Friday, 29 November 2013

Pilling Report - opinion

Janet Henderson blogs Pilling - Initial Reactions.

Simon Reader writes for the Westminster Faith Debates: A Blessing in Disguise?

Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, blogs Welcoming Pilling.

Rachel Mann blogs on The Pilling Report and Trans People.

Bishop Alan Wilson offers these Resources for your very own Pilling Report Party.

Dave Young blogs Let’s talk about love not sex: Thoughts on the Pilling Report.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 11:16pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | Opinion
Comments

I'm sure David Young means well. But my eyes glaze over every time I read about "extremists" on both sides.
It's a nice phrase that places the writer in the one reasonable position between two extremes.
But, actually, when one "extreme" only wants to be treated equally to everyone else and to be allowed to determine their own lives like everyone else does... labelling them as extremists is kind of missing the point and comprehensively misunderstanding the concept of equality.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 12:04am GMT

The Pilling report will only be effective in introducing a non-intrusive approach to sexuality if the Clergy Discipline Measure is amended, so that it doesn't apply to the sexual activity of clergy (just as it doesn't apply to doctrine, ritual or ceremony).
This is the one small change that would change everything.

Posted by: Erasmus on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 8:22am GMT

Erika is entirely right and I had the same reaction.

My observation is that the 'extremists on either side' people when asked their views do actually belong to one side or another, so the classification is more of a rhetorical device. It's a form of obfuscation designed to cloak one's views in magisterial impartiality rather than honestly own and defend one's own position. Unless that is one proceeds by placing oneself equidistantly between opposing sides.

I am not necessarily accusing any one person of doing this (though I think a good number of bishops are) but it makes itself available as a very good way of being antigay but just appearing reasonable because you're not an extremist (on either side). The Church of England has been trying this smoke and mirrors trick for quite some time and I think it has just been a cloak for homophobia and self delusion.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 9:39am GMT

Erika - I may well be blind but I cannot find the term 'extremist' in David's article. Which makes your response to the occasional blog of a local vicar a bit of a 'hip shot' don't you think?

Posted by: Fr Paul on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 5:00pm GMT

I agree with Craig and Erika that the "two sides" approach isn't helpful. Craig's "magisterial impartiality" is exactly the phrase I was looking for, thanks. :)

I hasten to add that I don't know what Dave Young's personal opinion is, and it wouldn't be fair to prejudge it, so I've headed over to his blog and asked him.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 9:38pm GMT

Fr Paul,
You’re right, the word extremes wasn’t used, I apologise!
I re-read the article twice now and I still read the same meaning into it, though.
There are two sides who both shout without listening to each other , both are rather extreme and it takes someone more balanced in the middle to be reasonable.

I agree that there is a tendency to label the others and not to listen too carefully.
But I have been engaged in this debate for almost 10 years now and I have rarely come across liberals, especially Christian liberals, who don't listen and who don't engage.
In fact, most of our focus has been on getting a debate going in which people talk to us not about us.
Liberals have written complex theology that gets dismissed again and again in favour of a "the bible is clear... find me one instance where Scripture supports homosexuality" approach.
In the official church debate scientifically discredited "evidence" on how therapy can change gay people is placed on the same level as the considered evidence accumulated by psychiatrists, psychologist and doctors all over the world.

Then we have this "people in the pews are not so concerned with sexuality and would prefer to get on with what really matters" approach. People in the pews are, by and large, not homophobic but welcoming and inclusive. They do indeed include the few open gay people they know. On the other hand, as a member of Changing Attitude I can tell you that this inclusion has its limits. Start wanting to be treated like everyone else, start wanting to be married, a priest, a churchwarden... and the attitude often changes to "we tolerate and accept you on our terms, why do you have to go and spoil it by wanting things you can't have?".
Of course you want to get on with other things if you do not have to live with being discriminated against, if you think of yourself as a tolerant chap who doesn't mind gay people as long as they don't flaunt it.

We sometimes shout in frustration because it's the only way to get heard. Because otherwise, reasonable people "just want to get on with what really matters". It is not extreme to want equality.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 7:49am GMT

I suppose what I would like are some examples of which liberals have been shouting at the others, dismissing and labelling them without listening. I can think of a number of conservative organisations that do that. All the ones that start grouping people into "redefiners" and "reasserters", for a start.
I can think of a number of influential conservative blogs where liberal comments are deleted and people banned, however constructively they engage.

I do not know of any equivalent liberal organisation or blog. You find the odd frustrated outburst but by and large respectful engagement with conservatives here on Thinking Anglicans, on Changing Attitude platforms, on Accepting Evangelicals platforms, on blogs.
You find people desperate to participate in the “listening process”, to be included in the public debate.
Where are these liberals who shout without listening? Who are they?
Having spent 10 years in the company of committed and extremely patient people who start the same conversation process again and again and again with every new conservative who pops up and asks us to justify ourselves from scratch again – I just have not come across these liberal intolerant shouters and I feel quite affronted that our efforts at engaging are being portrayed like that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 8:00am GMT

"Liberals have written complex theology that gets dismissed again and again in favour of a 'the bible is clear... find me one instance where Scripture supports homosexuality' approach."

Focusing on evidence and reason, and appealing to compassion, is, sadly, a losing strategy. The problem is that this conflict is rooted in biblical authority, which is about power, not reason. It's near impossible to reason someone out of a position that they haven't been reasoned into.

Evidence and people are ignored because they are not the primary concern of people who hold to dogmatic homophobia. If they surrender on this (and to them, it would be a surrender), their power is diminished, and they couldn't bear that. Since their dogmatic faith rests on the certainty offered by a source of infallible revelation, their belief system would be equally threatened. Even if they're not personally homophobic, they'll hold the line.

Ultimately, and tragically, if dogmatists hold to their beliefs, this is going to have to be settled in terms of power. Either by a Synod vote that would cause them to decide to leave, or by arranging some kind of amicable separation, perhaps including the division of church real estate.

I wish it wasn't so, but I cannot see an alternative. This is not an issue on which people can agree to differ. Unity has been the problem. Divorce is sometimes necessary.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 8:38am GMT

*Ultimately, and tragically, if dogmatists hold to their beliefs, this is going to have to be settled in terms of power.*

It won't matter.

In the eyes of young people (where young mean, what, under forty? Fifty?), homophobia is as ugly and irrational as racism. It's not founded on theological precepts about which reasonable people disagree, it's just vile hatred.

So if the CofE attempts to reconcile with homophobes, rather than simply point-blank expel them, then the impression it gives is as though it were relaxed about racism. As though it sees racism as being a topic about which reasonable people can disagree.

That's I think what Erica is getting at: that the CofE is attempting to promote the idea that people opposed to discrimination and people who want to discriminate are somehow two sides of the same coin. As though Rosa Parks and the Sheriff of Montgomery are equally unreasonable, and what is needed is for someone to come up with a moderate theology of moderate racism that keeps both sides happy. That perhaps had Rosa Parks been a little less fixated on equality, and understood that the people that hated her had a position that needed to be considered as well, they could have come up with a solution that would have kept everyone happy and wouldn't that have been nice?

If the CofE splits amicably, it's saying that homophobia is a reasonable position about which reasonable people have reasonable disagreements. If the CofE makes an accommodation with homophobes to respect their right to hate, it's doing the same thing, but louder. All of this will leave it as an irrelevant cult.

There are plenty of people that still, in 2013, think that black men are inferior. If John Sentamu were told that it would be better for him to keep out of the public eye and avoid asking for the right to not be beaten up, because this upsets racists, he would be rightly furious. And yet that is exactly his argument over homosexuality: that by demanding to not be discriminated against, gays upset people whose hatred has to be understood. Sentamu is happy to pull the ladder up behind him, it would appear, and take the benefits of the end of one sort of legitimised oppression while acting to enforce another, equivalent type.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 2:53pm GMT

Interested Observer: I agree, 100%, that homophobia is as ugly and irrational as racism, including homophobia that wears a theological mask. People who demand equality and justice, and people who advocate homophobia, are absolutely not two sides of the same coin. I've used the civil rights comparison myself.

I also agree that the CofE shouldn't tolerate homophobia. As I said in Janet Henderson's blog: "No organization should tolerate prejudice from its office-holders, as such tolerance is a form of endorsement."

I suggested that the church split precisely because there can't be reconciliation with people who continue to advocate a homophobic position, any more than a person who believes in judging people by the content of their character should be expected to reconcile with a person who defends the curse of Ham.

I think we disagree more in terms than substance. :)

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 7:49pm GMT

"As though Rosa Parks and the Sheriff of Montgomery are equally unreasonable, and what is needed is for someone to come up with a moderate theology of moderate racism that keeps both sides happy. That perhaps had Rosa Parks been a little less fixated on equality, and understood that the people that hated her had a position that needed to be considered as well, they could have come up with a solution that would have kept everyone happy and wouldn't that have been nice?"

Martin Luther King wrote a letter to these people. http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Few things in life are black and white. But justice is that rare thing. There's justice, or there isn't. Is our God a just God? Are we all created in the image of God, or just some of us? Is morality about ticking boxes, or is it about causing or alleviating actual suffering?

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 9:57pm GMT

Recommendation 6 of the report is "No one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships". This is not a recommendation but an assertion. Many people (arguably a majority of younger people in the country) simply won't accept this assertion and therefore how can the report help in any way? Roll back decades or centuries and substitute "on slavery" or "on attitudes to Jews".

Posted by: Turbulent priest on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 7:24am GMT

Tubulent Priest:

"Many people (arguably a majority of younger people in the country) simply won't accept this assertion"

I suspect that most of them won't get to the point of even hearing it. In their eyes The Church of England is a vile collection of bigots who exclude and diminish women and gays and have so far done nothing but talk about it, and which regards appeasing bigots as more important than being just. Why would they even bother finding out what self-serving definition of homophobia is used by a bunch of homophobes?

The Pilling Report essentially says, channeling Thomas Aquinas, "Lord, give me justice, but not yet". It asserts that in broad terms it's probably better not to discriminate, but there are a lot of bigots who need to be kept happy. All that is needed is for the uppity gays (and yes, I am _precisely_ aware of the connotations and common collocates of the word "uppity") to keep quiet for a generation or two and things will be better.


Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 9:18am GMT

Cynthia, thanks for linking to Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail. As Dr. King so succinctly stated, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Dr. King's letter was directed to the religious leaders of his time. His letter has a lot to say to the religious leaders of our own.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 8:45pm GMT

"So if the CofE attempts to reconcile with homophobes, rather than simply point-blank expel them, then the impression it gives is as though it were relaxed about racism."

^This. When I attempt to dialogue w/ secular LGBTs, this is the position I'm confronted with again and again. Secular LGBTs don't want to hear "it's complicated" "we have a difficult polity" or "we're slowly making progress."

We either [defecate] or get off the pot. We declare homophobia ANATHEMA (and opposition to marriage equality IS "homophobia") or secular LGBTs want *nothing* to do w/ us (besides their hope we go extinct).

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 3 December 2013 at 3:28am GMT

"His letter has a lot to say to the religious leaders of our own."

MLK has much to say to us all. And he would have said much more about economic justice for all, had he not been struck down.

It is so interesting that we see him as a bringer or justice and a peace maker. People repeating him on the issue of women and LGBT inclusion are rabble rousers… By the way, MLK and his family strongly supported LGBT rights.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 6:08pm GMT

JCF: Yes, that's the heart of it. Holding "facilitated conversations" with advocates of homophobia legitimizes their position, exemplified in the absurd "neutrality" of Pilling, which equates the Royal College of Psychiatrists with the Core Issues Trust!

Given that Fulcrum, the "open evangelical" group, has just issued a statement that ignores all Pilling's affirming evangelical material, more talk is likely to fail on practical grounds as well as ethical ones.

The time for talk and delay is over. This needs to go to Synod, and the church has to make a decision: does it stand with homophobia, or with justice? If it votes to stand with homophobia, the fight is not over, it's just begun.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 1:04am GMT
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