Four bishops and a retired civil servant shut away in a palace, talking about human sexuality ”” it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But the resulting Pilling Report is, in spite of 200 pages’ worth of double entendres, neither funny nor enlightening.
It has been clear ever since the Lambeth conference in 1998, which contained the ponderous resolution that ”˜we commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons’, that the Anglican church’s position has been to agree not to agree on the issue. From the Jeffrey John affair to the debate over gay marriage, the church has handled the question like a whoopee cushion at a vicar’s tea party ”” with a mixture of bemusement and embarrassment.
Having spent many months interviewing everyone from the Society of Ordained Scientists to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Sir Joseph Pilling’s report comes up with the less than profound conclusion that the issue requires the church to have a ”˜facilitated conversation’.