Gay blessings in church

File:Moretto da Brescia - An Adoring Angel (1) - Google Art Project.jpgThe Church of England has just published the Pilling Report, the report of the working group on human sexuality. Their press release says that its purpose is to be the basis of discussion over the next two years, and not to be a new policy statement.

The recommendations do not propose any change in the church’s teaching on sexual conduct. They do propose that clergy, with the agreement of their Church Council, should be able to offer appropriate services to mark a faithful same sex relationship. The group does not propose an authorised liturgy for this purpose but understands the proposed provision to be a pastoral accommodation which does not entail any change to what the church teaches. No member of the clergy, or parish, would be required to offer such services and it could not extend to solemnising same sex marriages without major changes to the law.

The document calls on the church to repent of its homophobia, defined as hostility to gay people, but claims that No one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships.

File:Moretto da Brescia - An Adoring Angel (2) - Google Art Project.jpgThe church should pay close attention to the continuing, and as yet inconclusive, scientific work on same sex attraction. The evidence is reviewed at pp60-66. Most people are either male or female, some are intersex, some are transsexual. Most only feel heterosexual attraction, some only feel homosexual attraction, some move between the two (and may or may not self-identify as bi). Orientation has a combination of biological, social and psychological factors. Biology is not destiny, but some have a greater propensity to same sex attraction. Are our observed greater problems with mental health, and greater instability in our relationships, due to prejudice and the lack of societal support? Possibly, but not certainly, they say, disagreeing with the submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. They even suggest that “sexual orientation change efforts” may be effective.

At p97, they assess the implications of this for the church. Belief is not incompatible with science, they say, but while science proceeds by inductive reasoning, theology proceeds by deduction from scripture and tradition. Today’s Christians can change doctrine where it contradicts our experience of the world and of God (para 334) but doctrine stands until there is sufficient evidence to change it.

As the report appears to show the position of the church is worth discussing, and as the position of the church is wrong now, there is some faint hope of improvement. They do say that discussions should take note of the position of the wider Anglican Communion, and as some Anglican churches want to split away because of the CofE’s current position, which they find insufficiently homophobic, we can’t expect rapid movement.

What does the report say about the Bible (pp67ff)? Just that it is complex and disputed, with translation problems and differences of culture, too complex for even a Bishops’ report to summarise usefully. At p176 there is a useful essay by David Runcorn on the Evangelical perspective, accepting same sex relationships “on the basis of, not in spite of, scripture”.

2 thoughts on “Gay blessings in church

  1. What are we to make of a ‘basis for discussion’ that appears to be so determined to have its cake and eat it?

    …appropriate services to mark a same sex relationship are to be “a pastoral accommodation which does not entail any change to what the church teaches.”

    Discouraging homophobia, but not discouraging “traditional (so that’s all right, then) Christian (with a capital “C” and therefore unimpeachable) teaching on same sex relationships”.

    Hang on, before the Christians claim the moral highground for their dubious claims, how about the fundamentals here? Christ repeatedly warns us against judgement, (which this ‘basis for discussion’ is liberally peppered with, in the guise of scientific enquiry) and instructs us to love our neighbours as ourselves. There is nothing very loving in a two teir system… and the universality of Love is non distinguishing, loving everything equally. A love based on different standards will only result in confusion, which is why this report lacks conviction.

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    • In the US, the United Methodist Church has just tried a minister for celebrating the marriage of his son. They may expel him. Permitting blessings is a small step forward. I think this lot are far too keen to reassure the homophobes that things will not change, but I hope they will. I have not yet read the bits about Anglican theology- some bloke called Hooker. I think they are finding ways to change, and will let you know when I have finished the report.

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