Fulcrum Response to Pilling

It’s out and it’s good.

Fulcrum LogoD. Concerns about the main Report

In particular, in the light of the Dissenting Statement, we express the following concerns about aspects of the Report:

  1. Although the church’s teaching is upheld, its theological and biblical basis is not clearly articulated and there appears to be a willingness to separate teaching and practice in a way which threatens incoherence and charges of hypocrisy.
  2. The emphasis on the qualities of a relationship without clear reference to the gift of marriage fails to do justice to Scripture and tradition in relation to both sexual same-sex relationships and heterosexual cohabitation (para 148).
  3. The recommendation “to mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service” and to leave the form of this to the discretion of the parish priest risks undermining the unity of the church’s teaching and practice and our ecclesiology. This is particularly of concern if such services were to follow a civil marriage. We would like to see a form of genuine pastoral accommodation together with rigorous engagement with doctrine and Scripture.
  4. This recommendation disregards the statement of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in 2006 that “the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound” (italics added) and its judgment in 2007 that “the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003” and that “the use of any such rites or liturgies” with the bishop’s authority would represent a breach of the Communion moratorium.
  5. We therefore believe that for the House of Bishops to implement this recommendation, particularly prior to the conclusion of any facilitated conversations (as appears to be proposed in para 391) would damage the unity of the Church of England and the Communion.

E. Exploring “Pastoral accommodation”

In considering alternative forms of genuine “pastoral accommodation” (“pastoral hospitality” may be a preferable designation) we believe that there are two distinctions which are helpful and important and which need further thought and application:

(1) The distinction between (a) “blessing” (declaring on behalf of God to his people) and (b) “thanksgiving” (the people offering thanks to God for that which is good)

(2) The distinction between (a) private prayers and (b) public services and acts of worship.

We believe that “pastoral accommodation” which upholds church teaching is best expressed in private prayers in the context of Christian formation that sets out God’s purposes and leads people into greater conformity with them.  Such prayers should focus on prayers for God’s grace and thanksgiving for the virtues evident in a loving non-marital relationship.  This, rather than public services, particularly services of blessing, on non-marital patterns of life, is the form of “pastoral accommodation” we commend.

F. Conclusion: The Church after the Pilling Report

The lack of agreement within the Report reflects the deep divisions which are found within the wider church.  We urge all Anglicans to pray for the bishops as they face major decisions and for those who will design the proposed facilitated conversations.  In addition to exploring sexuality we believe these need also to consider how, given such deep differences, we can better live together and be faithful to what we understand to be God’s call in this area.

For all those thinking Fulcrum was going to cave in on this issue, think again.

20 Comments on “Fulcrum Response to Pilling

  1. It’s bizarre. Fulcrum ignore David Runcorn’s gay-affirming exegesis, surely something that any evangelical organization responding to Pilling should address, let alone a group for open evangelicals.

    The statement radiates denial. Like Fulcrum refuse to admit, even to themselves, that affirming LGBT relationships is now a debate within evangelicalism. Ignore it, and maybe it’ll go away. They need to accept, and fast, that the old party line is done. Even Justin Welby now holds a neutral position.

    If they keep with this ostrich impression, moderate evangelicals will get frustrated and go elsewhere, and Fulcrum will become marginalized — no longer the voice of the evangelical mainstream, but a strange, fringe club for those who are passionately liberal on female ordination and passionately conservative on sexuality.

    • Rubbish James. The input from David R represents an outdated and disproved position. It’s poor theology arguing from silence and doesn’t engage in any detail with the key critical texts.

      • While I don’t share Runcorn’s interpretation of the Bible, I’m not sure how it’s “outdated and disproved” (as any literary theorist would say, you can’t “prove” the meaning of a text).

        Even if Runcorn’s appendix is wrong, Fulcrum ought to address it. Given the shared theological background, their failure to even acknowledge its existence is striking.

          • The biblical case against women leading and teaching in church has been similarly addressed, and is equally strong, but that hasn’t stopped Fulcrum from giving women’s ministry their passionate support.

            That’s ’cause reading texts isn’t a one-way street. We don’t just take meaning, we project it.

            Given their abandonment of other ancient doctrines, when advocating the traditional position on same-sex relationships brings as much opprobrium as advocating racism — a day that is fast approaching — can you really see open evangelicals staying the course?

                • James if you’re looking for evidence I would have thought Exhibit A would be the Bishop of Birkenhead and his dissenting report. As far as I am aware he is comfortable ordaining women as presbyters – in fact he chaired the discussions between Reform and Awesome over the past few years, so I guess he’s seen as an ‘honest broker’ on both sides of the women’s ordination issue.

                  • One man, acting now: limited data-pool, much? ;)

                    Exhibits B & C are affirmation from Steve Chalke and David Runcorn, followed by exhibit D, Jody Stowell’s resignation from Fulcrum, and exhibit E, three other people, one a bishop, echoing my complaint to Fulcrum: why ignore Runcorn’s appendix?

                    Affirming same-sex relationships is now a debate within evangelicalism. It can’t be shut down, and given a combination of social pressure and the shift on other issues, advocates of the traditional line are in an unenviable position.

                    • James, I feel that you’re showing your hand by using the terms ‘traditional line’, ‘ancient doctrines’ etc. You’re a Catholic in disguise!!

                      Fulcrum isn’t a mass-membership organisation, maybe it’s best seen as a think-tank, but there are plenty of people in the C of E (and leadership positions) who have a similar outlook.

                      Runcorn’s appendix seems to me a sideshow to the report. Fulcrum look to have focused their energies on the main line, rightly in my view.

                    • “Disguise”? Please, “crypto” sounds so much more dastardly. ;-)

                      The main body of the report is dedicated fence-sitting, which chews through a lot of paper to say “we disagree, let’s talk.” The interesting material is Birkenhead’s dissent — which nails what’s going on, although we disagree on its desirability — and Runcorn’s appendix.

                      If Fulcrum want to be a think-tank, they need to be at the cutting edge of debate. Instead they pretend it isn’t happening.

    • Those unburdened by biblical inerrancy can just say that the Bible is wrong.

      The weaknesses that you highlight in the biblical case for gay relationships also apply to the biblical case for gender equality and female leadership. The latter are either justified by a convoluted “journey” hermeneutic, or by a decontextualized verse from Galatians. Both approaches undermine biblical authority by making scripture appear contradictory.

      In church realpolitik, this isn’t about what the Bible says, but about what we want it to say.

  2. I see from her blog that Jodie Stowell has left the Fulcrum leadership over this.
    I’ve got to say that she always seemed to be more liberal on sexuality, but it’s worrying that more liberal evangelicals feel they can’t stay in even open evangelical organisations.
    Don’t know about Jodie but I think that most people who don’t define their faith directly from the biblical teachings of Christ and His apostles are likely to find homosexuality a defining issue in the current sociopolitical context
    We can expect to be treated to a sharp “bothering” even if words such as bigot aren’t used directly.

    • And so it begins.

      Stowell’s no more liberal than advocates of female ordination. She draws the comparison, with care, in her blog: http://jodystowell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/watching-and-waiting-women-bishops-new.html

      The attitude to dissenters is key. Conservative evangelicals face a hard choice: do they exclude affirming evangelicals? To-date, evangelicalism has remained strong by accepting women’s leadership as a “second order issue” over which evangelicals can legitimately disagree. If every affirming evangelical gets libeled a “liberal” (I suppose they cuddle up with Tillich and Robinson?) then liberalism’s ranks will be swelled in short order.

      Evangelicalism’s strength is its party discipline. If it fractures over this, it’ll be faced with a repeat of Anglo-Catholicism’s Nineties schism, and the resulting loss of power.

      • Err, many who see their identity as evangelical don’t recognise the authority of Scripture – I’ve heard some nominally evangelical tutors construct theological positions that would warm the heart of many liberal theologians.
        In evangelical terms “we” is defined by what we believe and how we obey the teaching of Jesus and His apostles in the canon. Too many people who self- identified as evangelicals have lost hold of this… And some people seem to like to claim the evangelical identity ( it is the only game in town now days).
        But who will stay with evangelical beliefs and continue to speak out against sin and heresy when it costs them the possibility of preferment or even their living?

        • Would you accept that evangelicals can affirm women’s ministry while remaining evangelicals? If so, what’s game for the goose …

          You can recognize the authority of scripture, and disagree about its message. (Why schism’s a protestant art-form!) David Runcorn, Steve Chalke, Jodie Stowell, and David Gillett all assent to the authority of scripture — Runcorn called its primacy and authority “non-negotiable” in Pilling — and have all moved past offering LGBT people a binary choice of lifelong celibacy or (heterosexual) marriage.

          The dilemma for con-evos is, if they accept the legitimacy of the disagreement, to some extent, they accept the legitimacy of the affirming position. If they refuse to accept it, then evangelicalism splits. If open evangelicals divide over its legitimacy, evangelicalism fragments. In either case, it’s no longer the “only game in town” (not that I believe it is now — anglo-catholicism’s not gone anywhere, and theological liberalism’s making a comeback via the emerging church).

          • JB – Yes, as NT Wright once wrote (for Fulcrum I think) we often review issues because of new knowledge or because of the need for a pastral response to social developments. The process should always be based on a reasoned study of Scripture, and in the light of tradition.

            Our beliefs about women’s roles were debated carefully and at some considerable length among evangelical groups at least ten years ago. If my memery serves me cvorrectly, it was agreed (between leaders of Reform and New Wine) that although we don’t agree: 1. we can see that there is a case to be made for the other view, 2. that the issue is not a primary issue of faith or morality (ie things that exclude you from the Kingdom of God) but a matter of correct church order, and 3. that we can go on recognizing each brothers and sisters in Christ while disagreeing on this..

            At the same time, they addressed the issue of homosexual relationships and agreed (as I remember it) something like: 1. that the Scriptures clearly and consistently teach that such sexual relationships are unrighteous in God’s eyes, 2. that there is no reason to doubt this is correct, and 3. that as morally sinful they exclude you from the Kingdom of God and are, therefore, to be met with pastoral care and a call to repentance and amendment of life (or some such thought)

      • ps I do agree that the orthodox vote is likely to split over Pilling. The group was set up in order to find a political way forward – which often involves finding the ‘compromise’ that would split the opposition.

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