By Michael Nazir-Ali
As is usual these days, there has been quite a lot of instant comment on the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage. There has been both unnecessary pessimism and optimistic wishful thinking, even from seasoned commentators.
Having given some thought to the issues raised by the Bishops’ statement, the following observations may be in order:-
i) We should be fully aware that this statement is about same-sex marriage not about same-sex relationships as such. On the latter, in the light of the Pilling Report, the Bishops may well end up taking a different line.
ii) The Bishops are to be commended for quoting extensively from the Book of Common Prayer and the Canons of the Church of England which reflect, of course, the teaching of the Bible and of the Church down the generations. They refer also to the Lambeth Conference Resolution 1:10, albeit selectively. They quote its teaching on marriage and on the need to listen to the experience of homosexual persons but say nothing about the resolution also stating that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture and that the Conference refused either to bless same-sex unions (not just marriage) or to permit the ordination of those in such unions.
iii) It is quite remarkable that what is still the official teaching of the Church of England ie.the 1987 Resolution of General Synod is not mentioned at all. The Pilling Report had already thrown doubt upon it and the Bishops’ silence now reinforces the perception that this is no longer viewed as normative, even though there has been no further resolution of Synod.