Pilling Report – Statement from the College of Bishops
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.
Posted by Peter Owen (T.A.) on Monday, 27 January 2014 at 5:23pm GMT
Thanks to Peter Owen, of ‘Thinking Anglicans’ (UK), for this report from the Church of England’s College of Bishops, of their reflections on the recent Pilling Report, on Gender and Sexuality. Here is one of the seminal points made by the Bishops:
“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”.
Not only has this not always happened, it may actually never have happened in the past. It has been suggested that, as there are Gay Bishops in the College of Bishops, they may never have been encouraged to share their sexual-orientation with their colleagues; and this could well have inhibited the process of the proper recognition of Gay clergy within the Church – a situation that could have facilitated a more robust and honest discussion.
Another paragraph in the Report that merits further consideration is this one:
“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.”
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 indication that the next H. of B. meeting in May will “consider its approach when same-sex marriage becomes lawful in England (in March) ” infers that the Church will need to do something for those people in its congregations who will undoubtedly be taking advantage of the UK Government’s offer to facilitate Same-Sex Marriage. The question then arises: Will these same-sex Church couples be acceptable to participate in the sacramental and administrative, and maybe ministerial, life of the Church of England?
The future credibility of the Church of England’s attitude towards Gay people is at stake, whatever decision is made in the next C. of E. House of Bishops next Meeting in May of this year. The world is watching!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand