Thursday, 28 November 2013

Resources for your very own Pilling Report Party

This week brought a public meeting with m’learned friend Malcolm Duncan from Gold Hill Baptist Church for a public conversation with 280 people listening in. I welcome same-sex marriage in a way he can't, but we both enjoyed talking and agreed it was a helpful thing to do. We hoped that people might value listening in to a conversation that didn't pretend, piddle about or otherwise minimise the sharpness of our differences, but which also, people told us, conveyed our respect for each other as fellow ministers, with the Kingdom high on our hearts.

Then, out of the blue, came the Pilling Report — a discussion document. Recent speculative flurries about what might be in it shows how profoundly wise it was simply to publish it. That way everyone, including the bishops, can have better information to go on when they discuss it.

I have been asked by various people, however, for some resources to inform, enrich and enlarge intelligent conversations on this subject. Such conversations carry their own risks. It can exacerbate the problem when straight twosomes talk, even well-meaningly, about gay people rather than with them. I also realise how weird it seems to the majority of people younger than me who have sorted this subject and moved on that we are still talking about it at all. They feel as though they had strayed into a Saudi discussion of whether women should be allowed to drive.

That said, I am trying to help us do what Pilling bids us do. With my two health warnings, out of several thousand possibilities, I commend a few books that provide intelligent ways into various aspects of the matter — I don't agree 100% with all or any of them, but they have worthwhile information about different dimensions of discussions based...

Science






Law

 

Bible

 

Theology

Denominational Stories

  

Dialoguing in Church ...


20 comments:

dyfedwyn said...

Excellent resource. Thank you.

Anne Borrowdale said...

Trying again, last attempt disappeared while choosing an identity!
Thank you, Alan, very useful resource of current books.
My influences on this go back 15 years when I tutored on SAOMC and found e.g. Peter Selby's BeLonging and Michael Vasey's Strangers and Pilgrims very helpful.
Also used to show Ken Loach's film Priest as a powerful piece of cinema and good discussion starter.
As a reader of my previous books, you might be interested to know that my latest novel Doubting Stephen features a woman facing up to the damage she's inflicted with her prejudice against her gay brother.

Erika Baker said...

Alan,
with respect (and you know I mean it): "I welcome same-sex marriage in a way he can't, but we both enjoyed talking and agreed it was a helpful thing to do."
That's nice as far as it goes for both of you.
But what gay people are really asking for is not straight people's verdict on our lives but an acceptance that, whether you agree or not,these are our lives and we are as responsible before God for our lives as you are for yours.
This is is not about straights sitting in judgement of gays but a question of the church recognising what equality before God really means.

I like your book choices. I wish you had added Tobias Haller's "Reasonable and Holy" to your "theology" list.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Erika, Thanks for expressing clearly what I had hinted at in my health warnings. The nub of the problem for me is that it is all very well to assert "traditional teaching is not homophobic in itself" but of course it is, by the report's own criteria. That's why so often the discussion in HW came down to simply denying the facts of life. Of course it wasn't possible to be homophobic in a modern sense until the concept had been defined, but the root of all decent living, according to the golden rule, is to acknowledge the other person as you yourself would be acknowledged. To say to anyone "you think you're [insert protected characteristic] but I know that in fact you're [insert your definition of them] and I'm willing to allow you along to my party is ultimately profoundly discriminatory. The curse is that we're trying to accomplish in the Church what everyone else got their heads and hearts round ten years ago. But it's got to be done, and the only way to change hearts and minds is to engage.

Erika Baker said...

Yes, that. But I think the greater problem is something you also pointed out in your blog post.
It's that there is this implicit assumption that there is a group of inferior people (gays) about which the group of people charged with discernment (straights) can have a debate and for whom they can eventually legislate.

As Janet Henderson points out with regard to the women bishop debate: truly satisfactory solutions do not come about until we give up that mindset and include those whose status we are still debating as equal partners in the debate.

And the church is still far from seeing gay people as equal. And a surprising number of our supporters (not you!) still see themselves as the powerful ones sponsoring and kindly accepting the slightly less acceptable ones.

Thinking will only shift once the power balance within the debates shifts.

Charlie said...

Hi Erika,

You might find this website interesting: www.livingout.org/stories/ed

I'd like to hear what you think.

Charlie

Erika Baker said...

Charlie,
thank you for that link.
It strikes me that it represents the current privileged theological position in the CoE and that no-one who chooses to follow it is in any danger of being ostracised, of being called selfish and assumed to be denying or rejecting Gods will and of being marginalised in the church at any level.
That's good, isn't it?

The challenge facing us now is to listen to those committed Christians and theologians who think and write differently, who love God as much as anyone else but who do not share this particular view of sexuality.

It is time for other voices to be read, heard and discussed - not just dismissed.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Of course a discipled choice of celibacy is something good for those who make it and can live by it. It's no different from the choices religious make in their way of life. We know, however, from the Cardinal O'Brien experience that enforced celibacy o those who are not made for it is not to be commended.

Having led two sessions in different churches this week on sexuality, I am struck by the way that people that know in the hearts they need to change but don't want to, be they slave-owning missionary societies in the 18th century, or racist landlords in the 1950's East end, begin by denying the existence of the people they want to ignore. They talk over them and through them, anything but with them as equals. As long as the church tolerates this kind of behaviour towards gay people, the emergence of a Church unscarred by homophobia hasn't begun to happen.

Rebecca said...

"But what gay people are really asking for is not straight people's verdict on our lives but an acceptance that, whether you agree or not,these are our lives and we are as responsible before God for our lives as you are for yours.
This is is not about straights sitting in judgement of gays but a question of the church recognising what equality before God really means." This is Erika's comment and this is what the issue is all about..When straight christians express their opposition to same sex relationships (no matter how nicely it is packaged) it is basically a judgement on the behaviour of people who have a different interpretation of what the Bible means. We all have different experiences and beliefs about scripture. Some of us are Neo-Orthodox, some Literalists etc (Jack Rogers explains this very well in his book on homosexuality)..What I think would be useful is for those in different camps to come together and spend a while really trying to find out what makes the other person believe as they do..(The people who oppose dont oppose same sex relationships I mean) Im sure it will be about upbringing, personality, life experience alongside emotions such as fear, guilt etc. On that note re books: Justin Lee's Unconditional touched
me deeply....everyone needs to read this..plus for a bit of biology Simon Le Vey Straight Gay and The Reason Why.. oh yes Pilling..moving in right direction..

JCF said...

I echo ErikaB: you ought to add Tobias Haller's "Reasonable and Holy" to this book discussion list.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for the suggestion I read Tobias' book back in 2009 and I agree it's very good indeed. I us recommended ed it on Sunday at Wendover, and am also glad to note it's now available in Kindle format. I have added it to my Keynote educational presentation.

John Cooper said...

A few other suggestions

"And It Can Be
LGBT Methodists moving towards an inclusive church

From the blurb:
And It Can Be is a unique collection of experience and theological reflection by Outcome members which provides an opportunity to hear lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people speaking about how prophetic contributions are sustained. Six stories bring a personal touch to these pages. Distinctively queer thinking is brought to questions of salvation, justice, biblical studies, covenants and same-sex relationships, sexuality and Christian tradition.


and also I would second living it out as a good resource.



Blair said...

Hello,

could I also suggest Gareth Moore OP's 'A question of truth' and Rabbi Steven Greenberg's 'Wrestling with God and men' for your resource list?

in friendship, Blair

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thanks, Blair. I agree these should be on the list. I found Rabbi Greenberg'e book a great help, especially as he does not jettison any of the text, being a Rabbi, in the way that comes more easily to Christians. I had considered putting some of James Allison's work on the list, but I realise Garth Moore's very honest (and also deathbed) account of the matter is more coherent theologically than FR James' essays, and am very grateful for the link. When we've got a top 20 I may put the list together with some reviews... I wonder if that's a good idea. I remain disturbed that so few Christians seem to have read anything serious on the subject...

Erika Baker said...

Alan, I'm glad you mention Garth Moore. The debate in the CoE is very evangelical dominated.

James Alison's theology is not quite so structured but each piece is consistent in itself and he draws on more than Scripture alone.

To my mind, it is very important to break the Sola Scriptura approach of much of the current discussion that completely ignores the reality of people's lives and that answers what God supposedly wants for people's lives but not why, and that never engages with the suffering this apparent demand imposes for no obvious moral good to anyone.

The Catholic approach is much more helpful in that respect.

Erika Baker said...

Alan, I'm glad you mention Garth Moore. The debate in the CoE is very evangelical dominated.

James Alison's theology is not quite so structured but each piece is consistent in itself and he draws on more than Scripture alone.

To my mind, it is very important to break the Sola Scriptura approach of much of the current discussion that completely ignores the reality of people's lives and that answers what God supposedly wants for people's lives but not why, and that never engages with the suffering this apparent demand imposes for no obvious moral good to anyone.

The Catholic approach is much more helpful in that respect.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

One interesting parallel from the Historian Mark Noll's Book on The Civil War as a Theological Problem is his observation that the transition away from slavery (based on the 300+ verses of the Bible that condone, regulate or endorse it) was easier for the tiny community of Roman Catholics in the US because they had some tradition of natural theology from which to draw a bigger perspective around the narrow question where Biblical literalists didn't and thus found the transition far more traumatic and threatening to their basic position. Thus, historically, the Southern Baptist split becomes understandable.

Blair said...

Hi Alan,

thanks for taking up the two I suggested. Must admit I'm a little surprised that you find James Alison's work lacking coherence - would be interested to hear you say more about that as it seems to me that his consistent application of Girard gives it just that.

But I'm delighted to have found another person who likes Rabbi Steven Greenberg's book. One of the reasons I like it so much is that having delivered his piece de resistance, he then admits that it'll fail - it likely won't convince - but still goes on to set out possible conversations to have despite that.

Can I risk asking what you think of Robert Gagnon's work?

In friendship, Blair

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Blair,

I have encountered RG on FB and read his big book carefully. He has certainly put tremendous effort into constructing a huge Biblical argument against homosexuality. It's highly impressive as long as you assume before you start that being gay is unnatural and immoral. Then every Biblical text that refers to impurity, immorality or sexual sin can be dragooned to serve the cause, and turned into a Grand Synthetic Argument against gays and all their works. If on the other hand you don't assume homosexuality is wrong per se, the whole thing unravels. You're left with a very tiny number of texts that can possibly have anything to do with it. So, RG's work is very useful for preaching to the choir, but I find his complex assertions profoundly unconvincing because I reject his presuppositions on the subject on ethical, biological and Biblical grounds.

Anonymous said...

There is a critique of the Pilling Report's treatment of research data at

http://forum.ship-of-fools.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=7;t=000527;p=2#000055

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