Comments: Pilling Report - Fulcrum responds

Why is everything described as "irenic"?! The quoted statement hardly seems to be irenic (to me)!

Posted by Alastair Newman at Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 8:08pm GMT

I've read the whole thing, and note two main points and draw one main conclusion from it:

1. Fulcrum welcomes one half of Recommendation 13 (Church must "find ways of honouring and affirming those Christians who experience same sex attraction who, conscious of the church’s teaching, have embraced a chaste and single lifestyle") without mentioning the other half (it must do the same for those who have in conscious entered lifelong relationships).

Indeed the second part of Rec 13 isn't even mentioned. I can't work out what lies behind this: Fulcrum intends to continue to fight to ensure queers are neither honoured and affirmed? Or they're desperately trying to prevent reality intruding on their preconceptions although they know the ground is slipping - nay collapsing - beneath their feet?

2. Fulcrum concedes that it may be necessary to allow some form of praying for civil partnerships and marriages, as long as it's done in private. So, even if they block anything that uses the language of blessing, that isn't enough. What is done must be hidden from people and especially the congregation, as if gay love were something shameful. Horrid.

And my final conclusion:

The blessings-only-in-private point is one I associate particularly with Andrew Goddard, and indeed his ideological fingerprints are all over this, although he moderates his language from the things he writes for EA. It is obvious that he and other hardliners still control Fulcrum's policymaking on the gays; the moderates are denied any influence.

That's bad news for all of us, because it means the most important Evangelical ginger group in the CofE is walking into 2 years of facilitated discussions as if the world hasn't changed. That makes the prospects of reaching an acceptable modus vivendi less likely.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 11:09pm GMT

Yes - hearing everything described in such syrupy terms makes me want to shout something very rude indeed at the computer.

A quick scoot through Fulcrum's statement leaves me thinking "My, it must be uncomfortable balancing on top of that fencepost!"

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 11:09pm GMT

Depressingly one-sided. Especially calling the Bishop of Birkenhead's statement "irenic"! Blessed are the peacemakers, especially when they split with their own committee for being insufficiently "traditional." Bizarrely, Fulcrum don't even mention the "Including Evangelical" appendix by David Runcorn, which could have been (and I suspect was) written specifically for them. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

Are they really trying to hold the line against their own? What's the point? This is a lost battle for open evangelicals. Their flexibility on gender roles and divorce ensures that. Their use of selective biblical authority makes look even more homophobic than the con-evo crowd, who are at least consistent on gender and divorce (although not, of course, slavery).

Did no-one have a quiet word with the Fulcrum leadership before this ill-considered statement was published? How are "facilitated conversations" supposed to work if open evangelicals won't even talk among themselves about the "Including Evangelical" position? If Pilling is an exercise to move open evangelicals to an affirming position, Fulcrum have just set it back.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 11:40pm GMT

No - I was wrong. I looked again. It just looks like they want to present themselves as having a fencepost up their..

In fact they are squarely on the homophobic side of the argument.

What James says. So depressing. Will "facilitated conversations" make any difference? Not with this mindset in place.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 8:02am GMT

I don't think Dr Goddard needs to make any effort to control the policy-making of the Fulcrum 'leadership team'. They are entirely unanimous about it. Years ago, before Dr Goddard left Oxford, a group of us from the (now defunct) Oxford Changing Attitude group were generously invited to a discussion at his home. He said then that he thought the church might very well change its mind on this matter -- since which time he has done all he can to make sure it doesn't. He also said that he thought the church was headed for an abyss, while the rest of us thought we were trying to point out the way forward that avoided it ...

Posted by Tony Phelan at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 5:21pm GMT

Fulcrum's Leadership Team look like a cross-section of open evangelical opinion, if leaning towards the conservative side of that grouping. Even if they present a united front, I'd be surprised if their beliefs about human sexuality are unanimous.

If they are, as the debate *among* evangelicals intensifies, people with affirming views are likely to get voted on. Unless Fulcrum makes holding to the traditional position a requirement of membership. If they did, they'd cease to represent the evangelical mainstream.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 12:57am GMT

In the past, James, there have been voices in the Fulcrum forum that articulate an affirming point of view; but I don't think there is anything in Fulcrum to join -- though they have occasionally held day conferences in the past. The only membership is of the 'leadership team' and they seem to be of one mind already.

Posted by Tony Phelan at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 5:49pm GMT

Checked on the Fulcrum site, and while they mention membership, the link's inactive (TBF, they're in the middle of a redesign).

When it comes to their Leadership Team, Jody Stowell has just resigned over this issue. She explains her position on her blog:

David Runcorn's Pilling appendix seems to have opened the floodgates among evangelicals frustrated by the "traditional" line. As this goes on, I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone like N.T. Wright, or even Goddard himself, changes their mind.

If Fulcrum want to stay relevant to open evangelicals, at the least, they need to shift to a neutral position.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 7 December 2013 at 6:05am GMT

I do love the way that 'neutral' here is defined as 'clearly heading in the direction of agreeing with me'…!

In that sense, of course we should all be 'neutral'.

Posted by Ian Paul at Saturday, 7 December 2013 at 10:59am GMT

Ian Paul: neutral is defined as neutral. Evangelicals might, after consideration, move back and retrench around the traditional position, but there's currently a divide forming, a divide that Fulcrum ought to recognize.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 8 December 2013 at 3:38pm GMT

Ian Paul

I don't have answers, but I have enough questions to want to leave the debate open as Pilling does. Fulcrum suggests that scripture closes the debate here. Actually, I think there is work to be done before that conclusion can be reached. And the work is not convincing yourselves, but putting conviction at risk in a conversation with others - without conversation, there is no conversion??


Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 8 December 2013 at 10:48pm GMT

For those who may not have read Fulcrum's first two points in the Response, it may be worth repeating them again here:

"We welcome the following:

1. We must warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained (Recommendation 1)
2. Urgent facilitated conversations (Recommendation 3) about our differences on this subject are needed in the church as a whole and these must “involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture” (Recommendation 2) at their heart."

The Response concludes, as well as begins, with a positive welcome for the 'facilitated conversations':

"In Fulcrum we remain committed to “participate in debates on issues in sexual ethics arising today in the life of the Church” and offer these initial assessments to assist fellow evangelicals and others in discerning how to respond to this important Report."

Some Evangelical groups have not welcomed these 'facilitated conversations': Fulcrum does, and makes that clear at the beginning and the end of the Response.

It also states that these are initial assessments.

Posted by Graham Kings at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 12:10am GMT


I think that's rather ungenerous in interpreting what James has suggested.

Open Evangelicals in asking for 'neutral', mean at least being open to the conversation, which, of necessity means being open to a change of mind and heart.

If that is not where you personally are, then fair enough, but please don't shut the conversation down.


Posted by Jody Stowell at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 10:50am GMT

You can come to any conclusion if you set your framework narrowly enough.

What I would like to see from evangelicals now is a conversation about why God would think that homosexuality is immoral and why he would impose so much suffering on gay people by forcing them to live severely restricted lives for no apparent moral good to them or to society.

Just to say "but it says here" is no longer enough.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 11:53am GMT

Amen and amen, Erika, but they never answer and have recently taken to extolling the heroic virtues of celibacy.

Posted by Lorenzo at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 4:37pm GMT

I am not sure anyone comes to this conversation 'neutral', and I am not sure why they should. To be an open evangelical is just that—to be open to discussion. It doesn't mean coming to this debate without already having a view. No-one does that. I am very happy to discuss the issues on which I have changed my mind as I have looked more carefully at Scripture, and I read Brownson with such an openness, but was disappointed.

Fulcrum, as Graham says, is supportive of the idea of facilitated discussions. But for them to be a genuine meeting place, then I think all parties are going to need to be open to a change of mind. Unless I have misread, I cannot see any posters here on the 'other' side saying they are open to changing their minds and believing that same-sex unions are wrong. Without mutual openness, it is difficult to see that the conversations will take us far.

Posted by Ian Paul at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 6:23pm GMT

Erica and Lorenzo

I can assure you this discussion is happening widely within evangelicalism .. . I wonder why you speak as if 'evangelicals' and 'they' are one (narrow) voice - it is public and clear they are not.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 6:47pm GMT

Jody Stowell: Exactly. :) Your moving and insightful blog post about your own journey testifies to the power of being open to the lives and loves of others, and the holistic theology that can result.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 9:02pm GMT

Thanks, Judy Stowell, for your honesty and openness to the possibility of God being present in same-sex monogamously faithful human relationships. May God richly bless your new ministry at St. Michael & All Angels. May the Holy Angels surround you in all you do for God and God's people.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 12:48am GMT

Ian, I changed my mind, I can assure you. I bought the Catholic claptrap on the matter for two decades and it all but destroyed me. Brownson changed his mind too after his son came out. When I read conservative evangelical works on the matter however, it seems obvious to me that they now dive into Genesis to find ammunition for their dislikes/animus/opinions. These readings are found nowhere in Tradition, they are being pieced together in our day and presented as the age-old teaching of the church.

Posted by Lorenzo at Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:37am GMT

I am delighted to hear it!

I speak of "evangelicals" in the context of this post on Fulcrum's response to Pilling and Jody Stowell's reply to Ian Paul that a conversation among evangelicals must happen and should not be shut down.

I am not an evangelical so I do not really know what debates happen internally between the groups. I follow Accepting Evangelicals and Thinking Anglicans and that kind of debate has not happened on those two forums.
Evengelicals of all kinds there have been discussing homosexuality in terms of what can be proven or not from Scripture.

If there are other places where they also talk about the Why and the purpose of it all, I am truly relieved.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:54am GMT

Although, as Rowan Williams is quoted as saying, 'the theologians must always begin in the middle of things', I wonder if there is an earlier starting point that should be visited. Discussion is waged as though no one's sex drive is a problem unless someone else makes it so. Has no straight out there struggled with the sex urge whenever an attractive person comes into view? For Augustine, Thomas Merton, and anyone else who reads Jesus in Matt. 5:27, sexual feelings themselves need controlling. Marriage is the specific calling,celibacy is the default. I say this to counterbalance the widespread assumption that love finds its fulfillment in a physical sexual relationship, or 'Greater love has no one than this, that one takes down one's pants for one's friend.'

Posted by Richard Wilkins at Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 1:40pm GMT
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