Pilling report: Bishops accept recommendations

31 January 2014

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Deliberations: Church House, Westminster 

Deliberations: Church House, Westminster 

THE College of Bishops has accepted the recommendations of the Pilling report, but has warned that the Church of England may never agree on the issue of sexuality.

In a statement released on Monday after a day of discussing the report, the College of Bishops said that a series of "facilitated conversations" on homosexuality needed to take place within the Anglican Communion.

"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," it said.

The Bishops will now ask the Archbishops to set up a group that would design the procedure for these conversations and also produce materials to enable discussion. They hope to have this completed and approved by the House of Bishops in May.

The statement warns, however, that the most that might result from these conversations within the Church would be "good disagreement".

"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," they said.

"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."

In a sermon preached to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Sandringham on Sunday, the Archbishop of Canterbury repeated the suggestion that the Church must learn "good disagreement".

"Christians will never all agree on everything: they never have," he said. "That is true for the Church of England, let alone the Anglican Communion in 145 countries. Christ does not command unanimity, but love and unity in diversity. So we must be reconciled to each other in love."

The College statement emphasised that the Bishops were united in affirming the presence and ministry in the Church of gay and lesbian people - both clergy and laity. The statement also said: "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."

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Released in November, the Pilling report, by the House of Bishops' working group on human sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, also recommended that clergy be allowed to hold public services to "mark" same-sex relationships, (News, 29 November).

Nevertheless, the College of Bishops insisted that the report did not create any new "pastoral and liturgical practice", and that the Church's teaching on marriage had not changed.

Writing in response to the bishops, the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Eliud Wabukala, strongly criticised the decision to go ahead with facilitated conversations.

Archbishop Wabukala, who also chairs the GAFCON Primates' Council, said in a statement: "We cannot allow our time and energy to be sapped by debating that which God has already clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

"While we should be thankful that the College of Bishops did not adopt the idea of services for blessing that which God calls sin, it did unanimously approve the conversation process and this is deeply troubling.

"The underlying problem is whether or not there is a willingness to accept the bible for what it really is, the Word of God."

He also said he rejected the idea these conversations should happens across the Anglican Communion, arguing they were a particular problem for the Church of England only.

 

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