The Pilling Report, a document presented to the Church of England by its “Working Group on Human Sexuality,” is reflective of the season in which Anglicanism in the West finds itself. There are certainly elements of the report that are to be commended:
- In a day when the temptation is to partisanship and easy answers, there is a balance of views and perspectives within the report that is commendable.
- The report rightly emphasizes that fear and hatred have no place in the Church’s response to any persons, and calls upon Christians to show Christ’s love to those living with same-sex attraction.
- The report recognizes that appeals to genetics and behavioral sciences in sorting out the roots of homosexual desire are not as conclusive as many claim.
- Finally the report notes the challenge of evangelizing — especially the next generation — as the disconnect between the Church’s teaching and the prevailing culture continues to grow.
Unfortunately, the Pilling Report also contains elements that are potentially destructive to the Church’s life and witness.
- While an “open ended process of facilitated conversation” is advised, the ‘end’ of affirming same-sex unions is already recommended, and this bias affects the trajectory of both the report and the conversation.
- Underpinning this call for ‘facilitated conversation’ is the controversial claim that the argument for the Church’s traditional teaching about marriage and sexual intimacy is “inconclusive.”
Inviting the church to discover a new consensus about sexual relationships beyond those of a lifelong union of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony is not helpful.
Concerning these matters, I am in complete agreement with the Right Reverend Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Birkenhead, and a member of the Working Group, in his dissent from the Report. The Church must not waiver from its received teaching. Scripture and the catholic consensus must be treated as givens, the attitude of the signatories not withstanding. Those who would re-construct the received moral order in the 21st century to respond to a culture bent on self-actualization, rather than dying to self, will do no better than those who — quite unsuccessfully but with much damage — in the 20th century sought to re-define the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ.
Our prayers are with the House of Bishops of the Church of England as the Pilling Report is received, considered and acted upon. Our prayers are with the entire Church of England as she seeks to be a faithful Church in a secular and post-Christian age. Our prayers are with the Archbishop of Canterbury as he leads in this most challenging time, not least in relationship to the Anglican Communion, whose majority cannot support the trajectory the Pilling Report countenances as concerns accommodation of sexual relationships outside of Holy Matrimony. Our prayers are also with those experiencing same-sex attractions, and with their families and friends, and with all those who have been injured by any kind of bigotry by members of the Church or the society. ‘By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.’ [John 13:35]
The Most Reverend Robert Duncan