With speculation growing about the contents of the Pilling Report, to be considered by the House of Bishops next month and the need to prepare for same-sex marriages, it looks like we are heading into stormy waters in the Church of England. Last week I was asked for my thoughts on bishops’ regulations relating to same-sex marriage published by the Diocese of Guildford. Reading through them and discussing them with a few people has highlighted a number of key questions for me that I suspect we are going to have to wrestle with in coming months.
My first question was why such guidance was being offered. As the regulations note, we are unlikely to see the first same-sex marriages until the summer. By then there will be the Pilling Report and its reception and likely a statement from the House of Bishops on same-sex marriage as there was on civil partnerships. Why offer guidance now for one diocese? Is this “local option” and “facts on the ground” with bishops issuing their own regulations before serious discussion among the bishops? How many other dioceses are doing this already? Might the guidance itself be a sign of what may be delivered by the Pilling Report….