Group to advise House of Bishops on human sexuality announced

The membership of a group to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality has been announced. The Group will be chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. Sir Joseph, a former Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office, chaired the group that produced the report on senior church appointments, Talent and Calling, published in 2007.

The other members of the Group are the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham, the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Rev Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker and the Bishop of Warwick, the Rt Rev John Stroyan.

The House of Bishops announced on 1 July that it intended to draw together material from the listening process undertaken within the Church of England over recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality. It also committed itself to offering proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. The task of the new group is to help the House discharge its commitment to produce a consultation document in 2013. The membership of another group, advising the House on its review of the 2005 civil partnership statement, was announced on 1 December.

Members of the group

Sir Joseph Grant Pilling, KCB was born in 1945. He served as the Director-General of the Prison Service from 1991 to 1993, and then Director of Resources and Services in the Department of Health, before being appointed as Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office in 1997, where he served until 2005 when he retired.

Amongst other activities in retirement, he became the first Identity Commissioner, taking up the appointment on 1 October 2009. ITpro web site spoke to him in March 2010, commenting: “why we might all think he’s a bit of prat down the line.” In the interview, Sir Joseph said: “I think one of the great joys of retirement is you have time to spend poking around in things you didn’t have time for when you were working. I’ve done a number of new things since I stopped work four and a bit years ago, and this was another different thing.

Sir Joseph chaired the group that produced the report on senior church appointments, Talent and Calling. The Introduction to the Report said:

1.2.6    The Synod’s resolution requested a review of the law and practice regarding appointments to the offices mention in general, not an inquiry into any particular recent appointments. Our report therefore does not address the appointment of the then Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003, his withdrawal of acceptance of that appointment or his appointment as Dean of St Albans in 2004, even though some of the support for the Synod’s 2005 resolution might have been prompted by these events.

1.2.7    Similarly, though we note that recent appointments in the Anglican Communion have raised issues as to the extent to which divorce and remarriage, homosexual relationships or questionable orthodoxy ought to be an impediment to appointment to senior office in the Church, it has not been our task to examine those issues.

The chapter on Diversity in the church said:

4.1.1    Concern has been expressed to us that four distinct categories of clergy are under-represented among senior office-holders: women clergy, minority ethnic clergy, conservative evangelicals and ‘traditional catholics’. We believe it to be desirable that the holders of senior appointments in the Church of England should broadly reflect the diversity of the clergy from among whom they are drawn – and indeed that of the Church of England as a whole.

4.6.3    We have limited ourselves to considering only those ‘diversity’ issues that have been raised with us, but we are conscious that there are other groups to be considered – for example, those with disabilities and older people. Although we have not considered these or other groups specifically, we note that several of our observations and recommendations are of more general application.

4.6.6    Ultimately, if there is to be diversity in the appointments made there must be such diversity in the pool of suitably qualified and experienced candidates. This may require the application of resources to support training and development where it is needed.

4.6.7    It is, among other things, by its achievement of a representative diversity in its senior appointments – in terms of not only of gender and ethnicity but also of the range of legitimately held opinion – that the Church of England’s commitment to fairness and to its own diversity overall will be judged.

Of course, lesbian and gay clergy may not be under-represented in appointments at higher levels in the church. We are simply invisible and therefore not noticed. LGB&T clergy in an open church should be appointed on merit. Sexual identity should play no part in appointments.

Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester was born in November 1947and has been the bishop since 2004. He attended Hardye’s School, Dorchester before going to Keble College, Oxford in 1971 to study theology. He also studied theology at Cuddesdon College (now Ripon College Cuddesdon. He was a curate at St Mary, Addington (Diocese of Canterbury) between 1976 and 1981, before becoming chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester, John Taylor, from 1981 to 1984. He was also Secretary to the Church of England Doctrine Commission from 1979 to 1984. He became the Team Rector of the Oakdale Team Ministry in Poole in 1984, in 1992 became a residential canon and precentor at Norwich Cathedral. He became the Provost of Derby in 1998 before being appointed the Dean of Derby in 2000. He was a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission from 1986 to 2001 and had a significant role in the production of Common Worship. He was announced as the next Bishop of Gloucester on 20 January 2004.

Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, was born in December 1952. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, studied at Cranmer Hall and was ordained in 1984. His curacy was at Christ Church, Summerfield in Birmingham, after which he was Vicar of Aston and finally Vicar of Holy Trinity, Coventry. He spoke at a True Freedom Trust Conference, “Swimming against the tide”, in May 2009, with Dr Don Horrocks (Evangelical Alliance) and Martin Hallett. Said the blurb – many of us today “Swim against the Tide” by determining to live godly lives in the area of human sexuality in a world (and increasingly a church) which thinks homosexual relationships etc are ok.

Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet was born in October 1966. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood and St John’s College, Oxford. He studied for ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford and was an assistant curate at All Saints’ Ascot Heath from 1993 to 1996. He was then priest in charge of St Mark’s, Reading and Vicar of Holy Trinity, Reading. In 2003, he became Principal of Pusey House.

He was an active and senior mason prior to his appointment to Ebbsfleet. He defended his continued membership of the Masons to The Sunday Telegraph and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop. Later he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop.

John Stroyan, Bishop of Warwick was born in 1955 in Scotland. He was educated at Harrow School, St Andrew’s University and Queen’s College Edgbaston before serving his curacy at St Peter’s Hillfields. From 1987 until 1994 he was Vicar at St Chad, Smethwick, then Bloxham for 9 years before promotion to Area Dean of Deddington in 2002. He has been Bishop of Warwick since 2005.


  1. Graham says

    So . . . the group to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality are
    a) all men
    b) with the exception of the Chairman, all bishops.

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