Comments: Pilling Report - more comment

Looks like Andrew Goddard wants to set up a "church within a church" or to leave the Church of England.

"During my evidence to the group, when pressed on whether we did not therefore need to change I replied that the point may come when we have to decide whether we are primarily the Church of England or the church of Jesus Christ."

Quite rude, I think, and disrespectful of those who do not agree with him.

And here's the church within a church:

"...what we urgently need are facilitated conversations that focus on the reality of our deep-rooted divisions on doctrine and the need to discern what differentiated church structures should be created in response to this reality... If some new structures can be found, that would mean that Anglicans committed to different patterns of doctrine, rather than continuing to struggle to establish their view as that of the Church of England, could be given the security and freedom to respond as they believe right. Shaped by their different doctrines, they could each... establish their own form of church discipline in terms of clergy conduct and public acts of worship."

I can't see this being allowed. The mass defection of flying bishops to the Roman Catholic Church does not suggest that a church within a church leads anywhere except separation.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 12:47pm GMT

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has commented on the report. Duncan says he is in “complete agreement with the Right Reverend Keith Sinclair” in his dissent from the main report. Duncan continues to argue that the Church can never change: “The Church must not waiver from its received teaching. Scripture and the catholic consensus must be treated as givens, the attitude of the signatories not withstanding.” His full statement is available at

Posted by Lionel Deimel at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 1:06pm GMT

"Divisions Deepen" is a lovely title. They don't, they've always been deep. But they are properly acknowledged for the first time and there is no longer any pretence that there is one official church position.
That's a good thing.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 1:25pm GMT

sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex

is there nothing else going on in the Church of England?

Do Anglicans think/comment about anything else?

Posted by David Keen at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 2:47pm GMT

Goddard took a long time to say it, but I agree with his conclusion. Failing a mass Damascene conversion, the church is not only divided on this, it's speaking different languages. Since agreement is out of the question, a split, as well-managed as possible, would be in the interests of everyone.

The alternative is either for one part of the church to drive another out, or for the church to become even more Balkanized than it is already (which is saying something).

What good is this oppressive unity doing anyone?

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 4:38pm GMT

"Do Anglicans think/comment about anything else?"

Sometimes we comment on gender too. ;-)

The point is well taken. I do wish we were putting it all where it belongs, in the category of justice and what it means if ALL people actually are created in the image of God.

There is a lot to tackle in the realm of justice. Economic inequality comes rushing to mind. Ultimately, this is all related. Equality and justice for all means women, LGBT people, and exploited and impoverished people every where.

The potential gift in all of this discussion is a deeper collective understanding of justice and equality issues in the world and before God. And maybe, just maybe, that will open up more compassion for all.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 4:56pm GMT

they only think about sex when they're not arguing about women bishops.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 5:54pm GMT

"Do Anglicans think/comment about anything else?"

Of course, but in other issues, discrimination isn't enshrined as doctrine. As Cynthia says, this is a justice issue. All too often, "we shouldn't obsess about this" has meant "we should leave an unjust status quo in place because change would be too much trouble."

So long as the church seeks to impose oppressive teaching, Anglicans absolutely must talk about sexuality and gender. The more they do, the sooner the church can be put right.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 12:35am GMT

"Failing a mass Damascene conversion."

Or simply generational change among church-goers.

Agree with Badman that "establish their own form of church discipline in terms of clergy conduct and public acts of worship" is code for creating a new church.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 2:56am GMT

Do Anglicans think/comment about anything else? Should we not talk? Endless reports and synod motions have promised to talk about it for decades and the conversation (what was it called? the listening exercise?) has never happened, anywhere, except possibly one diocese. What is more, half of the church is firmly convinced that no talk need or should take place. I'm with Erika: even the recognition that we are not all of one mind is a novelty and very much to be welcomed.

Posted by Lorenzo at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 6:19am GMT

I have long been of the opinion that most bishops are of the "Don't mention the war" variety when it comes to difficult subjects.

The Pilling Report's "facilitated conversations" will force the elephant in the room out of the closet - so to speak!

If the conservative groups decide they don't want to take part then all the better - the conversations will be clearer in the direction they take.

The outcome proposed by the Pilling Report is modest - a relaxation of rules in practice, no change in doctrine! It's hard to argue against without seeming to be unreasonable. Nobody will force a church to conduct same-sex blessings or have a gay vicar, why not let those that are happy get on with it?

Peter Ould, speaking on "Anglican TV" hopes that the large churches in the Holy Trinity, Brompton, mode, will threaten to withhold their money. I think this is highly unlikely. These churches seek to reach out to the unchurched and know very well how perceived homophobia would harm their mission. It would not go down well with many of their members either.

While the Open Evangelical leadership seems to be operating half-day closing at the moment, the views of many of the rank and file have changed.

I cannot see anything preventing the recommendations of the Pilling Report being implemented, with changes of doctrine and official liturgies soon following.

The conservative evangelicals may continue to huff and puff, but I don't think the house is even going to tremble, let alone fall down!

Posted by Iain Baxter at Friday, 6 December 2013 at 2:11pm GMT

Do Anglicans think about anything but sex? Actually there isn't any real discussion about sex, and I suspect that therein lies much of the problem. It doesn't affect LGBT friends only: what about heterosexual singles? What is "permitted" for them if they're not in a relationship leading to marriage? Only in the Song of Songs does the Bible explore the erotic- and of course the Church has always tried to turn that into metaphor.
Are non married people "allowed" to kiss? To cuddle? To touch each other in intimate places? To give each other (this could frighten the horses) orgasms? What exactly constitutes a celibate relationship? Is it just the absence of penetrative sex?
Because if it is, I can't for the life of me see what bothers anyone about lesbian relationships. Where exactly are these forbidden in the Bible? Can anyone enlighten me?

Posted by Helen at Saturday, 7 December 2013 at 6:16pm GMT

Oh dear, Helen: there you go upsetting apple cart {cough - code of silence - cough}

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 8 December 2013 at 8:19am GMT

re Helen's comment; Queen Victoria thought that any sexual relationship between women was impossible, so this would back up your theory. But then women weren't considered to have erotic feelings were they in O.T. times? How things have changed. You're right, too, about the Song of Songs; that the Church is keen to allegorise sexual love. That's a problem.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 8 December 2013 at 9:57am GMT

I always find it rather puzzling that those who insist that the Bible is to be understood literally wherever possible are the very first to insist that the Song of Songs must be allegorised.

Posted by cryptogram at Monday, 9 December 2013 at 12:30pm GMT

Fr. Ron, I'm not a biblical scholar, nor am I able to read Hebrew, but it seems to me that Genesis 18:12 ("Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?") indicates that the writers of the Hebrew Bible were not unfamiliar with the notion that women had erotic feelings. And, of course, the Song of Songs can be viewed as a celebration of erotic love on the part of both the man and the woman (as well as an allegory about God's love for his people and about Christ's love for his Church).

Posted by Paul Powers at Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 4:48am GMT

Couldn't agree more, Paul! My point was that the conservatives in the Church seem rather hung up on the inadmissability of human sexual pleasure. As though God did not invent it as a way of loving human connection.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 10:31am GMT
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