A conservative blogger claimed yesterday that he had confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be.
Ed Malnick reports the news in today’s Telegraph, having interviewed me and others yesterday.
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, warned that a move to celebrate same-sex relationships in church would be a “red line” for traditionalist parishes. He repeated the threat that clergy and lay members of the Church opposed to any relaxation of the rules could reject the authority of any bishops who supported such a move.
Another senior figure in the Church Ed spoke to said there would be opposition to new liturgy for same-sex couples and voiced doubts that if the Pilling Commission does recommend a new service that the House of Bishops would adopt it, let alone the General Synod. However, Ed notes that Archbishop Welby has spoken repeatedly about the need for the Church to face up to a “revolution” in attitudes to sexuality.
Arun Arora, Director of Communications at Church House, tweeted that “its pure nonsense. all drafts to date have recommended against liturgy for these. Also final draft is not written so your blog – whilst a good read – is pure conjecture.”
Changing Attitude has been told that the report was being delivered to the House of Bishops Standing Committee by the end of October. They will appraise the draft and decide whether or not it should be presented in its current form or needs revision prior to being presented to the House of Bishops in time for their December meeting.
We won’t know what the truth is until the final report is published. What we do know is how conservatives will react if the report recommends the blessing of gay relationships. There will be opposition. Some clergy and lay people will reject the authority of any bishop who approves blessings. They will issue dire warnings and threats of schism. They will attempt to block any move to approve blessings by lobbying the House of Bishops and securing a vote against in General Synod. Changing Attitude and other pro-gay groups will of course be doing the same to achieve the opposite result.
If the reaction of the blogger is anything to go by, there will also be hysteria from some conservatives. In an extraordinary outburst against a woman who was posting thoughtful comments, he wrote:
“I am a prophet and I’m telling you what’s coming. It is time to make a choice and be ready for the decision. Isaiah 62:6-7.
“You are such a bigot. Let me repeat that. You are a bigot. As soon as you see a sexual relationship you don’t like you start bringing out all kinds of nonsense. “Imbalance of Power” in incest? Really? How do you know? How many permanent faithful stable incestuous couples do you know? Because I bet I know more than you and the ones I know exhibit all the same characteristics that the gay couples I know also exhibit.
“Until you can explain why you approve of one loving relationship but not another, you remain a bigot. And a hypocritical one to boot.”
I was reminded of Theresa May’s speech in which she warned the Conservatives against being labeled “the nasty party.”
That is the impression those who hold a conservative theological and biblical position risk coonveying about the Church of England. We are no longer seen as the conservative party at prayer but as a Christian body which is deeply prejudiced against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and continues to discriminate against women in the Church.
Many conservatives oppose the full inclusion of LGB&T people from a deep theological conviction and from their reading of scripture and tradition. It isn’t always easy to respect their position when it is having such a dire impact not only on LGB&T people but on the way people in this country perceive the Church and Christian attitudes.
Archbishop Justin knows this and is deeply concerned about it. He is going to have to commit himself one way or the other in the next 12 months. It isn’t going to be easy when some traditionalists accuse more open people of being hypocritical bigots. I would rightly have been taken to task by the CA trustees if I had use such language. Justin is going to come under pressure from both sides. We know from long experience that conservatives all too likely to be demanding and abusive, issuing threats about schism and using intolerant, hysterical language.
We in Changing Attitude will continue to work with the good relationships we have built up with many in the Church of England, arguing for and encouraging change, realistic in knowing that the Church may decide instead to resist reform. At that point, many will abandon the Church but not their faith. They will seek healthier, more creative, loving and nourishing pastures in which to explore their relationship with God. They may do so with a great feeling of relief and release. The continuing inability of the Church of England to be loving and open towards LGB&T people has been pastorally, spiritually and emotionally corrosive for many of us.