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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Family debate needs deeper thinking
Mother and child
Core values of family life a priority
Reverend Canon David Grimwood, Chairman of the Family Life & Marriage Education network, FLAME, sets out his hopes for the new Archbishop.

The FLAME network of the Church of England seeks to promote understanding and the creative nurturing of relationships for the enrichment of all.

Our network is locally-based, working directly with families and people in relationships.

Recent General Synod debates reflect the struggle the Church of England to make sense of contemporary marriage and relationships.

Proposed changes in marriage law may lead to couples abandoning weddings in church in favour of other locations.

This raises the spectre of marriage being little more than an expensive party around a contract. Yet a marriage relationship contains the potential for a deeper commitment, set against an understanding of love and self-offering that is beyond what is immediately visible or measurable.

We would like to see a more effective and flexible engagement of the Church in weddings and marriage formation, by merit rather than by right.

Anxiety of divorce

The Church is also struggling with the marriage of divorced people in church.

While wishing to advocate the integrity and commitment of marriage, the Church needs to recognise failure and the possibility of new beginnings.

This area raises immense anxieties among clergy and people experiencing divorce and love.

Family out for a walk
Contemporary marriage struggles

We hope that the new Archbishop will help guide the Church to establishing a sensitivity towards couples, both parting and starting anew, holding the core values of relationships (such as, honesty, trust, grace and generosity) that will lead us beyond the current anomalies and confusion.

Encouraging understanding

Too often the Church adopts a limited and rigid view of family life. We hope that the Archbishop will encourage and enable the Church to recognise all that is good for people's well-being and nurture within a wide diversity of family shapes.

Those shapes need to embrace lone parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, as well as acknowledging the complexity of partners and their children.

FLAME is committed to developing understanding and skills in the pastoral care of the family, and look to the new Archbishop for encouragement in the task of supporting clergy and church members as they seek direction in these difficult waters.

We hope he will move us beyond purely personal and individualistic perspectives to a broader arena, using his considerable pastoral and thinking skills.

Struggles with sexuality

A major issue in relationships that has not been resolved is that of sexual orientation.

The Church of England needs a sensitive, theologically-based approach to handle the hurt and confusion felt by many people across the range of perspectives and FLAME hopes that the Archbishop will allow this process to happen.

We need to move beyond entrenched and extreme positions to find ways in which we can be heard by one another, and in which we can accept and respect (and even value) difference.

It calls for a maturity that allows the Church to move beyond control to discerning human flourishing as a gift of God.

A final issue for FLAME is a call for our understanding of the family and relationships to engage with deeper thinking concerning wider societal and cultural changes, including the location of power and authority, and the way we live our lives in the 21st century.

FLAME believes that it is vital for the Church to promote these connections and develop our deliberations about the nature of family life today and trusts that following today's appointment, this will come to fruition.

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23 Jul 02 | UK
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