Thursday, 28 November 2013


The report is a step in the right direction. It is clear that the Church of England is divided on the issue of gay sex. However, since the divide is kind of 50-50, it seems right that if a vicar and local church council want to bless a gay couple's relationship (or indeed marry them) then their conscience on the matter should be respected, and not overruled by the other half of the church.

Having recognised that this report advances positive arguments, it still needs to be recognised that the Anglican Church requires its priests and bishops, even if they have a partner they love, to ABSTAIN FROM SEX... a demand which, if imposed on heterosexual couples, would cause outrage and uproar.

The official dogma of the Church of England is that gay sex is unacceptable.

At this point, whatever the report advocates in terms of appearances, nothing has changed.

This is reflected, perhaps, in the way the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke and voted against gay and lesbian couples getting married.

Gay sexuality... the PR goes... is to be tolerated (and defended from bullying)... but not yet to be affirmed and promoted and celebrated.

Part of this is the knowledge that celebration of gay sexuality (as courageously championed by the Anglican Church in the US) would divide the Church of England, the wealthiest of whose parishes often tend towards more conservative evangelical stances on sexual morality.

It would also shatter the Anglican Communion worldwide (though it's kind of fragmenting anyway. Whether one wants to delay justice just to appease churches in countries that persecute gay people is a very moot point.

The reality is that - as in the recent legislative conditions attached to Equal Marriage - the conscience of local PCCs and priests, and some very welcoming communities, are being strait-jacketed into a top-down conservative authoritarianism, that plays a make believe that "The Church" is against gay sex.


Posted by: Susannah on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 1:50pm GMT


So the politics behind this report are far more pragmatic and difficult.

If you do a survey of Church of England diocesan websites, you will find that LGBT presence is nearly everywhere 'airbrushed' out of existence. The topic is regarded as too hot to really handle and embrace and champion.

So whereas the Church, one would hope, would be at the vanguard of social justice issues... it still drags its feet, so disappointingly. It allows priests to live with a same-sex partner but not to have sex. It wants to stop bullying of gay and lesbian people, but it still teaches that their most intimate expressions of love are sinful and wrong.

Yet, despite the official line, which is a cowardly line... most people in the public and the pews are increasingly getting their heads round the fact that two people loving each other, making sacrifices for each other, doing normal jobs, living normal lives... should be supported, loved, and affirmed in a world where, frankly, there is too much hatred and not enough love.

Therefore, there is a strong moral case behind Pilling's report: the defence of conscience and the moral case for individual Church of England parishes, sanctioned by their priest and PCC, expressing the collective conscience of their community, to NOT discriminate... to bless... to affirm... to celebrate the tender, sacrificial, committed love of two people who want to share their lives... regardless of sexual orientation.

Let each local church decide their own policy of welcome and reception, seeing as at present one of the 50% groups are dominating the other 50% group, and saying 'No, you must act as if the entire church bans gay sex'... which is an illusion and a constraint on the good conscience of those Christians and local churches who believe that sexual orientation is a normal human function that has no bearing on our capacity to work, to love, to give.

Posted by: Susannah on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 1:53pm GMT

'the document offered only 'findings and recommendations' intended to form part of future conversations.' Archbishop of Canterbury.

So, there we have it.

Might feature in 'future conversations' - or not.

The dishonesty of the leadership of the C of E beggars belief.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 4:59pm GMT

'In Sir Joseph’s words their ‘disagreements have been explored in the warmth of a shared faith’. Our prayer is that the process of reflection that will now be needed in the Church of England, shaped by the House of Bishops and the College, will be characterised by a similar spirit.” '

Lgbt have never been reliably treated 'in the warmth of shared faith' in my experience, so this would be a positive development.

I am not sanguine that all bishops and other ministers would be capable of this towards those of us who are lgbt.

Trust must be earned, and created.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 5:05pm GMT

Sometimes I tend to think that the C of E will simply bore itself to death - laity will simply lose all interest in the seemingly eternal back-and-forth and in the loud self-righteousness of the reactionary right, who seem to excel in nothing but indignation.

How many of my young friends shun Christianity for these very reasons?

Yet my home church is growing, especially among the young, a fact strongly linked to our advertised Open and Affirming status. Each time we have a Matthew Shepard sermon or a same-sex marriage we gain new members, hetero- and homosexual who come to us for a strong gospel of love and acceptance and social engagement.

The C of E is simply making itself irrelevant: one has either to ignore its endless debates and turmoils around sexuality, or leave it in dismay. I have chosen the latter course during my annual visits, sadly.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 6:29pm GMT

To my mind, this is not leadership, it is followership. The attitudes of the people in the pews have (in the main part) moved so far that holding the old line is now impossible, and the leadership is now following this - agreeing very largely with the the more moderate kind of conservative opinion. Too little, too late.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 7:08pm GMT

Note that one of the signatories was the bishop of Fulham.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 7:11pm GMT

"Part of this is the knowledge that celebration of gay sexuality (as courageously championed by the Anglican Church in the US) would divide the Church of England, the wealthiest of whose parishes often tend towards more conservative evangelical stances on sexual morality."

Just for the record, it was my perception here in the US, that the opposition to LGBT inclusion in TEC was also led by some of our wealthiest churches. It was definitely true in the three dioceses in which I've lived.

I have a personal theory that that's the reason for all the lawsuits here. Those wealthy parishes felt absolutely entitled to impose their bigotry on everyone else, after all, they always had… Losing that power was part of the blow.

The movement in CoE seems overall positive. Not everyone is going to arrive at the Promised Land at the same time. Allowing parishes and clergy to exercise their conscience, rather than let the bigoted position rule over all, is much more reasonable.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 7:20pm GMT

One could ponder the fact that, if the Church had been more proactive in this area of offering a Blessing service for Same-Sex Couples, the later demand for Same-Sex Marriage may never have arisen. However, in the circumstances, it would seem that the Church of England could now make good its seeming lack of compassion towards Same-Sex Couples by taking the advice of the Pilling Commission – perhaps with an officially authorised form, or forms, of service for the occasion.

Thanks are due to the Commission for its work on behalf of the Church on this important matter of what is seen as social justice to a sadly beleaguered minority in the Church

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 8:30pm GMT

The Church of England cautiously dips its toe in the shallow end of the swimming pool.

I'm not expecting the Pilling Report to become Church Doctrine as did the Windsor Report so soon after that was published.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 11:43pm GMT

Following Pilling's recommendation that the Church be allowed to perform same sex blessings (although the CofE is not actually courageous enough to provide an official liturgy!) does this now mean that the Established Church will be, at long last, brave enough to consecrate Jeffrey John as bishop?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 5:22am GMT

What is the point of the two year consultation period, when Anglican Mainstream and other conservative evangelicals make it clear that there is no room for negotiation, that the Bible speaks clearly and that cannot be negotiated? How and why have dialogue with people who are so convinced that only they have the truth?

Posted by: sjh on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 6:46am GMT

Note that one of the signatories was the bishop of Fulham.

Your point being?

Posted by: ian on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 8:49am GMT

John: why should we note that one of the signatories was the Bishop of Fulham?

Posted by: peter kettle on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 8:59am GMT

"What is the point of the two year consultation period"

It's a cynical attempt to kick the whole issue into the long grass. "Now look here, Ms Parks, all this talk about seats on the bus is all very well, but we've set up a committee to hold a facilitated conversation about it, so you won't need to hold a boycott, will you?"

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 9:31am GMT

There is nothing here, only the blueprint of the upcoming battle Giddings recently predicted.

This may encourage few hundred more clergy to jump now and bless same sex unions rather than wait for the debate, but the vast majority are already happy to do them.

This is a report recommending what already is.

I am deeply disappointed, it should be dismissed.

Posted by: Martin Retnolds on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 9:48am GMT

One might note it because it shows that battle-grounds constantly criss-cross. Under the same head, one might also note Father David's differing reactions: his charge of Erastianism (which, obviously, I do not remotely accept)co-existing with robust championship of the serially maltreated Jeffrey John (where I am glad to find him on the side of decency and correct procedure).

Posted by: John on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 10:40am GMT

Maybe I'm missing something here, but to me the biggest disconnect in the Report is that, after acknowledging the history of homophobia and bullying, it then implicitly assumes that that history has had no effect on the doctrine or the debate to date.

In other words, is the "antis" clean up their language, then a pure, theological, loving but abstract discussion can ensue in which mutual decisions can be made by the whole, including the antis, about how to continue treating the victims of the bullying the Report deplores. Bizarre, quite frankly.

Posted by: John Wirenius on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 12:48pm GMT

Martin Reynolds is always very perceptive....I notice Church Society welcome the Report, particulary the Bishop of Birkenhead's dissension.

Things are moving a pace though, it took the C of E decades to recognise re-marriage after divorce..this is certainly progressing at a quicker pace.

Posted by: Robert Ian willliams on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 5:45pm GMT

Martin, this report marks a change invisible if you're caught up in the battle: it says the church will have to make a decision, and do so democratically. Most people up till now have really just hoped that the whole bloody thing would go away.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 6:48am GMT

Presumably the democratic decision will be a vote to overturn Synod's 1987 "Higton motion," which claims that "fornication" and "homosexual genital acts" fall short of the "ideal" of a "permanent married relationship."

Since this motion was passed 403 votes to 8, either the church in the 1980s was overwhelmingly homophobic, or a lot of Synod members voted against their conscience for political reasons. I'm not sure which option is worse, but in any case, repeal is long overdue. Repentance would be nice, too.

If Synod holds a vote and reaffirms Higton, the matter won't, of course, be settled, anymore than than the ordination of women would have been settled if the 1992 vote had gone the other way. The arc of history and justice is going in a single direction. The only argument left against affirming LGBT people is "because the Bible says so," which is no argument at all.

The question isn't if, but when.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 1:27am GMT
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