Forget dealing with Pilling. That is a relatively easy job; set up a “facilitated conversation” (this will take a few months), engage in the facilitated conversation (this will take two years, as recommended by Sir Joseph), report back on the facilitated conversation (this will take half a year). Bingo, you’ve pushed off the debate for another three years. Oh and giving churches free licence to bless relationships won’t happen until that is over – that’s a minefield ++Justin doesn’t want to walk into just yet. Far better to shove it off into the future for deliberation (read “internecine apocalypse”) in a few years time.
Forget all that. There is another much more imminent storm coming that we have largely forgotten about in our debate over Pilling. It is the simple matter of how the House of Bishops will approach clergy entering into same-sex marriages. I understand that this was discussed at the last House of Bishops meeting and may be touched on when the College of Bishops (i.e. not just the Diocesans but the Suffragans as well) meets next week.
The issue is obviously sticky. Unlike civil partnerships which are ostensibly celibate relationships which *may* be sexual, same-sex marriage is, as a mirror of traditional marriage, an explicitly sexual relationship. Not only that, the doctrine of the Church of England is still that marriage is between a man and a woman, so two women getting married is a clear rejection of that teaching. Any clergy entering such a relationship will be blatantly and publicly rejecting and renouncing the Church’s teaching in this area.
On the other hand, the lawyers in Lambeth Palace and Church House are currently tearing out the little remaining hair that they have in their heads after working through Women Bishops on trying to get round the fact that entering into a same-sex marriage is essentially a basic civil right in England and Wales (as of this Spring). And of course this is essentially a no-win situation – if the House of Bishops ban clergy from entering same-sex marriage the revisionists will scream blue murder (and some of them are planning to enter into such marriages regardless to test the Bishops’ instructions) and if they don’t then the conservatives will, quite rightly, claim that the House of Bishops have effectively changed the doctrine of the Church on sex and marriage by the back door.
Does anyone have an Oxbridge College Justin can go and be Master of? It might be an easier ride….