Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What is in the Pilling report?

First, there are two reports so far of a London press conference yesterday about GAFCON, and it appears there may be a third one to come in the Church Times.

The Telegraph reported it this way: Church facing divide over blessings for same-sex couples

The Church of England is facing a split over proposals to offer a formal blessing for gay couples.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, warned on Tuesday that a move to celebrate same-sex relationships in church would be a “red line” for traditionalist parishes.

Clergy and lay members of the Church opposed to any relaxation of the rules could reject the authority of any bishops who supported the move, he warned…

The Guardian commented on it this way: It started as a split over gay clergy. But now the Anglican Communion is dead.

What, you gave a schism and nobody came? When six people hold a press briefing and three journalists attend, you know the story is over, and on Tuesday morning that is what happened when the evangelical wing of the Church of England announced – yet again – its plans to rebel against any open accommodation with gay people.

There were two retired bishops. There were three vicars and one of their wives. They talked to three journalists for an hour about their experiences at a conference of conservative Anglicans, called Gafcon, which met in Nairobi last week. This was set up as a protest against the reluctance of the official Anglican Communion to expel the Americans (who pay for it) as a punishment for their enthusiasm for openly gay clergy.

Once upon a time, this would have been a story. We heard threats to withhold money from the central bodies of the Church of England, threats to ignore the authority of other bishops, threats of defections to their grouping from the mainstream of opinion here. All these things will no doubt happen, as they have been happening in a small way for the past 20 years. What’s new is that no one any longer cares. The split has happened, and it turns out not to matter at all…

The Telegraph report refers to a blog post by Peter Ould concerning the contents of the forthcoming Pilling Report. That can be found here: The Path After Pilling.

I have now confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be – This is not spin, it is not trying to influence the outcome, it is the real deal. Whilst the committee will not recommend adapting our services of Holy Matrimony to include same-sex marriages, I am led to understand that it will propose a formal rite that will provide an alternative for those in a formal same-sex union (Civil Partnership or Marriage) on the basis that we cannot presume such a relationship is sexual. Once that happens we will have formally declared same-sex unions to be holy. In the Church of England our liturgy is our doctrine and the moment we have a rite that in any way affirms same-sex relationships then we will have fundamentally changed what we believe…

Arun Arora has commented about this on Twitter, see Response from Church of England:

@thechurchmouse @PeterOuld @edwardmalnick @John_Bingham its pure nonsense. all drafts to date have recommended against liturgy for these.

@PeterOuld @thechurchmouse @edwardmalnick @John_Bingham Also final draft is not written so your blog -whilst a good read-is pure conjecture

Colin Coward has a blog article too: Is Pilling going to recommend the blessing of gay relationships?

Update 3 pm
And today, the Church of England has issued this statement: Pilling Commission on human sexuality. The full text is copied below the fold.

Pilling Commission on human sexuality
30 October 2013

Statement from William Fittall, Secretary General of the General Synod and Archbishops’ Council, placing recent media and blog speculation in context:

“At last Friday’s Synod press conference a national journalist asked me to confirm the now widely held story that the Pilling Group on human sexuality had been scrapped. I said that, on the contrary, the Group was still meeting and was due to complete its report in time for the House of Bishops to consider it at its meeting in December.

“Then on Monday a clergyman posted a blog saying: “I have now confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be - This is not spin, it is not trying to influence the outcome, it is the real deal.” Our Communications Office responded to this by saying that, on the contrary, “the final draft of the Pilling report has not yet been completed or signed off.”

“In relation to these and any other claims it is important to be clear that the Pilling group cannot be expected to provide a running commentary on a report that it is still working on. In addition, the House of Bishops is in no position to say anything about a report that it has yet to receive, still less study. Since no one can know at this point what the report will eventually say, such claims are simply speculation.

“It is also important to recall that when the House of Bishops established the review in July 2011 it did so because it wished “…to offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. Our intention is to produce a further consultation document …” The Pilling report will be a report to the House of Bishops and it will then be for the House to decide, in the light of the report, what proposals and process of consultation it wishes to launch.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 12:47pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

What is extraordinary in Peter Ould's "to the barricades" post is the tone which he adopts. I've often found his reflections some of the most interesting on sexuality, not least because of his own journey. So while I don't share his conservative, and I would say, theologically dubious, perspectives on human sexuality and 'gay healing', I do find him worth listening to and influential. But this post is completely over the top and without doubt mistimed. To be generous, one might say that his guess on what Pilling might say touches him very deeply and has provoked an understandably emotional response. To be less generous, one might say that he's attempting to rally the troops to provoke a pre-publication alteration to what he fears Pilling might say. I would only agree with William Fittall and reflect that Colin Coward of Changing Attitude recently posted a blog saying that Pilling was basically going to be a 'no change' report. So, who knows? Peter Ould certainly doesn't...

Posted by: Simon Butler on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 2:58pm GMT

The raising of this issue now leads to some interesting speculations. Firstly, what on earth is going on. Peter Ould tells us that he has heard from a umber of sources what the Pilling Report is going to say and sounds the trumpet to rally the troops. We don't know who those sources are and I doubt whether any challenge would reveal them. So what is the purpose?

Could it be that this is a pre-emptive shot across the bows of the Church by the Conservative Evangelicals that all change will be resisted to the death and we are to be cowed into submission by the force of their money and power. They have form, of course, something very similar scuppered Jeffrey John at Southwark and before that at Reading. Whether they have any foreknowledge or not is thus irrelevant. This is an attempt to force the issue before it's too late.

Then there is the interesting role of Mr Ould himself. Why him? He is outside the machinery and structures of the Church, he has no official position at all but a web blog read by many for its eccentric views and personal revelations of a 'post gay' with an axe to grind. He is therefore a safe person to entrust these 'leaks' to since their contents can be authoritatively denied, as has happened. Peter Ould's reliability as a source of authoritative information is further compromised, yet the substance of these 'leaks' remains. Clever.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 7:57pm GMT

"the moment we have a rite that in any way affirms same-sex relationships then we will have fundamentally changed what we believe…"

Poppycock. "Fundamentally...what we believe" is in the CREEDS, not (as I hope for) A Certain Addendum to the marriage liturgy. The Creeds aren't changing.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 9:02pm GMT

I think you might be right about the tone Simon. But Peter is putting his finger on something important, in two parts.

1. If there is any proposal for some sort of liturgical accommodation, then this inevitably has doctrinal implications no matter what other statement is made.

2. Most people will be unaware of these implications, and will see the two as balancing each other out.

Posted by: Ian Paul on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 9:29pm GMT

Wow, Peter Ould is pretty full on with his accusation that the CofE is a "Church now blaspheming the Holy Spirit". But not to worry, because (in the comments) he tells us "I am a prophet and I'm telling you what's coming." It's a bit...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 at 9:55pm GMT

I too had to wonder what poor Peter was ranting for.

Then I read this commentary:
and I think the strategy became a little clearer.

Now I am not really surprised that Peter should choose to reposition himself in such a way, and at this time. Much of this is a reflection of his own journey and the demons he lives with. There is an uncharacteristic tinge of hubris in this piece that makes me wonder .........

I think Colin is missing the bigger picture though and is being sucked into the personal stuff. Peter can argue in a way Colin cannot. Peter's blog is very much his own stuff. Colin's shouldn't be ...

If one takes George Conger seriously - and I really struggle to do that - then he is saying that the new war front for Jensen and his cohorts is the Fosse Way and Watling Street. The gloves are off.

I think we may have missed this declaration of war (or just seen it as more of the same) and Peter is trying to get people to notice.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 31 October 2013 at 1:42am GMT

"What if they gave a schism and nobody came?" It is a tribute to Rowan Williams that he humored the frenetic schismatics long enough to let them lose their steam, so that the stately ship of the Anglican Communion could continue to sail on in triumph. Schism can only work if you strike when the iron is hot, and the would-be schismatics lost their moment of opportunity as they fell over themselves fuming about Rowan or scrutinizing his sometimes Delphic utterances. Now we hear rants from Africa directed against his successor, but they have no traction -- just old and tired repetition of a tawdry message. The ship has sailed.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 31 October 2013 at 6:45am GMT

Should the reports be correct that the C of E will now offer such blessings we await a lavish apology from the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Nigel Taber-Hamilton
The Episcopal Church

Posted by: Nigel Taber-Hamilton on Thursday, 31 October 2013 at 9:17pm GMT

"Should the reports be correct that the C of E will now offer such blessings we await a lavish apology from the former Archbishop of Canterbury."

Yes, we will wait for that "lavish apology," but we shouldn't hold our collective breath for it. Besides, we're on the way to the sacrament of marriage, already being performed in some dioceses where there's marriage equality. So the ABC's, former and current, can still harass us for exercising our conscience.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 1 November 2013 at 5:20pm GMT

I'm amazed anyone in TEC still gives to the Compass Rose Society.

Feeding the mouth that bites....

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 1 November 2013 at 8:44pm GMT

Although I have very little time for the former ABC, I don't understand why anyone thinks they deserve an apology from him if the church changed its mind on a major issue after he left office?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 1 November 2013 at 9:16pm GMT

I do love Dr. Peter Carrell's title for his Gafcon article: GAFFE I and GAFFE II - seems apposite!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 at 10:21am GMT
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