.

"We are grateful to Jessica and to Tom for their willingness to work together as interim Joint Theology Advisers.

"We remain concerned about the negative tone of debate in some parts of the Church, especially on social media.

"We must all do our utmost to disagree in a manner which shows the love of Jesus Christ to every person we encounter, especially those with whom we disagree.

"We are confident that Tom and Jessica will model this in their new roles and support the bishops in our work.”

Dr Jessica Martin said: “It is a great pleasure to fulfil this interim role, working alongside Dr Woolford in the service of the whole Church, and modelling a mutual charity within difference in the advice he and I offer together to support the bishops and FAOC.”

Dr Tom Woolford said: “I understand the vital importance of ensuring that trust in the LLF process is maintained and I welcome the appointment of Dr Martin as Joint Theology Advisor.

"I intend and anticipate that we will both individually, as well as together, strive to provide advice in a neutral manner, and I look forward to our working together in support of the bishops and FAOC.”

A statement on the C of E website says the Joint Interim Theology Advisers to the House of Bishops and Secretaries to Faith and Order Commission (FAOC), will be on secondment for a six-month period starting in March. These interim roles are in place while a recruitment process is underway for a permanent successor to Rev Dr Isabelle Hamley, who is taking up the role of Principal of Ridley Hall.


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