Fulcrum Response to Pilling
It’s out and it’s good.
In particular, in the light of the Dissenting Statement, we express the following concerns about aspects of the Report:
- Although the churchâ€™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.
- 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).
- The recommendation â€œto mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public serviceâ€ and to leave the form of this to the discretion of the parish priest risks undermining the unity of the churchâ€™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.
- This recommendation disregards the statement of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in 2006 that â€œthe 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 boundâ€ (italics added) and its judgment in 2007 that â€œthe celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral responseÂ envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003â€ and that â€œthe use of any such rites or liturgiesâ€ with the bishopâ€™s authority would represent a breach of the Communion moratorium.
- 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 â€œPastoral accommodationâ€
In considering alternative forms of genuine â€œpastoral accommodationâ€ (â€œpastoral hospitalityâ€ 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) â€œblessingâ€ (declaring on behalf of God to his people) and (b) â€œthanksgivingâ€ (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 â€œpastoral accommodationâ€ which upholds church teaching is best expressed in private prayers in the context of Christian formation that sets out Godâ€™s purposes and leads people into greater conformity with them.Â Such prayers should focus on prayers for Godâ€™s grace and thanksgiving for the virtues evident in a loving non-marital relationship.Â This, rather than public services, particularly services of blessing, on non-marital patterns of life, is the form of â€œpastoral accommodationâ€ 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.Â We urge all Anglicans to pray for the bishops as they face major decisions and for those who will design the proposed facilitated conversations.Â 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 Godâ€™s call in this area.
For all those thinking Fulcrum was going to cave in on this issue, think again.