Friday, 29 November 2013

Pulling Apart Pilling

I regard the Pilling Report (The House of Bishops Working Group on human sexuality) November 2013) as irrelevant to the lives of most gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

I'm not looking at it from the first century points of view of what cross-cultural Paul thought about homosexuals in temples or even Jesus's view. Jesus probably thought homosexual activity is what those Greeks (Gentiles) did and wasn't part of the Law; the Gentiles were second in line for the coming Kingdom anyway (which didn't), and at resurrection would be examined for ethical living, and his interest was in Jews not sinning any more. So I don't particularly care what they thought.

In any case it's a document about trying to get a Church off a hook it hangs from, whilst leaving it on the hook. It's on this basis that I look at the report. What is says is that the Bible is ambiguous regarding gay sexuality as we know it. But with a mind to Christian consensus and the Anglican Communion, clergy should be free to decide on a form of blessing for gay couples in civil partnerships and same sex marriage, but that there should not be authorised liturgies.

I don't understand the difference. In the three orders of ministry, that is with an episcopal setting, a reverend stands in situ of the bishop. What a reverend does at any altar is what the bishop would do. It is the bishop's church.

So if a reverend does a blessing for a stable relationship in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership, the implication is that the bishop agrees. This is the basis of the personal relationship within the threefold order Church.

But, in any case, if a Church document, connected to the House of Bishops, states that a priest can so bless, what is the need for an authorised liturgy?

Surely the authorised liturgy is the blessing that the priest can give. The priest and others in Anglican Holy Orders promises to restrict themselves to Anglican liturgies and, presumably, the optional right to bless a gay relationship even though, as it happens, no one has written it out.

If the 'understanding' is that a blessing does not include the sexual part of a relationship, but just the friendliness within it, or its stability as a sexual relationship (but less the sex), then this constitutes an unwritten liturgy that is nevertheless to be understood.

Thus a blessing that sounds complete and comprehensive for a partnership or marriage will not be an authorised liturgy for a clergyperson, whereas a blessing that emphasises stability and friendliness will be an authorised liturgy even if it is unwritten.

The Church may as well be clear than trying to have it both ways. Write a liturgy that emphasises stability and friendliness.

Meanwhile others will get on with writing liturgies that do include the fact that these relationships are full and complete in themselves and that this is what is being celebrated.

The Pilling Report is a report for and about gay and lesbian people, not by and with them. Come to a Unitarian minister and he or she will write the liturgy with you and it will have all the legal elements to do the partnership or marriage, and if it is a blessing after a secular service, it will still celebrate the whole relationship not aspects of it (friendship) or consequences if it (how long it may last). Anyway, nothing should happen from now other than two years worth of talk.

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