Edging towards accepting diversity: the Pilling Report on sexuality

Savi Hensman


A Church of England working party on sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, has called for a more welcoming approach to lesbian and gay people, though not full inclusion. It recognises the current lack of consensus on the theology of sexuality, including what the Bible has to say, and recommends that clergy be free to hold services, though not weddings, for same-sex couples.

The report is a small step forward, though it is over-cautious and its handling of historical and scientific evidence is weak, this detailed analysis from Ekklesia suggests. It is also unbalanced, giving too much space to one dissenting member of the working party, firmly opposing any shift by the church towards a more pluralistic stance on same-sex partnerships. Yet it acknowledges diversity, encourages openness to listening and growth, and may lead to further progress in enabling the church to value its lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) members and credibly witness in today’s world to God’s love for all.


Summary – page 1
1. Introduction: bridging a widening gap – page 2
2. Desire and power – page 3
3. Change in church and society – page 4
4. Listening and learning – page 6
5. The backlash against listening – page 7
6. GAFCON, FOCA and England – page 9
7. Setting the bar too high? – page 10
8. Evidence on sexual attitudes and practices – page 12
9. Opposing homophobia – page 13
10. Science and pseudo-science – page 15
11. Prejudice and wellbeing – page 16
12. The Bible and sexuality – page 18
13. Reflection and action – page 19
14. Reviving the formal listening progress – page 20
15. Marking partnerships, LGBT clergy – page 21
16. Moving forward: opportunity and risk – page 22
Related reading and research from Ekklesia – page 23
The author – page 26
Notes and references – page 26-28.

* Read and download the full Ekklesia response to Pilling here (*.PDF Adobe acrobat document, 28 pages, 375kb): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/response_to_pilling.pdf