Wednesday, 4 December 2013


This blog is reluctant to add to the sheer tonnage of analysis and comment on the (itself lengthy) long-awaited  Report of the Church of England House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. It is well worth reading in full [here]

Suffice it to say that, given the composition of the Working Group, those with a concern for traditional Catholic theology may well raise at least half an eyebrow that there was only one publicly dissenting opinion (Appendix 3) made from a final report which appears to make so many accommodations to the sexual culture of the hour and is presented in so carefully 'politically balanced' a way as to avoid making any authoritative statement of Christian moral and ethical values at all. There are some valuable insights, but in places the report comes perilously close to apologising for the Christian tradition itself.

Yet, if, as we were once taught - those of us unfashionable enough to be formed by a recognisably Anglican theological method - that lex orandi, lex credendi, then what are we to make of a report which on the one hand asserts that it recommends no change in the traditional stance of the Church of England on matters of human sexuality, while on the other hand does recommend the permissive use in a parochial / pastoral situation of blessings for those in same-sex relationships without, however, also recommending there be any authorised form of words for the resulting 'liturgies.'   (Or even episcopal guidelines? See para 17 of the Report's recommendations.) 

It is always sad to see - once again - bishops and those in authority attempting to shy away from any decisions which could make them unpopular in the eyes of the wider society while passing the responsibility for decision-making to those most easily pastorally compromised and, perhaps, least capable providing a necessary resistance to the demands of the zeitgeist.
In addition, whatever one's view of the current 'debate' on human sexuality raging within the Anglican Communion, it is hard to see that inconsistency and mayhem are consonant with a truly pastoral approach to these issues.

Or is Pilling recognising the truth that for contemporary Anglicanism lex orandi, lex credendi simply means ...  anything goes?

1 comment:

  1. the report is calling its proposal a 'pastoral accommodation' by which they mean 'a response to urgent presenting needs, without ultimate dogmatic implications.'

    One might wonder how it is that the desires of a tiny minority withing a tiny minority, the majority of whom never darken the door of a church in the usual course of their lives, may be reasonably described as an urgent need? Also, if they accept the dogma, then the pastoral response is of necessity not just flawed, but spiritually dangerous, as it accommodates people in living a way that is in direct contravention of the teaching of the Church. And how can behaving in a way that treats the teaching as being irrelevant 'on the ground' not have ultimate implications for that dogma?

    Either they haven't thought this through, or they have thought this through all too well and have come up with something that claims to change nothing while introducing radical change.


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