Saturday, 11 January 2014

Comments continue on the Pilling report

A question about the Pilling report was asked in the House of Commons this week:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What assessment the Commissioners have made of the Pilling report, published by the House of Bishops working group on human sexuality in November 2013; and if he will make a statement. [901874]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): The report was discussed by the House of Bishops in December and its recommendations will be considered by the College of Bishops later this month.

Mr Bradshaw: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the report’s recommendation that parishes should be allowed to offer same-sex couples some sort of blessing would in effect simply formalise what already happens in practice in many Anglican parishes? Does he agree that the vast majority of Anglicans in this country would welcome a more generous approach to long-term, faithful, same-sex relationships?

Sir Tony Baldry: I agree with the principle that everyone should be welcome at the communion rail. The working group did not recommend a new authorised liturgy, but a majority of its members did recommend that vicars should, with the consent of parochial church councils, be able to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service. I am sure that that is one of the issues that the House of Bishops will be considering very seriously in the context of its consideration of the Pilling report’s recommendations.

Rumblings against the report from conservatives at home and abroad continue to appear:

Andrew Symes writes on Anglican Mainstream “in a personal capacity” about 2014: The beginning of facilitated schism?

…Might it be possible that a Happy New Year in the Church of England might see, as this Bishop sees, an honest recognition that the differences over sexuality and underlying doctrinal and philosophical systems are so great that we need to at least talk about separating? Could it be a good thing to walk apart, rather than perpetuating the fiction that we all really believe the same things? And in doing so, could this be done peacefully, with justice, fairness and mutual respect, recognizing that there are still many areas of common interest, such as good administration of buildings insurance and clergy pensions, care for the poor and vulnerable, and the need to preserve the proclamation of the Christian story in society even though we might interpret it differently?

Robert Lundy Communications Officer for the American Anglican Council writes about Crisis Comes to Church of England:

…2013 started with controversial events and ended with more controversy. The Pilling Report, compiled by a special working group on human sexuality from the House of Bishops and released in November, suggested that the church allow “pastoral accommodation” and thus an informal public service for those in civil partnerships. From many Anglicans’ points of view, the document gave much more credence to a liberal view of scripture and was not representative of the church’s long-standing teaching. Sir Joseph Pilling, the report’s namesake, presented the document to the House of Bishops in December. From here the Church of England and entire Anglican Communion will wait to see if the bishops endorse the report or unequivocally repudiate it. The answer could come as soon as January 27th of 2014 when the full House of Bishops meets again…

For the record, the meeting on 27 January is of the College of Bishops, not the House of Bishops. The difference is very fully explained on this page.

This meeting of the College will not be attended by any outsiders other than the eight women clergy who have recently been elected to join them, and Sir Joseph Pilling himself. See this report by Colin Coward: No conversations about us without us:

Changing Attitude England participated in the LGB&T Anglican Coalition conversation last Saturday which agreed to write to William Fittall and others about the College of Bishops meeting on 27 January to discuss the Pilling Report.

The email said that members were unanimous in expecting that openly LGB&T people should be present at all future meetings taking forward the Pilling process, including the College of Bishops meeting planned for January 27. Our presence in the process is important if it is to be given full legitimacy by the wider Church and society.

Mr Fittall replied promptly to say that apart from Sir Joseph Pilling the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops is not inviting anyone to the meeting on 27 January who does not normally attend such meeting. He added that he would draw our note to the attention of Standing Committee members so that they are aware of the general point we make about how the process should now be carried forward…

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Comments

"No conversations about us without us" Colin Coward

But they'll be plenty of 'us' at the meeting on 27th January - they're just too fearful and/or dishonest to admit they're gay.

I can only begin to imagine the levels of discomfort, cognitive dissonance and self-hating hypocrisy which will be experienced by all the gay bishops at the forthcoming meeting.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Saturday, 11 January 2014 at 2:47pm GMT

Yes, Laurence, but the "us" who need to be talked to in order to be understood properly are the happily out, partnered and well adjusted ones.

If you wanted to understand straight marriage you would talk to straight married couples. It would not occur to you to talk to celibate straights or to straight who are too scared or disgusted to admit that they're straight, or to married couples who keep their marriage a secret. The latter two groups you would probably want to send for serious counselling.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 11 January 2014 at 3:00pm GMT

If Andrews Symes wants a conversation across our serious differences hoping this could 'be done peacefully, with justice, fairness and mutual respect' ...
Well so why post this on the Anglican Mainstream website of all places, which remains closed to any discussion at all?

Posted by: David Runcorn on Saturday, 11 January 2014 at 5:45pm GMT

"From many Anglicans’ points of view, the document gave much more credence to a liberal view of scripture and was not representative of the church’s long-standing teaching."

Just not that "many Anglicans", I daresay, who actually members of the CofE.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 11 January 2014 at 8:19pm GMT

One wonders what sort of schism is being advocated by the so-called 'Mainstream Anglicans' clique, that is opposed to any public recognition of Gays in the Church? Far from being 'mainstream Anglicans' in the U.K., one would imagine that truly mainstream Anglicans are those who actually accept that a small percentage of practising Anglicans (including clergy) are themselves Gay.

On this basis, is 'Anglican Mainstream' advocating their structural separation from the rest of us on the sole grounds of accepting sexual orientation difference, or not? If they are, this might only mean that a separate diocese the size of the Isle of Man could be given permission to exist in an insular Gay-free zone within the Church of England.

Or is the A.M. sodality really envisioning the much broader separation of GAFCON aficionados from the rest of the (Gay-affirming) Anglican Communion?, with A.M. under the local authority of some entity like the schismatic A.M.I.E.? This might be a more easily managed schism, already in existence.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 11 January 2014 at 8:30pm GMT

I think Andrew Symes is over-complicating.

When e.g. Andrew Brown was sickened by the Anglican Communion's tergiverserations he left. Lots of people leave churches they fall out with. Some of them do it en masse, like the Methodists in the 18th century or the Ordinariate in the 21st. Calling it facilitated schism is rather self important. If things aren't going your way, and if you can't live with that, you can go. It's a pity, but there it is.

Ah, but what's this? "Which side would get to keep the C of E brand"? That's even easier. The C of E gets to keep the "brand", whatever that is. If you leave, you leave.

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 12 January 2014 at 11:59am GMT

Entirely agree with that bad man that the Andrew Symes piece is 'self-important'. Indeed, I'd put it more strongly, the sheer vanity and silliness of these self-dramatising posturings beggars belief - beggars belief because they so consistently elevate relatively small differences into vast, cosmic defining issues. But to some extent I also disagree with 'badman': while there can be no concession to bigotry, there is space within the C of E for a very wide range of views.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 12 January 2014 at 7:23pm GMT

The January 27 meeting won't have an ounce of credibility without the presence of openly gay LGBT persons.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 12 January 2014 at 10:01pm GMT

"while there can be no concession to bigotry, there is space within the C of E for a very wide range of views."

If you believed that John Sentamu was not fit to be a bishop because he is black, and that black members of the CofE should be excluded from ministry, marriage and (in some cases) worship, would that fall within an acceptable range of views that General Synod would agree should be accommodated?

It's not a silly question, nor one which is rhetorical. The CofE already has policies designed to mean that people who deny the full personhood of women and of gays are acceptable, so it's not easy to see why racism should be any different. If a parish announced that it could not accept a black vicar, and demanded a white one should be appointed, or if a vicar announced that he or she could not accept the supervision of a black bishop and wanted alternative supervision from a white one, would Synod provide for that? And if not, why not?

After all, if there's a place in Anglicanism for misogyny and homophobia, why not racism as well?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 6:59am GMT

John,
I also agree that there is a place for most views in the CoE. But we are talking here about someone who has said they want to leave and are setting out their negotiation lines.
You cannot stop people who want to leave, nor should you.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 8:50am GMT

Like badman and Erika I think I see a glimmer of light in the Symes reflections. He is right that it would be better for both sides if he and his friends left the C of E. He is fantasising when he says "Which side would get to keep the C of E brand, and the Queen or future King?" (Interesting though that he sees the Queen as a chess piece to be won by one side or the other - wonder what HM and her advisers think of that?)

And negotiating over buildings would not be a bad thing once you understand that historic buildings are a liability not an asset.

If I were negotiating on behalf of the C of E I might even offer Andrew's friends the deal he seeks on clergy pensions if it got them out of my hair and allowed me to resume mission to anyone under 50.

Posted by: iain mclean on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 11:09am GMT

Andrew Symes, like many fundamentalists, overestimates the numbers of his fellow believers. If the "Anglican Mainstream" parishes were to leave, how many would that be from each city, two, three? Most evangelical Anglican churches would certainly not leave.

As to his question of which group would get to keep the name "Church of England", if such an unlikely division were ever to occur, since the 17th Century the answer has been very clear - it would be decided by parliament. Given the recent discussions and votes regarding women bishops and gay marriage, there is little doubt what "side" they would choose!

Altogether, the more these conservatives huff and puff the better. We will see that the house will not fall down!

Posted by: Iain Baxter on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 11:51am GMT

Misogyny, Homophobia and Racism are as much a feature of the flawed human condition as Spirituality and Faith may be seen to be by others. The reality is that all of us are on a different part of the journey in respect to all three and few of us could claim not to be misogynist, homophobic or racist at the margins of our tolerance. When we say the Lord's Prayer we are asking for forgiveness where we fall short of God's expectation for us.

I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship. Tolerance for the reality is far short of welcome.

Posted by: Pilgrim46 on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 12:48pm GMT

'I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship. Tolerance for the reality is far short of welcome.'

No ! This how you feel 'pilgrim' - way to go on your 'pilgrimage' ?

You do not speak for me or for millions of people around the world, and you do not use your own name.

I was shocked when this comment suddenly took this unexpected turn.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:23pm GMT

Pilgrim46
"I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship. Tolerance for the reality is far short of welcome."

This is not my experience. Most Christians I have ever met in real life (as opposed to online) are nothing but truly welcoming.
You may regret that, but Anglican Mainstream can clearly see which way that particular wind is blowing.
Thanks God.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:30pm GMT

'I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship. Tolerance for the reality is far short of welcome.'

What a strange statement! I am gay myself, as are a number of other regular contributors to Thinking Anglicans. I look forward to celebrating my own entry into a marriage at some point, God willing.

Would someone write 'I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into an inter-racial relationship.'?

Even people I know who think that gay relations are forbidden in the bible, seem to rejoice in seeing people who are happy together.

Posted by: Iain Baxter on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:05pm GMT

"I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship."

If "us" means "a tiny handful of bigots living in 1957" then you're right, yes.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 5:12pm GMT

I too am shocked by what Pilgrim46 has said. I have moved from a northern Scottish City to a southern English city. In both places virtually everybody I knew (largely aged over 60) has rejoiced at the unions of homosexual friends.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 8:00pm GMT

"I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship. Tolerance for the reality is far short of welcome."

Posted by: Pilgrim46

I join my voice to others commenting here on 'Pilgrim46' statement. I think you may be living in cloud-cuckoo land on this important matter. I can't think of anyone who would be against their loved ones making the best relationship possible in their own sphere - whether hetero or homosexual.

Your prejudicial 'slip' is showing!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 8:29pm GMT

Interested Observer,

Obviously, I do not accept your arguments, but why do we go on and on repeating the same arguments?

Erika,

I have no desire to detain this guy against his will. I was merely expressing my view that he's a self-important (badman's term) silly-billy (mine), because he can have what he wants within the C of E.

Posted by: John on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 8:36pm GMT

John,
I interpreted the self importance to refer to trying to set terms for leaving, not to wanting to leave. No-one objects to that.

And why do we repeat the same arguments? Because the debate is not between any one of us here and you,whose arguments we happen to know. The real debate is focused on those who might be reading here but not commenting, and at those who might not have read what you or anyone else here has had to say over the last few years.
Those of us with really firm view are not going to change our minds. But those who are trying to come to a view or who are in the process of changing theirs do need to hear what all sides think.
And so we say it, again and again and again.
It's how public debate works.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 13 January 2014 at 10:55pm GMT

I believe the fundamental issue is that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender and Gender Queer human beings don't want to be "tolerated".

That is so condescending and patronising.

As fellow human beings, we would hope that a church would want to laugh when we laugh, and cry when we cry, and would treasure the relationships we treasure, and *celebrate* the awesome, the dignified, the tender, the sacrificial love and devotion and fidelity of people who give themselves to each other in relationships.

Until the church is willing to joyfully *celebrate* these loves, what you have is a form of moral condescension.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 1:16am GMT

"I suspect most of us would find it very difficult to "celebrate" the entry of anyone we loved into a homosexual relationship."

Pilgrim46, if by this you meant that there is latent homophobia inside of most of us, then I would agree that this is a sin that many (myself included) need to overcome.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 1:25am GMT

Erika,

I replied to Interested Observer - to the extent I did - because he was addressing me. He knows perfectly well what my reply would have been and that it would have been more complicated than his original contribution. So why flog a dead horse? No one is being enlightened here.

I don't accept the proposition that anyone who has difficulty with same-sex relationships is ipso facto misohomist. Let me put it another way: St Paul was homophobic, an Evangelical (or whatever) Christian who accepts Paul's line is not necessarily homophobic, because of course he thinks that he is accepting the Word of God. In this area there is enormous anxiety and you/we/I haven't a hope of persuading such people to adopt more liberal (in my case much more liberal) interpretative principles. Consequently, it is necessary to distinguish between those who are genuinely homophobic, to whom no quarter should be given, and those of the type I have mentioned (far more numerous), to whom one should be kind, while at the same time attacking and removing all practical manifestations of homophobia and stoutly maintaining that homosexuality is morally neutral and can be as great a vehicle of life-affirming love as heterosexuality (which of course I do believe). It's a difficult balancing act - but then practically everything in church-going involves difficult balancing acts. I emphasise church-going. 'Cultural Anglicans' have of course a legitimate voice and stake in these debates - but church-goers have a greater stake, and so there is an important sense in which I 'owe' more to Evangelical or Traditionalist Anglicans than I do to Interested Observer.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 8:46am GMT

What I find really disturbing about the Anglican Mainstream piece are the coat-trailing mentions of buildings and pensions as 'common interests', with the very strong implication that they expect to be taking some of the patrimony with them when they go. Andrew Symes seems to be deploying the calm, reasonable language of a conscientious parting of the ways as a form of preliminary moral blackmail - to prepare the suggestion that the rest of us will owe those he speaks for a share of the church's assets. Which we will not. If they want to found their own church, they can raise the money for buildings and salaries and pensions all by themselves. If they go, they will be leaving the Church of England, not dividing it. I think this kind of hint-of-an-obligation had better be listened for carefully in future.

Posted by: Francis on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 1:20pm GMT

"If they want to found their own church, they can raise the money for buildings and salaries and pensions all by themselves."

The skill of Anglican Mainstream lies in their inaccurate, but compelling, name. They in fact have a homeopathic presence in the Church of England, and conferences they have held have attracted more bloggers and people serving the tea than actual attendees. Nonetheless, they are taken seriously by TV researchers looking for a colourful extremist to say striking things, rather in the way that Andy Choudrey (who barely represents himself, never mind any sort of organisation) is a regular fixture on the radio.

If all of Anglican Mainstream were to threaten to leave, they could do so while occupying a phone box outside Lambeth Palace. They are not a serious presence in terms of demographics, and the only people who think their leaders intellectually serious are their own mothers, and probably not even them. The failure of will in the CofE is to think that appeasing a microscopic handful of fanatics is worth the broader damage done to the church's, and indeed the churches', reputation in the eyes of the majority.

There is no treating with AM. They are irreconcilable. They are perfectly welcome to leave, just as anyone is welcome to leave a club they are a member of at any time. And that should be the CofE's position: you're welcome to leave. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. With the massive resources of the Catholic Church behind them, which means there's a fully-resourced and thought out church to leave for, the Ordinariate has managed to attract less than 100 priests and less than 2000 lay members (and it's not clear how many of those priests were other than retired). If AM managed a fifth of those numbers it would be extremely surprising, and the CofE would be well shot of them.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 2:13pm GMT

I think I understand John's point but I'm afraid that the delicate balance is so delicate it may not be possible to maintain. Surely there is no desire -- or capacity -- to make windows into souls, and private thoughts are private thoughts. But as soon as private thoughts become public discourse, however calmly and decorously engaged, action has been taken, even if only verbal. When that verbal action is designed to urge further action, such as the maintenance of laws concerning marriage rights, public accommodation, and so on, the verbal action has consequences. I'm not sure the label "homophobic" is always helpful, but surely it is not in itself harmful to those so designated.

Take the parallel case of racism. No one I take it wants to be called a racist. But someone who said, "On the basis of my traditional religious belief, I hold that the races are inherently unequal, and that persons of color are intended by divine will to be subservient to others," and then goes on to cite chapter and verse, might accurately be described as a racist, however calmly or rationally she speaks.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 3:36pm GMT

"The failure of will in the CofE is to think that appeasing a microscopic handful of fanatics is worth the broader damage done to the church's, and indeed the churches', reputation in the eyes of the majority."

That is part of it--the internal part. The other part is external--Lambeth's unwillingness to risk its once-imperial, global role for the sake of domestic, English mission.

The CofE cannot serve two masters.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 3:46pm GMT

I see that, in fact, you can have a "two for the price of one" tomorrow and attend a conference featuring both Anglican Mainstream _and_ the CLC. http://www.settingloveinorder.com

It will be interesting to see how many people actually turn up. The last time AM tried this sort of thing (see http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/5057) they got an audience of less than twenty. The scale of the turnout for events like this sets the scale of the schism that the CofE would face: if it's a few tens of people, you really do have to ask why anyone would care.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 3:09pm GMT

Surely Ms. Williams is not still banging on about 'conversion therapy' for Gays. One wonders whether she will be allowed to remain on General Synod with this sort of controversial stance.

see: http://www.settingloveinorder.com/

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 9:23pm GMT

If the Church of England is appeasing anyone, it's the substantial number of open evangelicals who forbid gay people from expressing their love physically.

Until they change their position, or the liberals develop equivalent financial muscle, the appeasement will continue.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 10:42pm GMT

"After all, if there's a place in Anglicanism for misogyny and homophobia, why not racism as well?"

I've said similar things here and got into all kinds of trouble. Despite all the hurt feelings and astonished protests, I think Interested Observer is ultimately right. One is just as arbitrary and unjust as the other. We are watching the consequences of "compromise" on these issues unfold in Nigeria and Uganda.

Indeed, no one has a window into anyone's soul, and very few people actually think of themselves as racist, but sin is as sin does; "You shall know the tree by the fruit that it bears." I can remember so many good and pious people earnestly quoting proof texts to me from Scripture (especially the story of Ham) to justify racial segregation 40 years ago. They certainly did not think of themselves as racist or wicked, and yet they willingly, even happily, perpetuated a system based on an assumption that some people were a little less human than others based on melanin content in their skin.

In all the arguments over whether or not another set of natural variations (gender and sexual attraction) make people a little less than fully human, "it's deja vu all over again."

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 12:48pm GMT

The problem with proof texting is that it absolves you from even looking at the moral consequences of your actions. And it also absolves you from having to make any moral assessment about whether what you are condemning is, in fact, immoral at all. It's hard enough to change social attitudes, but when people wrap themselves in the certainties of some "obvious truth" that must not be disobeyed, it becomes so much harder.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 1:21pm GMT

Right on, Erika: proof-texting, the authoritarianism in general, is an evasion of personal responsibility. It's childlike thinking. God said it, I believe it, end of debate.

Like FD Blanchard & Interested Observer, I see no moral difference between racism, and homophobia and misogyny, whatever theological gloss is put on them.

If a person chooses to act on those views (and it is a choice), hiding behind scripture is no defense.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 4:49pm GMT

James Byron Insofar as labels are ever a helpful way of describing people or churches I am happy to call myself an 'Open Evangelical'.
But you are kicking a target that doesn't exist. OE is not an organisation. There is no membership list. No policy document. So there is no one to appease (whatever that means). I honestly don't know what you are talking about - nor what evidence you have for your assertions. 'Open' means what it suggests ... this is that wing of the Evangelical tradition where more exploratory, progressive and hospitable thinking may be found on a whole range of issues. But its boundaries are very fluid at either end. In my piece in the Pilling Report I give evidence that this includes a very considerable (and growing) number of evangelicals who hold an 'including' position in this debate and support faithful same-sex partnerships.
I know it is slow and uneven going - but I am encouraged and would like you to be.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 17 January 2014 at 8:54am GMT

David Runcorn why would lgbti be 'encouraged' by 'slow and uneven going' ?

Is your mind-set on lgbt issues in an atemporal space by any chance ?

The trouble, the thing is, time does matter.
Time matters literally as well as metaphorically.

You know people are born and with time, die ?

Some of us with Evangelical and other backgrounds have been waiting all our lives, to be loved, recognised and treated fairly, and are now running out of time -literally. Some have already died.

People in Uganda, Nigeria and other countries face imprisonment, execution or the rage of the mob.

How can your slow and uneven process help ? Or Welby's ?

Is it possible to speed up I wonder or at least do something real on the ground ?

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Friday, 17 January 2014 at 1:36pm GMT

"How can your slow and uneven process help ? Or Welby's ?"

Good question. Martin Luther King, in his Letter from a Birmingham (Alabama) Jail, had much to say about moderates who would have people continue to live under oppression and injustice for the purpose of making moderates more comfortable.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 17 January 2014 at 5:24pm GMT

To answer David Runcorn's request for evidence, there might be no membership list of open evangelicals, but there are networks, churches, and those looked to as leaders. While inexact, "open evangelical" is a useful term for the majority of evangelicals within the church.

The negative reactions of the Evangelical Alliance, Spring Harvest and Fulcrum to Steve Chalke's support for same-sex relationships are telling. As was the response of evangelical churches in Oxford Diocese to Jeffrey John's appointment as Bishop of Reading. N.T. Wright has been at the forefront of those who condemn the Episcopal Church. Andrew Goddard has written extensively against same-sex marriage, and Justin Welby voted against it in the House of Lords. Homosexuality is condemned in no uncertain terms in Alpha Course material.

Yes, some open evangelicals take an affirming stance, including yourself. You of course deserve credit for that. Sadly, a substantial number hold to a homophobic position, and they're the wing of the church that must be brought on-side to change its policy on same-sex relationships.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 18 January 2014 at 6:09am GMT

Thank James. ‘While inexact, "open evangelical" is a useful term for the majority of evangelicals within the church’. It’s really not that simple. It seems that ‘open’ is another word for ‘conservative’ for you (and you lump all kinds of organisations/people together to prove it!). A few brief response to your comments (and please, Cynthia, Laurence and others, I know and grieve over how far this tradition still has to go, and its wounding legacy here).

One effect of the Pilling Report has been to make public the fact that there is serious diversity among Anglican evangelicals on this, based on, not in spite of, scripture. Please don’t underestimate the impact and consequence of this. It remains a highly divisive issue though. Please pray for us.
The Archbishop needs no telling the Lords debate/vote was a disaster. But it was a debate/vote specifically about equal marriage not about same-sex relationships as such. Not all my gay friends supported that bill. Nor did I.
My own view is that Reading (10 years ago James) set back the growing ‘open’ theological culture among Evangelical Anglicans on this by some years because there was, as yet, a lack of a confident, including theology to hold alongside the robustly factual ‘plain reading of the text’ of the conservatives. (But the behaviour of some conservatives at that time compelled others towards a more including position actually).
Views change. It is no secret that a member of the Fulcrum leadership team stepped down over the Fulcrum response to the Pilling Report. Fulcrum is also where a number of us have found the space to work out an ‘including’ theology in recent years. I am grateful for that.
This is also breaking on generational lines (as Pilling notes). There is considerable evidence that interns and trainees in larger Evangelical churches, organisations and on ministry courses are simply not inheriting the traditional conservative beliefs in this debate. Such places are presently coping by not talking about it.
So yes, I am still encouraged …

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 20 January 2014 at 9:51am GMT

'Not all my gay friends supported that bill. Nor did I.' David Runcorn.

I would like to understand your reason(s) for this, if possible, please, David.

Laurence

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Monday, 20 January 2014 at 8:53pm GMT

Thanks for the reply, David. :)

"Open" isn't a synonym for "conservative" at all. That's exactly my point. The people and organizations I listed support women's ministry, accept that non-evangelicals can be Christians, and take a nuanced approach to scriptural interpretation. They're not con-evos. Even the "open" strand of evangelicalism has been overwhelmingly negative about homosexuality.

You're right, this is changing. More and more evangelicals are going over to "side A." But change is halting and fiercely resisted by many in the "open" camp. (Tom Wright promotes women's ministry and condemns homosexuality with equal passion.)

The fundamental problem is that evangelicalism of all kinds is authoritarian. In your own Pilling essay, you said that "submission to the Scriptures in personal discipleship and in the life and practice of the Church is primary and non-negotiable." If an evangelical honestly believes that the Bible condemns homosexuality (an interpretation with which I'm forced to agree) then their creed obliges them to condemn it.

Change comes not because of some exegetical breakthrough, but because of human decency. Gay people are out of the closet, and most evangelicals, as people, are a lot kinder than biblical authority should allow. This ought to call that belief into question. I believe that the interpretation is right, but the Bible is wrong.

Let's open negotiations.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 20 January 2014 at 9:13pm GMT

'Not all my gay friends supported that bill. Nor did I.' David Runcorn.

"I would like to understand your reason(s) for this, if possible, please, David." Laurence.

I'd like an explanation too. On this side, I have never met a gay brother or sister who wasn't in support of equality. None. Zero. Zip. I've seen no writings from LGBT people against equality. We all seem to be yearning for it, save perhaps the apathetic.

There are people who are either anti religious or strong supporters of separation of church and state. They don't support state sponsored religious marriage at all. They believe that all marriages should have an exclusively civil component with religious marriage totally optional. Typically, these folks don't believe the state should say who can marry, thus they support equal civil marriage. Generally, they support the freedom of religion to choose whether or not to include all in the sacrament of marriage.

I know clergy who do not like being "agents of the state" when they do marriages. And they don't like the state telling them that they can't perform real (i.e. legally recognized) marriage for LGBT people.

I get that there can be nuances. But I know no LGBT brothers or sisters who oppose equality. Internalized homophobia? There's plenty of that around, and it is sad.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 6:20am GMT

'Change comes not because of some exegetical breakthrough, but because of human decency. Gay people are out of the closet, and most evangelicals, as people, are a lot kinder than biblical authority should allow. This ought to call that belief into question. I believe that the interpretation is right, but the Bible is wrong.'

I think that's broadly right. Broadly, because other factors do come into play (if a child turns out gay, if church people of whatever stripe see an ever-increasing gulf between 'church' and 'most people'). But it's awfully hard for many people to say 'the Bible is wrong here'. So there has to be prevarication, compromise, disjunction (story of my life).

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 1:00pm GMT
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