Monday, 27 January 2014
Pilling Report - Statement from the College of Bishops
The Church of England House of Bishops issued this statement this evening.
Statement from the College of Bishops
27 January 2014
The College of Bishops met on 27th January, 2014 to begin a process of reflection on the issues raised by the Pilling Report (GS 1929). The College expressed appreciation to Sir Joseph Pilling and to all members of the working party for the work they have done on behalf of the Church.
We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.
We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society.
We recognise the very significant change in social attitudes to sexuality in the United Kingdom in recent years.
We recognise also the strongly held and divergent views reflected in the Pilling Report, across the Anglican Communion and in the Church of England. We acknowledge that these differences are reflected also within the College of Bishops and society as a whole.
We accept the recommendation of the Pilling Report that the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level and that this should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. These conversations should set the discussion of sexuality within the wider context of human flourishing.
We have together asked the Archbishops to commission a small group to design a process for these conversations and additional materials to support and enable them. We hope that the outline for the process and the additional materials will be approved by the House of Bishops in May.
We acknowledge that one of the challenges we face is to create safe space for all those involved to be honest about their own views and feelings. This has not always happened and it must do so in the future. We recognise that we will not all agree and that this process is in part committed to seeking good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ
As the Archbishops noted in November, the Pilling report is not a new policy statement from the Church of England and we are clear that the Church of England’s pastoral and liturgical practice remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation.
No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March.
We are grateful to the whole Church for their prayers for our meeting today and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We recognise that on many occasions in the past the Church has faced challenging questions. It is vital in these moments to take counsel together, to read and reflect upon the Scriptures and to continue to discern together the mind of Christ.
Posted by Peter Owen on
Monday, 27 January 2014 at 5:23pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Church of England
So the facilitated conversations will not even start until May 2014. By that time there will be religiously-married same-sex couples, clergy and lay. Nobody can stop an Anglican couple from being married in a Unitarian chapel or (if in unity with Friends' testimonies) in a Friends Meeting House. That will be a fact on the ground when the conversations start.
I believe that one evangelical (??evangelical) response is to say that Unitarians and Quakers are not really Christians.
So they have agreed to talk further about it, and and in four months time they will agree on how they are going to talk about it. Thrilling stuff indeed.
It never ceases to amaze me how ecclesiastical bodies can string so many words together that say absolutely nothing.
I wish it were at least a tale of full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But there's no sound or fury in it. It's just nothing.
I'm disturbed, however, by the statement, "We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke." That is, we regret homophobic things that others have done that we did not condemn. But we do not repent of any homophobic attitudes or actions on our own, or on the church's part.
"No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged."
Well, at least they are honest in admitting that the whole thing is a complete waste of time, designed to give the impression of thought while actually shamelessly pandering to GAFCON.
The announcement that meetings of bishops aren't even allowed to consider changes to teaching, but have to stick rigidly to the existing nostrums, marks the day that the CofE ceased to be relevant to England.
For me the key new thing here is the commitment to providing a safe space. Voices must not be silenced through fear.
At best this a thin, rather self serving political exercise.
It is impossible to give any credibility to a group of men who have failed so completely and so unanimously to speak out against that which they claim here to repent of.
It is risible to say that they have "sometimes" failed to speak out against homophobia when they have said nothing at every turn both with regard to the world at large and most specifically at support for criminalising gay people within Anglican Churches.
How can the practice such deception?
Are the really so deluded?
I am ashamed that I belong to the same Communion.
"We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society." So, every single bishop in the Church of England now subscribes to biblical authority. Episcopal liberalism is dead.
"No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged." So, regardless of personal opinion, every single bishop in the Church of England has signed up to an explicitly homophobic position.
Reform is going to be a long, hard struggle with the leadership united around the Bible and a homophobic definition of marriage. The unelected, unaccountable bench of bishops can block any reform in Synod.
I can see two ways forward. Repeated Synod votes in favor of equal marriage in the houses of Laity and Clergy, in the hope that the bishops are eventually pressured into change. Beyond that, a campaign to change the canons so the oligarchy is done away with, and bishops are elected by their flock. Until they govern by consent, they have no mandate.
" No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March."
As you know the Church of England has changed its teaching on marriage and now divorce and re-marriage are a free for all.
Yes the Church of England has changed its teaching on marriage..as it did in 1930 when it accepted contraception.
There's just so much lying one can take. The bishops are not united in welcoming or affirming our presence in the clergy, and they are not united in repenting for the 'homophobic attitudes the Church has sometimes failed to rebuke,' the Church simply never has done so. Can anyone give but a single example? They fall back on the well-known African churches' animus to bolster their own. They have opposed each and every step, including civil partnerships, that would lead to legal equality for gay people in this country. Whilst lacking the backbone for their own religious convictions because of public opinion, they fall back yet again on the most intransigent churches of our lot, churches that wish not just to deny gay people the right to be considered equal, but the very right to liberty and association. This would definitely not best be 'addressed by facilitated conversations ecumenically and across the Anglican communion.
The bishops write:
"We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke..."
I am not really interested in their repenting of sometimes failing to tell other people off enough. It is the structural and institutional homophobia, the direct and indirect harm that official attitudes and policies do to LGBT people that really needs understanding and repenting of.
It is the homophobia that apparently makes it impossible for gay bishops to be open about their sexuality, the homophobia that relegates the loves of LGBT people to a different and lesser plane than those of heterosexuals, the homophobia that makes LGBT clergy afraid to be themselves, the homophobia incipient in traditional teaching about sexuality that means that young LGBT Anglicans fear that they may not be acceptable to God or their church thus increasing the stigma and shame they feel, the homophobia that talks ignorantly about "gay lifestyles" and implies that to be gay is to be condemned to a life of moral chaos, and the homophobia that hypocritically has decided to make this the ethical Rubicon of our age when it has nothing like that importance in the history or tradition of our faith.
When I see the College of bishops address that kind of homophobia, in other words our own special Church of England homophobia, I will know that they are taking this whole matter seriously.
So the bishops have picked their side.
Question is, what to do about it?
How about liberal parishes voting to withhold their parish share, and declaring themselves out of communion with every bishop who refuses to break ranks. Further, every liberal priest with the security of freehold and the backing of their congregation denouncing their bishop, barring them from their church premises, and declaring themselves to be in open opposition to church teaching.
A few courageous gay clergy with freehold openly defying 'Issues in Human Sexuality' would be an especially powerful statement. That document, after all, has no official standing. Would like to see what an ecclesiastic court made of it.
Or how about the liberal theological colleges refusing to train a single ordinand until 'Issues' and its tyrannical "discipline" is revoked?
Regardless of their de jure status, the bishops are only what they're allowed to be. If they won't change willingly, they must be pressured to change unwillingly.
A simple reading of "We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke..." is that the Church (of England) should repent now for its sometimes failure to rebuke homophobic attitudes in the past.
It sounds like there were these homophobic attitudes, from who knows where, and the Church of England failed to criticise them.
But this is post the influence of Rowan Williams double-speak, and what it really means is that the Church of England has sometimes produced homophobic attitudes instead of rebuking them.
This is why, when Nigerian Anglicans and similar others produce far worse than 'homophobic attitudes', there still won't be a squeak out of the Church of England even when basic human rights are at stake.
Double-speak of this kind is always a hiding and covering device, with added 'sometimes', and always institutional.
We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table but ...
In the light of this report; at what time does the Church of England decide to join GAFCON?
"We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found."
is essentially oxymoronic to
"We recognise also the strongly held and divergent views reflected ... across the Anglican Communion"
No, if the CofE is really going to "stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found", it must recognize that homophobia is NOT a "divergent view". It must instead rebuke this sinful *blindness*.
I think this was a good outcome. No-one seriously expected the church to turn truly affirming over night. But for the first time it did not spout the traditional line, did not pretend that there was one clear teaching on the matter, acknowledged division among the Bishops and acknowledged that the conversation must not only continue but that it has to be better than it had previously been.
This is a real threat to those absolutely staunchly opposed to any relaxing of the strict anti-gay stance. The real debate will now happen among them. It will be interesting to see what the landscape will be like in 2 years' time.
"No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March.” - C. o B. Report -
In the light of this statement, it might seem that the Church of England is adamant on maintaining its current stance against the Marriage of Same-Sex Persons in its churches.This makes more urgent a decision that would allow Same-Sex Couples to have their marriages ‘Blessed’ in parishes, and by clergy, willing to undertake this ritual.
However, the indication that the next H. of B. meeting in May will “consider its approach when same-sex marriage becomes lawful in England (in March)” infers that the Church will need to do something for those people in its congregations who will undoubtedly be taking advantage of the UK Government’s offer to facilitate Same-Sex Marriage.
The question then arises: Will these same-sex Church couples be acceptable to participate in the sacramental and administrative, and maybe ministerial, life of the Church of England?
'It is impossible to give any credibility to a group of men who have failed so completely and so unanimously to speak out against that which they claim here to repent of.' Beautifully put, Martin. How do some people manage to condense in a single sentence what I cannot write in a whole page.
Despite the second paragraph, which acknowledges the presence and ministry of gay and lesbian people, I still detect a fundamental problem in the third paragraph; and the problem will continue until we stop talking about 'us' and 'them'. It's not all that helpful to say that 'we' (bishops) are going to make a respectful (etc.) response to 'gay men and women' -- as if they were actually on another planet or something. What's needed is for us to admit consistently that we are talking to fellow church members, that the 'we' always includes us all. Despite their genuine efforts, the bishops still sound a bit condescending: 'they have got a problem/they are different' and we're going to be really, really compassionate. I don't want to throw a huge stone at people who are genuinely trying to do and say the right thing, but there still seems to be something missing.
I am fed up with being 'welcomed' I am an insider and I am as equally belonging as any heterosexual couple with 2.4 children with a mortgage. This patronising attitude of white middle aged men is sickening.
With Erika, I am more hopeful - it would appear that the bishops may be prepared for some forward movement provided we laity and parish/chaplaincy clergy take the lead!
"We acknowledge that one of the challenges we face is to create safe space for all those involved to be honest about their own views and feelings. This has not always happened and it must do so in the future. We recognise that we will not all agree and that this process is in part committed to seeking good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ"
The best way that this honesty and good disagreement could begin to be modelled would be with the publication of a list of those bishops who are openly supportive of LGBT people.
It is the lack of almost any vocal support from almost any bishops (Alan Wilson being a notable exception) which has made this so much worse. It is those who claim in private to be supportive who are far more responsible for this than those who are openly opposed. At least the latter really are honest.
Being a council of bishops means never having to say you're sorry.
Must be nice for somebody.
"Regardless of their de jure status, the bishops are only what they're allowed to be. If they won't change willingly, they must be pressured to change unwillingly."
I think this is spot on. Waiting for leadership from the bishops is fruitless.
What is needed now is that some courageous parish priest should start marrying some gay people.
Then if the hierarchy seeks to bring this person before an ecclesiastical court, the institutional hypocrisy will become impossible to defend or justify.
This is the way that theological innovations sometimes take place--from the ground up. Consider the precedents for innovation on the ground when it came to the ordination of women.
Florence Li Tim-Oi was ordained by a bishop who had a wartime excuse.
The Philadelphia Eleven and the Washington Four were ordained anti-canonically by retired bishops.
These examples show that there is power within the Church to force this issue and bring it to the right conclusion.
Excelled examples, Jeremy.
Church liberalism is too top-down in its thinking, and finds the mechanism of power a foreign language. Evangelicals win by forming a power base and using it. Liberals attack them for using money as leverage, and "packing" Synod. Why? What they're doing is legitimate. Anyone can stand for Synod, and parish contributions are voluntary. Liberals can, and should, do the same.
No justice movement ever succeeded by waiting on the good will of those leading oppressive institutions. Bishops aren't bad, particularly, just indifferent. They think and operate in political terms. If liberals want to be heard, they need to do the same.
"What is needed now is that some courageous parish priest should start marrying some gay people."
As Parliament has written the Fourth lock into the marriage equality act the church is not allowed to marry gay couples until they sort their own policies out and then ask Parliament to reverse the lock.
Any priest "marrying" a gay couple would achieve nothing more than a publicity stunt. The couple would still have to trundle off to the Register office if they really wanted to be married.
The Philadelphia Eleven started out as a publicity stunt, though one that upset a lot of people. But that stunt led directly to the ordination of women written into the canon law of the Episcopal Church at General Convention.
A same sex couple might indeed have to head for the Register, but a full dress Anglican marriage service in a church would indeed be a provocation for a lot of people. Sometimes you have to kick the ogre in the shins to get his attention.
"As Parliament has written the Fourth lock into the marriage equality act the church is not allowed to marry gay couples until they sort their own policies out and then ask Parliament to reverse the lock."
There is such a thing as conscientious objection.
And as FD said, the ogre does have shins.
Yes, the "law" banning gay Anglican marriages will be about as enforceable as the public worship regulation act , brought out to suppress Anglo-catholic ritualists in Victorian England.
The bishops will not be able to stomach a spate of prosecutions, and dismissing clergy, will only jeopardise their position in the Lords.
"Yes, the "law" banning gay Anglican marriages will be about as enforceable as the public worship regulation act"
Only that it is a law rather than a "law". Priests cannot act as Registrars for same sex weddings, the resulting marriage will not be legally valid.
And yes, FD Blanchard and Jeremy, there might be gay couples and priests who want to opt for the performance in order to make a point.
We still need to be careful not to call these actual marriages.
"The bishops will not be able to stomach a spate of prosecutions, and dismissing clergy, will only jeopardise their position in the Lords."
On what grounds?
A couple will go through a Marriage ceremony that is not legally valid. The priest may be disciplined internally.
That may be a very valid public stance but it has no civil legal significance.
"We still need to be careful not to call these actual marriages."
We do not need to do anything of the kind, in the Western Church. For us, when two baptised persons vow themselves one to another in marriage, voilà! A marriage takes place. What the state makes of it, or doesn't, is up to them. That they may happen to recognize the clergy as acting on their behalf in some situations is not to say that clergy = state agents.
"We still need to be careful not to call these actual marriages."
Aside from the theology that Geoff speaks to, this is mystifyingly bad strategy.
Of course the marriage would be actual in the minds of the couple and of the priest. And much of the church would regard the marriage as actual and effective.
Once ordained, did the Philadelphia Eleven hide their priestly lights under a bushel? Of course not. They began to celebrate Eucharists--and those who believed that these women were validly ordained made a point of attending those Eucharists and receiving.
The whole point of the strategy is to present a slow-moving hierarchy with faits accomplis that cannot be undone.
Change the facts on the ground, and you change everything.
Put it another way: When the train starts leaving the station, the conductors tend to want to get on board.
It's an actual religious marriage. But most people, when they get married, also want the civil aspects that come with it.
Because in the case of same sex relationship the clergy are precisely not agents of the states. The fourth lock means that they cannot act as registrars and that their ceremony will have no legal validity.
If the couple wants that they will still have to go down to the Register office.
To that extent, the church "Marriage" would be a blessing before or after the civil marriage.
As I said - you can do that. Priests and couples can choose to do that to make a point. But the church ceremony alone will not result in a married couple.
"But the church ceremony alone will not result in a married couple."
Whereas a Quaker, or Unitarian, or other denomination's ceremony will...thus opening up an enormous human-rights issue.
The so-called "fourth lock" cries out to be picked!
"The so-called "fourth lock" cries out to be picked!"
Couldn't agree more!