Published today, the Pilling Report has recognised the diversity in theology and understanding which now exists in the Church of England and more particularly, in the Evangelical wing of the Church.
While evangelicals are often assumed to be in opposition to same-sex relationships, The Pilling Report highlights the increasing spectrum of evangelical opinion.
As an expression of this, the Report has included a substantial article from Rev David Runcorn alongside the dissenting statement from the Bishop of Birkenhead,
“We include in the Appendices two essays on the Scriptures and homosexuality which were
prepared for us. One, by Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, epitomizes a conservative
understanding of the biblical texts. The second, by the Revd David Runcorn, argues a
scriptural case for a more inclusive ethic. Both would identify themselves as evangelicals
within the Church of England and both believe they are taking a high view of the authority
of Scripture.” – (page 67: para 223)
Accepting Evangelicals’ submission to the Pilling Group included four aspirations, the first of which called for the Church of England to “begin to formally recognise and express the diversity of opinions and theological understandings that exist in the Church”.
Rev Benny Hazlehurst from Accepting Evangelicals said, “We welcome this clear recognition of diversity in Biblical understanding and commend the Report to the whole church, and especially to those who still see opposition to same-sex relationships as an open and shut case.”
Other aspirations have been less successful, particularly our call to “develop an experimental liturgy of ‘Thanksgiving and Dedication after Civil Partnership’ to be available to churches as a formal response to requests for Blessing of Civil Partnerships”
While recognising that the Pilling Report recommends public services to ‘mark’ Civil Partnerships where clergy and PCC agree, Benny Hazlehurst said, “We also welcome these small steps towards church services for same-sex couples, but we recognise that many LGB&T people will feel deeply disappointed that no liturgy of thanksgiving or blessing is proposed.”
There is always ‘another side’ to Evangelical opinion on most things relating to discipline and mission in the Church. ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ is a body of contra-opinion in the Church of England on the non-acceptance of the LGBT community in the Church.
I have watched their reactions at various points of controversy on gender and sexaulity, and have come to the realisation that there is not one single (conservative) point of view on these matters among Evangelicals – as, indeed, among Anglo-Catholics, there is not one single (conservative) point of view on Women’s Ordination.
This is a most refreshing situation for those of us in the Church who really believe that there are different understanding of what the Holy Spirit may be saying, through our study of the Bible, in the Church today on matters of gender and sexuality.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand