The Pilling Report's conclusion is this one:
...namely that the Church needs to embark on a process of ‘facilitated conversation’ about sexuality... because the current debate is inconclusive...We need a facilitated conversation to help the Church ‘to think afresh how its traditional teaching on sexuality can commend itself to a culture which is increasingly relaxed about same sex relationships, or whether the teaching itself does not sufficiently represent the gospel imperative and must be refreshed by new insights....’ The claim is we cannot reach any conclusions at the moment, but holding facilitated conversations may help us to do so in the future.
In putting forward its proposal for 'facilitated conversation' the Pilling report describes how:
We do not regard the trajectory of any process of attentive listening, or facilitated conversation, to be a foregone conclusion. If we presumed that there was only one desirable direction of travel, we would not only be subverting our own professed desire to see stronger bonds of sympathy between Christians who disagree but we would be contradicting our own approach to reading cultural trends which we explore in greater depth elsewhere. For now, it is enough to say that weare acutely aware that some trends which once seemed inevitable, and which may have been proclaimed as good, can later be found to have damaging consequences of which few were initially aware.
We hope that our proposal for continued attentive listening through facilitated conversations which could only succeed if all participants are genuinely welcomed as such, is received as an earnest of our intentions...We ... propose an initial time-frame of around two years for implementing our key proposal for facilitated conversations, recognizing that the process itself may not lead within that time to the kind of definitive position for the Church for which many, in their different ways, hope.
It is worth expanding a little on what the process we are recommending is and is not. It is not a set of discussion groups in which people seek to out-argue each other or to ‘cover’ a topic. It is, rather, a facilitated process of listening to each other so the journey can continue in an atmosphere of respect for difference. It is about our relationships as fellow human beings and not, fundamentally, about an institutional agenda about (for example) church unity. Its purpose is relational, not institutional.
[And these facilitated conversations will focus on how]
...the Church’s official teaching on sexuality stands unless and until a new process of facilitated conversations allows a consensus for change to form.
[and about how]
The Church’s present rules impose a different discipline on clergy and laity in relation to sexually active same sex relationships. In the facilitated conversations it will be important to reflect on the extent to which the laity and clergy should continue to observe such different disciplines.
THE UNCERTAIN PATH TO DIALOGUE: A MEDITATION by Sallyann Roth
Published in Relational Responsibility: Resources for Sustainable Dialogue, S. McNamee and K. Gergen, Eds. (with commentary by associates). Chapter 8, 93-97. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1999.
I invite you to join me in a meditation... to experience the sense of human connectedness and shared responsibility that comes from allowing ourselves to wonder, ... to open up space for the future...
Think of the “I” voice as yourself as you read and reflect.
Sometimes I am in a conversation, or an argument, or perhaps even a shouting match that goes nowhere, an encounter that produces nothing but heat. Sometimes I feel certain that I know exactly what someone else is about to say and I anticipate, with great conviction, just how wrong-headed it is going to be. Sometimes I feel hopeless about ever being heard, understood, or adequately listened to by a particular person or in some particular conversation or on a particular subject. And sometimes I just get tired of trying to make myself understood. I don’t want to try to explain myself again, or I feel dismissive, or perhaps violent. Sometimes I want to run right over what others say.
At times like these...How can I keep from being taken over by hurt, hopelessness, anger, or disrespect? How can I keep from being taken over by the belief that the other person – or group – is really the problem? How can I keep myself from just shutting down?
But then, on the other hand...What do I do that shuts others down? What do I do that leaves others feeling insignificant, blank, out of place, silenced, walled off, unwilling to be open when they are with me? What do I do that prompts others to try to convince me of their rightness, of my wrongness, to will their assertions on me, to not speak directly to me – or to ignore my presence or even my very existence?
When I meet people who challenge my views, or my beliefs, or my values...What makes it possible for me to listen to them? What makes it possible for me to invite them to tell me more about what they think and feel? What makes it possible for me to ask them how they came to think and feel as they do?
When I feel challenged, or even threatened by others...What makes it possible to wonder about, to be interested in, to ask about, how they came to believe what they believe or to ―know what they know when it is so different from what I believe and from what I know?
What kinds of actions and contexts encourage me...To speak with an open heart? To listen with an open heart?
What kinds of contexts feel safe enough...To enable me to speak so openly and listen so openly to others that I may be changed by the contact, influenced by the conversation? What kinds of actions and contexts make it possible for me to shift the meanings I make of my experiences of past and present events and of imagined futures? How can I open up to explore our many differences, our stories, our lives, our present circumstances? How can I speak fully even when speaking fully may reveal that we simply can not understand one another?
What kinds of actions and contexts encourage me...To abandon assumptions that I know what others mean? To turn my passion to inquiring about things I do not or cannot understand? To reveal how much I do not understand? To make space for differences in experience, in the meanings I give to that experience, and for every other kind of difference there may be?
What do I do...That calls forth from others that which is unusual for them to speak openly? That brings forward responses of unusual complexity and richness? That calls forward other people’s reflections, or their most passionate intentions? Or their readiness to speak of fragmentary thoughts, thoughts that are only on their way to being fullythought, or those that have been thought but never before spoken? When I have thought that others would find my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or perspectives “wrong,” “off center,” or just too different...
What have others done that has allowed me to be open with them, to think of and speak of things I have not spoken? What have others done to call into voice that which I feared to say or perhaps even to think when I imagined, perhaps rightly, that open speaking might alienate the very people I cared about, or depended on? What have others done to call into voice my full feeling, thinking, and speaking in a way that has permitted me to welcome confusions, to feel less certain, and to open myself to change through my connection with them?
When I feel that other people’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or perspectives are “wrong,” “dangerous,” or just too different from mine...What might others do or say to prepare me to listen to that which feels intolerable to hear, too different,too confusing, too challenging, too incomprehensible, things I just don’t want to hear? How can I remind myself to speak for myself, from my own experience, and to not shore myself up by speaking as a member of a group, as if I represented others? How can I remember to listen fully, openly, with genuine interest, without judgment and without argument, to another’s challenging, or different, ideas, feelings, beliefs? How can I stay open to hearing fresh things even in other’s familiar words? And how can I listen just as fully, just as openly, and just as generously and without judgment to myself?
If I do hold myself open in this way, and if the “other,” the one who is “different,” does the same...Might we then experience and speak of our similarities and refrain from defining ourselves strongly by our differences?Might we refuse to define each other as ―other?
And if I hold myself open in this way with “like-minded” people...Might we speak openly of our differences when we have previously defined ourselves by our similarities? Might we step away from seeing ourselves as an 'us' distinct from 'them'? How can we create a place where we can experience our connection with each other through our very differences? A place where neither of us gives up central beliefs, values, and commitments, but where the tension of our difference can provide a kind of meeting, so that our conversation about difference can generate a fresh culture? What does each of us each need, to gain the vision, the will, the strength, the simple doggedness to travel this path? How shall we find the courage to make this journey?