Saturday, 30 November 2013

Changing Attitude responds to the Pilling Report

Changing Attitude England’s initial reaction to the Pilling Report was published this morning.

Some brief extracts

This report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged as the report demonstrates…

Changing Attitude is disappointed that the Report deals so superficially with transgender (198) and intersex people (197) despite having received a submission from the Sibyls…

4 Homophobia
The most serious failings of the report are to be found here…

The report doesn’t understand that so-called orthodox, traditional teaching, which is literalist and fundamentalist, using the seven texts as proof texts of God’s judgement against homosexuality, underpin and are the source of prejudice against LGB&T people and personal and systemic homophobia in the Church…

Our Christian conviction is clear – homosexuality is not harmful. Christian homophobia and prejudice is deeply harmful and results in anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, violence and murder, the result of social prejudice based on false Christian teaching.

The Director of Changing Attitude England has separately published Colin’s reaction to the Pilling Report. [This is an extended version of the text originally linked here.]

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 11:06am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

An absolutely splendid reply to Pilling by Changing Attitude.The picture is depressing but Changing Attitude is absolutely on the ball.Thanks

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 6:07pm GMT

Good for Colin and Changing Attitudes for telling the truth. I wish them well.

I only learned recently that Archbishops Rowan and Sentamu were at TEC's General Convention in 2006, very actively working the crowd to maintain homophobic policies of exclusion. Fortunately, that work was overturned in 2009.

Pilling calls for a dialogue within CoE. That is a big change from exporting homophobia in 2006. But why didn't they include LGBT persons in their work? That father-knows-best attitude continually gets CoE in trouble. I think Colin nailed it when he said that this is a matter of the heart. The heart of the matter is to be found in working with actual LGBT Anglicans.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 6:27pm GMT

"Father knows best" sums it up. Homophobia is rooted in patriarchy and the baser aspects of male dominance, so it's no surprise that it's perpetuated in this way.

However determined the hierarchy are to dodge the issue in the name of unity, the clock is fast running down. Evasion is unsustainable in light of public attitudes.

All credit to Changing Attitude to speaking so plainly.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 1:35am GMT

The main weakness of Pilling is that it won't tackle the issue of the Higton resolution and the insistence that sexual activity is only permissible inside heterosexual marriage. Everyone outside that is by definition a 'sinner' and while we may be treated with 'compassion' there can be no possible acceptance of gltb people for what and who we actually are rather than being defined as ' other'. It also won't tackle 'Issues' and the pernicious and spurious authority given to that document. Lgbt people should reject 'compassion' as a cop out of those who won't tackle the real issue.

The other issue is its dealing with the Biblical passages. The argument that Paul must have been aware of mutual same sex relationships rather than just the unequal or exploitative doesn't wash. So what? That doesn't excuse Paul from his misunderstanding or deliberate condemnation presumably based on his understanding of Leviticus. I am with Diarmaid McCulloch in that we sometimes have to say that the Bible is wrong. The elevation of the word to equal the Word is a heresy too easily slipped into by too many unthinking people and far too many who won't think.

Pilling is deeply disappointing, but is exactly what might be expected from 'nice' people trying to do their best. It's just not good enough.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 11:12am GMT

Richard Ashby: Totally!

Higton is key. An overwhelming majority of Synod -- 403 to 8 -- voted in favor of a motion phrased in archaic and homophobic language. ("Fornication," "homosexual genital acts," what on earth were they thinking? -- and this is the *toned down* version.)

This isn't something imposed by a minority, or by bishops. This is the church as a whole taking ownership of homophobia, either out of conviction, or realpolitik. (It is expedient that one minority be sacrificed for unity ...) It's the definition of institutional homophobia, and something that will have to be faced openly in Synod to be undone. Even in terms of amoral PR, doing so could scarcely be worse than the current backroom scuttling. The church courageously and decisively facing down and repenting of its past homophobia would go some way to mending its tattered reputation. A formal apology tied to a comprehensive package of compensation for clergy disadvantaged or driven out by 'Issues' would go even further.

Also agree that MacCulloch nailed it by saying that, in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. The affirming position has long been hampered by arguing within a framework of biblical authority, since affirmation is about justice, and authority about power.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 10:34pm GMT

I think that Pilling and his team deserve a little more credit than they are being afforded here. To find that groups as diametrically opposed as Changing Attitude and Reform are both against their report may suggest that they have pitched it somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of opinion. And somewhere in the middle is a necessary starting point for the facilitated discussions which are proposed as a way forward.
Although the majority of the population may have put homophobia behind it long ago, they don't come to church. Those that do (largely the older generations) are much more divided on the subject, far more so in my opinion than was ever the case over women's ordination. I have heard visceral homophobia from many otherwise kind and well-meaning people in the pews.
Although I too would love to see the Higton resolution resoundingly overturned, I don't see it happening any day soon. And so I welcome the approach suggested by Pilling, in the hope that it may succeed in changing attitudes.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 5:44pm GMT

Malcolm Dixon: Higton will be overturned in exactly the same way that female ordination was affirmed: lobbying of Synod reps, backed by social pressure. The problem at present is that there appears to be no move to even begin this process. It may take a few failed Synod votes -- as with gender equality in the episcopate in England and Wales -- so better to get started.

Fulcrum have just issued a statement that flat ignores the affirming evangelical material in Pilling. Not a promising sign, is it? If even the open evangelicals refuse to budge, then "facilitated conversations" will get us nowhere.

Then there's the ethics of it. The question I always ask is, "Would this be acceptable if the issue was racism?" Would we sit down and hold a "facilitated conversation" about segregation and the Curse of Ham? If the answer is no, then why is it acceptable with homophobia?

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 12:52am GMT

James Byron: To answer your question - no it would not be acceptable if the issue was racism. Nor would facilitated conversations be necessary, because there is no detectable disagreement that racism is wrong. This is very far from being the case over homosexual activity. Most people (even +Keith Sinclair in his dissenting report) would agree that homophobia is wrong and sinful, but that's not all that the Pilling report covers. Much though we liberals would wish that it were otherwise, there remains a substantial number of people who sincerely believe that homosexual activity is sinful and that it would therefore be wrong to affirm such activity amongst the clergy. And these people are not confined to the ConEvos - I have come across many people holding these views in the Anglo-Catholic parish where I was for many years, and in the middle-of-the-road parish where I am now.
And they would appear to have Scripture on their side - unlike the ordination of women, where it was possible to engage in a 'battle of the texts' for and against, it is hard to find much in the Bible which affirms homosexual activity, and we are forced to resort to generalised pleas for inclusivity, or the MacCulloch 'nuclear option' of stating that on this issue the Bible is just plain wrong.
So, although I don't agree with them, I think that there is a substantial body of people sincerely opposed to significant change on this issue, and they need to be engaged with through discussion. They are not just a 'rabid minority', easily shamed into silence.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 3:59pm GMT

The form that discussion takes matters.

If this were debated in Synod, discussion would be had, but openly, and under public scrutiny. That scrutiny can shape and pressure decisions. What moved the church on in ordaining women to the episcopate? The outcry over the failed 2012 vote. Likewise, the outcry over the church's opposition to same-sex marriage has changed the climate. The nature of discussion changes when it's no longer in-house.

I agree that decent people sincerely hold homophobic theological positions, just as they sincerely held theologically racist ones. What they don't like doing, because they *are* decent, is owning those positions. They radiate extreme discomfort when challenged. There's a world of difference between going along with the status quo, and having to actively defend a homophobic stance.

Let's say, hypothetically, that belief in the Curse of Ham was widespread in the church, or that we've been zapped back to the 1960s. Would "facilitated conversation" be an acceptable, or practical, response?

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 6 December 2013 at 1:11am GMT

One question that must be addressed - about the Pilling Report - is whether, or not, any actual advocates of the LGBT position were invited to be part of the commission membership?

There were obviously-biassed anti- people - like the Bishop of Birkenhead, for instance. Where were those of the opposite opinion - like Dean Jeffrey John?

In my opinion, it would have been more fruitful if a an acknowledged advocate of the subject-group had been invited to actually be part of the Commission.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 6 December 2013 at 11:57pm GMT

James Byron: Yes, and that open, publicly scrutinised, debate will be held, after the facilitated conversations. I don't think Pilling was suggesting that the matter should be resolved behind closed doors.
If the matter were to be introduced to Synod today, there would be an even greater 'train crash' than happened last year, and even more harm would be done to the public perception of the church. If however the debate was held after the proposed conversations, the outcome might just possibly be different.
A year ago, most people, myself included, were not optimistic about the outcome of the similar way forward suggested on the women bishops issue. But real progress does seem to have been made and we are in a much better place. Let us hope and pray that the Holy Spirit may be able to bring about a similar transformation on this issue.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Saturday, 7 December 2013 at 12:04pm GMT
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