Comments: Sir Joseph Pilling to chair CofE Bishops review on human sexuality

Is this a stacked deck? I have no idea.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 5:56pm GMT

Given the membership, shouldn't this be renamed the working party on Male Sexuality?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 7:00pm GMT

Any gltb people? I bet not.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 7:41pm GMT

Peter Ould on his blog says '...Keith Sinclair (Bishop of Birkenhead in Chester Diocese and one of the patrons of the True Freedom Trust)...'

so at least we know where on of the participants stands.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 7:58pm GMT

No, it's diverse. Personally (and from a different perspective - that of providing continuing accommodation within the C of E for FiF people), I'm glad that Jonathan Baker is on board.

Posted by john at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 8:08pm GMT

no women at all - not even conservative ones! It does not look at all hopeful that there will be a change in the church's appalling policies.

Posted by Malcolm Macourt at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 10:06pm GMT

There is an interesting quote from Sir Joseph Pilling when he was interviewed by the Home Affairs Select Committee on his appointment as Identity Commissioner.

He said, "I have made it clear to everybody, including in the Department which asked me to do the job, that that is an issue on which I have no professional view. And nobody is going to hear my personal views while I am doing this job. I see it, essentially, as my job to help people to reach a better informed conclusion on that issue, among other things."

Posted by Benny Hazlehurst at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 10:58pm GMT

Can anyone identify - so far as public utterances have been made on the subject - the attitudes of the various parties to the subject of LGBTs in the Church? I am aware that opinions may change (and hopefully so in the case of opponents), but some idea of provenance might be helpful.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 11:09pm GMT

"Is this a stacked deck?"

Well, a quick search of the TA archives indicates Keith Sinclair is FOCA-aligned. Michael Perham's comments on the subject in May 2010 received some pushback here for being too "soft". Perham, though personally friendly, is Mary Gray-Reeves' brother bishop and wrote supportively of her "sacrificial" decision to recuse herself from the Bruce-Glasspool consecrations. Ebbsfleet might be expected to be negative, given his constituency. On the other hand, he could possibly be expected to be more sound, given his constituency (i.e. those FiF clergy remaining post-AngCoet with their vicarages and boyfriends).

Posted by Geoff at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 4:34am GMT

FAO Geoff. The last of your comments is both snide and vindictive. The site, I hope, is not a forum for pejorative reamrks of that nature, especially since its contributors are ostensibly Christian.

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 10:28am GMT

'Given the membership, shouldn't this be renamed the working party on Male Sexuality?'

Queen Victoria couldn't imagine women doing that sort of thing so women were excluded from th 'Blackmailers Charter'. We don't seem to have moved on at all, judging by the make up of this committee. It is male homosexual acts about which some are obsessed and there are some very interesting reason for that relating to passivity, men taking the 'woman's' role and male identity.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 11:30am GMT

no women then? do these men not attend anglican churches? god help us

Posted by rhys at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 11:50am GMT

Why is there not one woman on the group? I know there are no women in the HoB, but couldn't they have shown a little imagination? How about getting in June Osborne, and letting her have a go at contributing to something that stands a chance of getting published, unlike her commission's report on homosexuality of whenever it was!!

Posted by JeremyP at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 11:58am GMT

Sad reading. Why must it be only Bishops? They are limited in experiece and gender.
Especially as the ongoing dialogue appears to be nil.
Speak to those inclusive parishes which already welcome all, and have experience of living together.

Fr John E. Harris-White

Posted by Fr John at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 2:36pm GMT

Isn't it a tad inappropriate for a PEV to be on the working group? Whatever he is like personally, it is already his job to support people who exclude!

Posted by Dan Barnes-Davies at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 2:54pm GMT

Richard: my comment was actually about women, full stop, whatever their sexuality. Your response indicates (and it is a perfectly valid one) that this is really a House of Bishops Working Party on Male Homosexuality. Why not just call it that, I wonder?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 5:01pm GMT

So, then! This really would seem to be a 'stacked deck' - designed - like the covenant - for an outcome inimical to the human rights of the LGBT constituency in the Church. Mind you, miracles have been known to happen. Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 6:30pm GMT

"FAO Geoff. The last of your comments is both snide and vindictive." (-Benedict)

I don't know about you, but I don't consider gay an insult. I was only commenting on the difficulty of trying to predict the contribution of a provincial episcopus vagans based on his job title, since those in his care are likely to be those who both look to Rome on matters of doctrine (albeit not ecclesiology!) and sit lightly to that doctrine on the homefront.

OTOH, since he's already non-Chalcedonian on the OoW it may not be unreasonable to expect him to repeat that on SSBs.

Posted by Geoff at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 7:40pm GMT

But FIF and the Anglo-Catholics are hugely gay ! Please don t try to tell me otherwise. I've seen this all my life - and am in my 60s.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 7:56pm GMT

"Is this a stacked deck?"

All male, a PEV and a member of TfT... Certainly a P.R. disaster - and extremely difficult to see what good can come of it.

Posted by Duncan Dormor at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 8:41pm GMT

"it intended to draw together material from the listening process undertaken within the Church of England over recent years"

The diocese in which I live (Southwell and Nottingham) has not undertaken a listening process at all - hardly surprising given that the last bishop was George Cassidy - and I understand that the current bishop is only just starting to think about doing something. If this is at all representative of dioceses generally, then there isn't a great deal of material for the working group to draw together!

Posted by Laurence C. at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 9:29pm GMT

Maybe they will acknowledge that the dam was burst in 1930, when the Lambeth Conference accepted contraception, having previously condemned it.

Posted by rOBERT IAN WILLIAMS at Friday, 6 January 2012 at 11:59pm GMT

Geoff and Laurence Roberts are both guilty of a crass generalisation. Can they provide any statistics for this, I wonder? One strays into very dangerous territory by making such sweeping generalisations.

Posted by Benedict at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 8:16am GMT

Benedict - you said "Geoff and Laurence Roberts are both guilty of a crass generalisation. Can they provide any statistics for this, I wonder? One strays into very dangerous territory by making such sweeping generalisations."

Geoff and Laurence are simply talking from their personal experience and knowledge (which matches mine) that that particular constituency contains a high proportion of gay priests, many of whom are in relationships with their boyfriends/partners/whatever.

We all speak from our own experience, and of necessity that speaking involves generalisations. But I don't see why that generalisation is "crass", or an earlier statement to the same effect is "snide and vindictive".

What is wrong with saying that there are a lot of gay priests in certain sections of the CofE, and that many are in relationships. Is that a lie or a deliberately false statement? Or do you object to the statement because you know it to be true, and find that truth difficult?


Posted by Simon Dawson at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 11:07am GMT

Simon Dawson et al, I am not questioning the truth of the statement as to whether the FiF constituency contains gay priests or not. THat is of little consequence to me. What I am objecting to is the original remark from Geoff, which implicitly suggested that the FiF constituency as a whole, or at least that section left after departure to the Ordinariate, somehow majors on gay priests and their boyfriends in Vicarages. I have a lot of friends who are married priests in FiF, but I don't assume or suggest that because I have a lot of them they are in a majority. Hard statistics would be needed to prove such a statement, so again, can any one of you supply those please? If not, then the comments are unjustifiable, based simply on hearsay and guesswork. And I would stand by the suggestion that the comment was snide, in that it was used sarcastically, which was clear from the whole tone of the post, when referring to +Ebbsfleet.

Posted by Benedict at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 4:46pm GMT

I was around on the fringes of the anglo catholic wing for years. I remember well the 'Catholic Renewal' conference of 1978 as a great gathering of gay priests and I met a long term partner there. In those days gay anglo catholicism was an open secret and some theological colleges notorious. And over the years I have met priests in gay bars and clubs who have been vicious in their remarks about women in general and women in the priesthood in particular. And only this year a priest I knew around that time, who I hadn't seen in years and who couldn't have known my views assumed that I shared his, when he ascribed the problems in a parish to a woman priest, as if it were her sex that was the cause.

I have a reference to an unpublished thesis by a friend of mine which outlines some statistics of numbers which I will try to find and post when I return from holiday.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 5:48pm GMT

Maybe they will acknowledge that the dam was burst in 1930, when the Lambeth Conference accepted contraception, having previously condemned it.

Posted by: rOBERT IAN WILLIAMS on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 11:59pm GMT

Pun intended ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 9:25pm GMT

Geoff and Laurence Roberts are both guilty of a crass generalisation. Can they provide any statistics for this, I wonder? One strays into very dangerous territory by making such sweeping generalisations.

Posted by: Benedict on Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 8:16am GMT

I'm talking about my life Benedict using mine own full name.

What 'very dangerous territory' do you mean ? Honesty only seems dangerous to begin with - you get used to it. When will the dear olde C of E try it ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 9:30pm GMT

Thanks Simon (Dawson) that was what I was trying to get at. Well expressed.

I will say I hadnt thought of theological colleges when writing above. From my own experiences in the 1970s, I did find even a middle of the road C of E college very gay too - also a Methodist college and an RC seminary. But then we were all young, idealistic and keen to entertain angels unawares ...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 9:38pm GMT

The make up of this panel is looking scandalously biased against lesbian and gay people. Will any one with any clout speak out before it's too late ? And we have something homophobic forced on us.

One member is involved with 'True freedom Trust'

The Church of England is losing its final shreds of credibility for gay Christians -- lost long again for other gays and much of the general public.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 10:15pm GMT

I don't believe that any real listening process has taken place at Diocesan level. Most Dioceses have fought shy of it and those that have done it have done it in a highly sanitised and unsatisfactory manner....probably through sheer fear as to what may come to the surface. Some Diocesan bishops have simply stonewalled the idea or kicked it into the long grass despite a Lambeth commitment to progress it. All very disappointing and frustrating......and dishonest.

Posted by Robert Ellis at Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 10:15pm GMT

Can thie membership be right? Surely there should be a woman on this group? Jo will be an excellent chair, but the voice of women should be represented. I hope the C of E will think again.

Posted by Anne lee at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 9:57am GMT

Perhaps Church of England dioceses have need for a few brave Gay clergy to actually stand up in Synod and speak to the debate on sexuality from their own point of view. This has already happened in some TEC and ACANZP dioceses - to good effect, for the acceptance of the LGBT constituency in our Churches.

A climate of enforced hypocrisy can be the greatest enemy of Truth and justice - en Christo.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 10:19am GMT

Benedict: honestly, I can't quite believe you are really so naive about FiF clergy.

I remember being sent along by my Vicar to get the parish oils at the local FiF Chrism Mass, celebrated by the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Bishop Andrew made some remark in his sermon about how important the Catholic teaching on marriage was, and made it clear that it excluded gay people from having relationships. I thought "That's a very odd thing to say in this company," and spent the rest of the sermon mentally counting around the other clergy present. I found that half of the clergy there were people I knew, and that, of that half, three quarters were known to me to be gay. And of them, I wonder whether a single one was what the RC Church would understand by celibate - those who didn't live with partners tended to be the sort who were know to be fairly free with their favours or at least to have wandering hands in certain circumstances.

So please let us not be under any silly illusions on that score: dishonesty has been the name of the game for far too long in the C of E and it is time that came to an end. The C of E, and particularly the Anglo-Catholic wing of it, has a large gay clerical subculture: this is surely not a controversial statement.

Posted by Fr Mark at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 1:00pm GMT

'or at least that section left after departure to the Ordinariate,' (Benedict)

Those 'who left for the Ordinariate' are just as gay. What made you think otherwise ?

If you give us the married stats then we could deduct that from the total -if you like ! Trouble is being married does not mean non-gay-- as you probably realise.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 2:21pm GMT

'Majoring on boyfriends'

Seems a bit melodramatic to me. Many are not boys but partners and civil partners who have been together for a lifetime - just ordinary cosy couples, with life's downs and ups. Like all couples, and families.

I take my hat off to all those clergy-partners who have supported, enabled and made possible the ministry of their other half.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 2:25pm GMT

Well Benedict ("unto whom all hearts be open"?), you're entitled to draw your own conclusions but I can't say I understand how you're able to deduce the "tone" of my typed comments.

"I have a lot of friends who are married priests in FiF, but I don't assume or suggest that because I have a lot of them they are in a majority. Hard statistics would be needed to prove such a statement, so again, can any one of you supply those please?"

Supply what? Hard statistics *would* be needed, if anyone were indeed making "such a statement," (by which we mean, I take it, an empirical claim about the specific rate of prevalence of gay clergy in the FiF "sees"). Since no such claim has been made on this thread, I'm not clear as to what you want proof of, or whom you wish to provide it.

Regardless, though, we certainly need neither psychic powers nor a quantitative survey to know that the Anglo-Catholic tradition has historically held a particular appeal to many gay Christians, myself included, and your disingenuous attempt to pretend you don't know what I'm talking about is just wheel-spinning. And, just to get all postmodern on everyone, any pejorative meaning against gay people in my words is constructed in the reader's interaction with them rather than inhering in the text itself ;)

Posted by Geoff at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 7:15pm GMT

I seriously can't believe that anyone is doubting that a disproportionate number of Anglo-Catholic clergy - and laity for that matter - are gay. This is not new - it was noted en passant as early as the 1870s. It goes well beyond a gay subculture; I've mostly, although not entirely, worshipped in parishes that didn't have a gay culture and I now tend to avoid ones that do.

The proportion of gay men in the congregation has always been in excess of - well in excess of - the 4% or so of the population that actually are LGBTQ.

If anyone is doubting this they either know very little about Anglican Catholicism - in any of its liberal, remnant FiF or ordinariate varieties - or they make a point of ignoring things that stare them in the face if it conflicts with their ideological position.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 11:57pm GMT

Perhaps the Bishops review needs to consider the theological implications of the fact that a significant percentage of clergy are gay ( certainly well in excess of the 4% of the population generally assumed to be so). What does this say about vocation,selection, the nature of the priesthood, life in the ordained ministry etc. After all one cant help but feel this review has come about because of gay clergy and the difficulties they are supposed to present, rather than "human sexuality" in the abstract.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 9 January 2012 at 11:59am GMT

Fascinating responses to this post! What interests me is the abundent evidence provided of homosexuality among Anglo-Catholics and in theological colleges. That is precisely why I consider that bogus 'marriages' are both untenable and unnecessary in the Church of England or elsewhere. Relationships occur come what may without the paraphanalia of ceremonies. That these are as sinful and irregular as heterosexual co-partnership goes without saying. The fact that they exist does not make them right
But it is refreshing to see the actuality of the problem recognised.

Posted by John Bowles at Monday, 9 January 2012 at 6:14pm GMT

John Bowles,
the alternative interpretation is that God regards these people as married and understands that it is only humans who refuse them that same recognition and who disallow the ceremonies that go with it.
You really cannot compare the moral status of people who refuse to get married to those who are denied the right to marriage.

But as marriage is the one state that is made by the couple and only then confirmed by the priest, we can rest easily knowing that God, from whom no secrets are hidden, can tell a real marriage when he sees it, whether the church accepts that or not.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 January 2012 at 7:59am GMT

I would never, Erika, presume to know the mind of God. But I would not imagine that He would see no difference between co-habitation and marriage. At one time homosexuals described their relationships as affairs, even to the point of introducing their partners as 'my affair'. There was then far greater reality in recognising the nature and impermanence of such alliances before the mimetic adoption of the heterosexual model of marriage was sought as an objective. In those days the nearest thing to marriage was when alliances broke up and people would refer laughingly to a couple having a divorce. The masquerade of homosexual marriage is recent. But what God makes of it in the natural order I would rather not speculate.

Posted by John Bowles at Tuesday, 10 January 2012 at 9:46am GMT

John Bowles,
thank you for engaging!
The difficulty I have is that you generally just make assertions about the morals of homosexual relationships and their supposed status as sham "marriages".

There is very very good pro-gay theology around, and as I said on another thread here, we're way past the state where we can simply say "oh yes it is", "oh no it isn't". That makes us opinionated but not a serious partner in the conversation.

I don't know if you've come across Tobias Haller's book "Reasonable and Holy", which is really a bible study on the topic of same sex marriages.

There was once a time where gay people had to procude the theology that supported them and it was enough for straight people to point to the bible.
That time is past - the theology has been done. With extensive reference to the bible, not with reference to civil and human rights.

Any further debate will mean a detailed engagement with what has been written.

I genuinely look forward to that kind of conversation with you.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 January 2012 at 4:43pm GMT

When has speculative theology ever been seen in definitive terms? It remains speculative and can only be seen of value when it does not contradict doctrine. I have not read any of the books you mention and cannot comment on them. Many years ago I read a book by an American Jesuit which examined the biblical prohibitions - I think he was later expelled from the Order. You may remember his name. But bad theology does not vindicate its subject - it merely distorts it. Because books have been published does not necessarily mean that what they contain is true. Ultimately it is the Church which is the guardian of Christian teaching, not speculative theologians.

As for homosexual marriage, as I have written repeatedly, marriage divorced from the ultimate aim of procreation, of being open to creating human life, is not and cannot be marriage in any recognisable form. A homosexual's active years are so fragile and impermanent that stability is rare. The chase is an end in itself. From what I have seen, it is middle-aged and elderly homosexuals who largely seek civil partnerships because property is involved. I think it is pathetic when companionship is mistaken for marriage. If Christian homosexuals want to invest their liaisons with spiritual dedication, why can't they do so privately, instead of undergoing a public masquerade?

Before commentators rush in to write about barren marriages, the principle of openness to creating life still applies because many in this tragic situation only discover that they are barren after they have married and tried to start a family. In the Catholic Church heterosexual couples of child-bearing years who marry and do not intend to have children are deemed to have made an invalid marriage. And if others misquote the Prayer Book to their advantage, the delight that constitutes marriage is accepted as a prelude to conception, not an end in itself c1968.
As far as I know,in 1662 the sheath and the contraceptive pill had not been developed.

Posted by John Bowles at Wednesday, 11 January 2012 at 10:06am GMT

thank you.
But I still struggle.
You say you haven't read anything that has been written, yet you seem to know that it is bad theology.

If you're so sure that it will be bad theology, why not read it and then engage with each of the actual biblical arguments made and show, rather than assert, that it is bad theology?

I can't say anything about the homosexual people you know, they sound all much of an age group in which a stable open partnership was not an option and relationships, however fleeting, had to be sustained in a completely different environment to today.
The people I know are younger, many they raise children, they are as interested or disinterested in property as any straight couple.

So, you see - we really can't go by what each of us has experienced as that's only ever one possible snapshot of the complex field of human relations.

What I see are gay couples who tell the world that their relationships are marriages, and unless religious people can come up with genuine theological reasons for why that should not be the case (not just with assertions), they're not doing them or their own credibility any justice.

So it strikes me we're back to needing to engage with some of that theology, even if we have to hold our noses while we read it.

The aim, I would hope, is not to be convinced and to make everyone suddenly fervently pro-gay. The aim is to understand the very genuine arguments to the point that they can be taken seriously. They don't have to be shared, but they will, eventually, hopefully be seen as valid enough so that this can become another one of those topics where we can happily live and let live and just agree to differ.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 12 January 2012 at 8:23am GMT

Research in the late 80s in the Bristol Diocese amongst Anglican clergy showed that 17% declared themselves to be homosexual.

(Source - unpublished thesis by Paul Appleton quoted in 'Anglo-Catholicism: a study in religious ambiguity' by WSF Pickering. SPCK 1989)

No claims can be made for this research, the thesis was never completed and the author died earlier this year. Nevertheless the high figure is interesting both because of the under-reporting which always occurs when such questions are asked and because the results are from a diocese not noted for a high predominance of either Anglo Catholic or gay clergy.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 13 January 2012 at 8:45pm GMT

I see the report has been published today,and is (currently at least) available as a free download here,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/pilling-report.aspx .

Fascinating stuff, especially the listening process, and the evidence gathered by listening to gay voices. But the findings are sadly far too conservative for my taste and do precious little to rehabilitate the C of E in its stance on homosexuality.

I suppose the fundamentally encouraging part of the report was this:

“As we shared our experiences of the listening process within our working group, the most significant and telling points were the following: Opposition to gay and lesbian relationships was a generational matter. It simply was not an issue for most young people. ...”

Posted by Rob Edlin-White at Thursday, 28 November 2013 at 3:26pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.