Thinking Anglicans

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.

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Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

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.

sjh
Guest
sjh

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.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

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… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“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.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

For me the key new thing here is the commitment to providing a safe space. Voices must not be silenced through fear.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

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… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“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… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

” 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.

Lorenzo
Guest

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… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

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… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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.… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

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,… Read more »

clairejxx
Guest
clairejxx

We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table but …

Father Ron Smith
Guest

In the light of this report; at what time does the Church of England decide to join GAFCON?

JCF
Guest
JCF

“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*.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“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… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest

‘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.

Joe
Guest

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… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

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.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

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!

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

“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… Read more »

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

Being a council of bishops means never having to say you’re sorry.

Must be nice for somebody.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“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.

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

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.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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.

robert Ian Williams
Guest
robert Ian Williams

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.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RIW
“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.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“The bishops will not be able to stomach a spate of prosecutions, and dismissing clergy, will only jeopardise their position in the Lords.”

Precisely.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

What prosecutions?
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.

Geoff
Guest

“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.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Jeremy 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… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The so-called “fourth lock” cries out to be picked!”

Couldn’t agree more!