Comments: Pilling report - statements from campaign groups

'Like the apostle Jude, in the Bible, we would prefer to discuss the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers to all, but feel constrained to respond to the teaching of those who are changing the gospel into an affirmation of immoral behaviour.'

Reading these various responses, it's difficult not to despise the Church of England which has spawned it all.

Such a mess and a real crisis for any kind of rational moral think with human integrity.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 1:51am GMT

Christian "Concern" (whose concern is entirely for their own pride):

“The most compassionate thing for the Church of England to do is to follow Christ in this: speak clearly about marriage as the union of one man and one woman and the only proper place for sexual expression, for the good of all.”

Anglican "Mainstream" (whose London events attract perhaps twenty people, and are about as mainstream as a thing that's the antonym of mainstream which I can't think of right now):

"We affirm the teaching of the Church of England that the appropriate context for a sexual relationship is only in a lifelong, faithful marriage between a man and a woman. This teaching will continue to be true, and is endorsed by the large majority of Christian churches historically and globally, as confirmed by the Nairobi Commitment of GAFCON 2013."

Gandhi (attr):

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

The genuinely concerned Anglican mainstream, who are ahead of Pilling and in a different timezone to Christian "Concern" and Anglican "Mainstream", need to speak loudly and clearly. Because if Pilling becomes the centre of gravity, with its recipe for another ten years of savage infighting between the vast, accepting majority and the tiny handful of irreconcilable conservatives, the CofE will be fatally wounded. Ten years of "facilitated conversation" with the official position remaining unchanged throughout will leave the CofE as a cult for a handful of elderly bigots.

My children attend a majority-Muslim school and even there, homophobia is the province of a handful of evangelical Christians, with Muslim pupils from conservative backgrounds bringing nuance and arguing robustly with those that advance homophobic positions. Homophobia is the racism of our times, and if the CofE doesn't realise that and robustly distance itself from all its manifestations, it will be dead in twenty years. A church which claimed to be anti-racist but refused to marry black people would be rightly shunned: that is how the CofE is seen now. Young people can see that discrimination is all of a piece, and you cannot pick and choose: if you stand shoulder to shoulder against sexism and racism, you stand shoulder to shoulder against homophobia. A church that does not loudly proclaim their love and acceptance for all humanity is completely doomed.

Andrew Brown called it right. Resolving the ordination of women issue just leaves the arena empty and the battlelines drawn for a self-destructive fight to the death over homosexuality. There is no world in which the CofE can (a) pander to conservative African churches and (b) remain viable in the UK. Pilling doesn't help that.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 9:19am GMT

My reading of Pilling is that it agrees with your last two paragraphs, Interested Observer.

The important split in the Church of England is not between the anti-gay conservatives and the accepting liberals - it is between the older generation and the rising generation in the church itself.

Pilling is attempting to effect a transition, a hand-over, between two generations with radically different readings of Christianity as it should be applied to human sexuality. It recognises that, unless this transition is handled correctly, the Church of England will lose the rising generation and then the older generation really will be two bald men fighting over a comb - because, whoever wins, even if anyone wins, the church which they are fighting over just fades away as the combatants die and are not replaced.

The 2 year timescale is enough to try and effect the transition, but is still, to use Pilling's word for this period, "urgent". It is not very long in church terms.

Posted by badman at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 10:43am GMT

I do agree with badman on this. I especially agree with the idea of a handover between an older and younger generation. 2 years is helpful. By then same sex marriage will be well embedded in England, Wales and Scotland and will just be the normal way of things. It also, hopefully, allows for women bishops to be approved. I think Pilling gives a fair notice to other Churches both Anglican and not of developments and other churches may well similarly evolve.

I have no interest in changing the formal doctrine. This will be achieved by the next generation that simply won't understand what all the fuss was about.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 12:55pm GMT

I think it is noteworthy how little note has been taken of this report across the media. Comment was there one moment and gone the next. It is a non-event because it is so anachronistic. Society and the majority of practicing Christians have moved on. The Church of England's pronouncements on the issue of homosexuality are akin to the Church of Rome's pronouncements on contraception. It is the means by which the vast majority have come to challenge "church authority" over their lives. "If the Church can get this so wrong, surely she can be wrong on many other things" I hear them say.

Posted by commentator at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 5:41pm GMT

My first reactions? that anything which is condemned by the conservative evangelical fringe can't be all bad.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 6:34pm GMT

So it it is not about any kind of truth, at all, but about fashionable views and playing it safe ?

This is very unpleasant, and off-putting.

Posted by Revd Laurie Roberts at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 7:57pm GMT

Very disappointing response from LGCM.

This Pilling group had no standing and the voice of their report has nothing to say from us, for us or to us.

There is nothing to welcome or celebrate here, sad, very sad.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 29 November 2013 at 10:21pm GMT

The false equivalence that Pilling draws between affirmation and homophobia is wrong in itself (just as wrong as it defining "homophobia" to exclude any theological argument -- by this reasoning, an advocate of the Curse of Ham would be categorically incapable of being a racist). You can't be neutral on prejudice. If you refuse to take a side, you've done so by default.

It's essential that formal doctrine is changed: it's the wellspring from which all other problems flow. Pilling's refusal to recognize this is its downfall.

This process is about power, not justice. If the church doesn't stand for justice, what's the point of it?

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 12:13am GMT

As a consequence of the Pilling Report, one cannot help but admire the pragmatism of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. At least, their stand for LGBT people is based on reality, not the fear of being seen to be partial to the underdog.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 10:38pm GMT

"This process is about power, not justice. If the church doesn't stand for justice, what's the point of it?"

Exactly. Oppression is about power. Pretty much any oppression one can think of, but in this case LGBT people in the church.

"As a consequence of the Pilling Report, one cannot help but admire the pragmatism of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. At least, their stand for LGBT people is based on reality, not the fear of being seen to be partial to the underdog."

Thank you! TEC went the way of conscience at a cost. The promises of working toward justice have by far outweighed the costs. As attitudes in society change, it won't be long before people wonder what the fuss was all about. Our church is filling with young families who don't want to raise their children in bigoted environments.

CoE's approach of tolerating the intolerant is not inspirational, or inviting. It isn't justice. It isn't anything but appeasing power.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 2 December 2013 at 4:00pm GMT

Doesn't the complete lack of interest in the media demonstrate that actually this is not a big deal for the world at large?

Posted by Ian Paul at Monday, 2 December 2013 at 10:15pm GMT

I would agree, with Ian Paul, people are so used to the CoE every now and then starting another initiative to discuss gay people that they just switch off.
Maybe they will take more notice when (if) the church eventually comes to a conclusion of sorts, although I suspect that it will be a brief "oh look, finally!" before they move on to problems the country hasn't actually already solved 10 years ago.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 3 December 2013 at 12:15pm GMT

*before they move on to problems the country hasn't actually already solved 10 years ago.*

Ten? I'm fifty next year. Homosexuality wasn't an issue when I was an undergraduate and isn't an issue today, thirty years later. It's a completely dead issue. Outside a small, noisy coterie of religious extremists (not just Christian, it has to be said) there is _no_ traction for homophobia. There are still racist political parties that want to repeal the Race Relations Act, and a certain level of casual racism is common outside big and diverse urban centres. There are still assorted golf clubs and the like that are happy to engage in sexual discrimination, and object to women drinking pints. But outside con-evo Christians and a few noisy Muslim groupings, _where_ is the homophobia in this country? When was it last heard from?

That's why it's so toxic to the CofE. When the CofE imposes a glass ceiling on women, you can at least vaguely note that other employers aren't a lot better, even if it's not formalised. When there's a whiff of racism of low expectations in their tolerance for murderous African extremists, you can at least think that they're hardly alone in that. But homophobic ranting, bizarre "post gay" positions and the like? They're almost unique to the religious. No-one else cares. No-one else _understands_.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 3 December 2013 at 6:22pm GMT

I agree, Interested Observer. I said 10 years because that's roughly when first moves were made towards the Civil Partnership Act, after the Children and Adoption Act had already allowed gay people to adopt. With Civil Partnerships equality was finally formalised at every level.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 3 December 2013 at 9:52pm GMT

And, Interested Observer, I completely agree that this structured homophobia only exists in churches. They are the ones that create revulsion in people including in gay people, by insisting that there is something wrong and immoral about being gay.

I thought that when I read about the new Anglican Mainstream "gay cure" conferences that is to take place soon where the key question is: “Homosexual orientation and practice – what did Jesus say? Straight, gay, bisexual – what about ex-gay and post-gay? ‘Don’t want to be gay anymore? Sorry we’re not allowed to help you!’ Is that ethical?”

They create the problem that they then try to cure. Without them, the problem simply would not exist.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 3 December 2013 at 10:12pm GMT
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