On 28th November the long awaited ‘Pilling Report’ on human sexuality was published by the Church of England.
We have issued a Press Release in response which we you can view on our Press Page.
Most striking for us is the way in which the report acknowledges (for the first time) the diversity in Biblical interpretation among evangelicals on the issue of sexuality.
Accepting Evangelicals is mentioned at length in one of the essays (page 177) as an alternative to traditional conservative theology.
“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)
We will be commenting further when we have studied the whole document in depth (over 200 pages).
In terms of recommendations, the report proposes some limited changes to the Church of England approach, including:
- Permitting public services in CofE churches to ‘mark’ Civil Partnerships if both the Vicar and the PCC (Parochial Church Council) agree
- discouraging intrusive questioning of clergy in same-sex partnerships about their private life
- a concerted process of ‘facilitated conversations’ at national and Diocesan level.
It does not, however, propose any change in the Church’s teaching and rules out any official liturgy of Blessing or Thanksgiving at this time.
Some evangelical conservative groups have responded with anger and dismay.
Reform Chairman, Rod Thomas said that he was “deeply ashamed” that the Pilling Report was opening up divisive discussions about the church’s stance on human sexuality.
Anglican Mainstream have said, “The impression is given that a matter on which Scripture and tradition give clear theological and ethical direction is open to compromise by negotiation.”
But others have been more positive. In particular Fulcrum has sought to welcome some areas while expressing concern at others.
The report can be purchased from Church House Publishing or viewed on line via the Church of England media page – http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/11/pilling-report-published.aspx
Accepting Evangelicals submission to the Pilling Working Group can be read here.