The report is by the church’s Working Group on Sexuality chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, a retired civil servant, whose resumÃ© includes leading the challenging Northern Ireland Office. There was every indication that release of the report was accelerated because leaks had begun to appear in the media and on weblogs. One blogger posted a summary of the report’s main conclusions two weeks ago, which turned out to be largely correct.
The Pilling Report takes a stance very similar to a policy recently approved in the Church of Scotland. It does not recommend centrally approved services to celebrate same-sex unions but it paves the way for clergy to arrange services in their parishes. It recommends, further, that in the next two years the Church undertake comprehensive facilitated conversations.
The language of the report is careful and tentative. That is not how the media saw it, however, and immediately the headlines said the Church of England was poised to bless same-sex marriage. The report speaks of the need for “pastoral accommodation.” Nor indeed does it speak of “blessing” gay marriages, even though this is the preferred term by the media.