Fr. Dale Matson
The official title of the Pilling Report is Working Group on human sexuality (November 2013). However, the beginning section of the (18) recommendations, “The foundation [my bolding] of our report states, ‘1. We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained.’” I do not believe the title of the report accurately reflects the body of the research and “Findings and 18 recommendations do not follow from the body of the research. For example, does this report offer a response to the growing number of of unmarried heterosexual couples living together? Is abortion an acceptable means of birth control?
I was struck by this statement “The church has at many points in its history sought to call people to embrace a world view that is deeply at odds with the prevailing culture.” (p. 45) But is the conclusion then, that this is not one of those times-that the church is wrong and contemporary society is right?
Recommendation #2 refers to “the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views.” Does this mean that the traditional understanding needs to be uprooted? “…would be best addressed by facilitated conversations…” this sounds much like the ‘Indaba’ process conservatives have had to endure for more than a decade. The GAFCON primates have heard enough and will no longer listen. The encouragement of recommendation #4 to carry the dialogue on same sex relationships to the “…wider Anglican Communion” will fall on deaf ears and has already been rebuffed by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali http://anglicanink.com/article/warning-uganda-english-hypocrisy-over-homosexuality. The same is true of Archbishop Eluid Wabukala http://anglicanink.com/article/gafcon-archbishop-chastises-pusillanimous-church-england.
I am comforted that recommendation #6 states, “No one should be accused of homophobia simply for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships.” My concern is that the Church of England is in the process of redefining traditional Christian teaching based on a missiology intended at adapting to social change and attracting un-churched young people in England.
Recommendation #13 states, in part, “The church needs to find ways of honoring and affirming those Christians who ….in good conscience have entered partnerships with a firm intention of life-long fidelity.” Is this not a change in church doctrine?
The actual foundational reasons for the report are stated below.
“16. We believe that there can be circumstances where a priest,
with the agreement of the relevant PCC, should be free to mark the
formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service
but should be under no obligation to do so. Some of us do not
believe that this can be extended to same sex marriage. (Paragraphs
“17. While the Church abides by its traditional teaching such
public services would be of the nature of a pastoral accommodation
and so the Church of England should not authorize a formal liturgy
for use for this purpose. The House of Bishops should consider
whether guidance should be issued. (Paragraphs 118, 384–8, 391–3)”
But doesn’t ‘guidance’ become policy and policy lead to doctrine?
Does this sound familiar? “Resolved that bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church. “ (Excerpted from Resolution CO 56, TEC 76th General Convention, 2009)
Of course, assurances are given that “The recommendations do not propose any change in the church’s teaching on sexual conduct.” This is stated in the report from Archbishops Welby and Sentamu (28 November 2013). It is restated in the college of Bishops affirmative response to the Pilling Report (27 January 2014). Does this sound familiar also? Both Katharine Schori and Bonnie Anderson (head of house of deputies) said, “Nothing has changed” after the resolution passed in General Convention.
And all of this is repeatedly stated, with “…the guidance of the Holy Spirit”, “…reflecting upon the Scriptures.” and “…attempting to discern the mind of Christ.” So much of all these documents is boilerplate cobbled together to ‘stay on message’.
The Pilling Report should have been research based outcome but it was outcome-based research. Did the person(s) who wrote the “Findings and recommendations” section actually review the preceding research section? The two are disconnected.
Did anyone doubt how things would turn out thus far? Does anyone doubt where this will end? Will there be a formal split between GAFCON and the CoE? It seems inevitable. Kyrie eleison