The Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops meets in Canterbury from 26 July to 8 August 2022. The conference is held once every 10 years and about 650 bishops are expected, although some are boycotting it over same-sex marriage. The “communion” of Anglican bishops has been deeply divided for decades over same-sex relationships and marriage. Here’s a brief timeline
1988 The Lambeth Conference recognises continuing need for study of the question of homosexuality, taking seriously both the teaching of scripture and the results of scientific and medical research (Resolution 64).
1992 Some American Episcopalians joined the Continuing Anglican Movement, splitting away from the Communion, originally in protest at women’s ordination and then against same sex relationships
1994 The general convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Ecusa), amends the church’s canons to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, allowing LGBTQ+ people to be ordained.
1998, July The Lambeth Conference passes Resolution I:10 Human Sexuality against same-sex marriage. It says homosexual practice is incompatible with the Scriptures and marriage is between a man and a woman. It urges bishops to listen to homosexuals and condemns irrational fear. The vote is 526:70 in favour.
1998, July Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu, Nigeria, attempts to exorcise the “homosexual demons” from the Rev Richard Kirker, leader of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, in full view of TV cameras at the Lambeth Conference.
1998, 5 August 183 bishops sign pastoral statement to lesbian and gay Anglicans apologising that their voices were not heard by the conference
1999, 1 October Bishops from the Church of England and elsewhere sign the Cambridge Accord upholding rights of homosexual people.
2003, 29 May The Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada permits the blessing of same-sex unions. This is the first formal permission given in Canada, although blessings are happening informally elsewhere.
2003, 2 November Ecusa (also known as TEC, The Episcopal Church) elects Gene Robinson, a gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire. He is consecrated later this month, while wearing a bullet-proof vest because of death threats.
2003, 6 July Canon Jeffrey John is put forward as Bishop of Reading but withdraws after a vicious briefing campaign. He eventually becomes Dean of St Albans.
2003, 16 October Anglican Primates (leaders) warn that the forthcoming consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop threatens future of the Anglican Communion.
2003, November/December Nine of the 38 provinces, including several in Africa and the province of South East Asia, declare their communion with Ecusa is broken after the consecration of Gene Robinson.
2004 The Windsor Report on homosexuality, drawn up by the Eames Commission, recommends a moratorium on further consecrations of gay bishops and blessing of same-sex marriages.
2005 The Church of England permits priests to pray for couples in a civil partnership if they are celibate, but declines to approve rituals for blessings (see our factsheet on CofE and sexuality here) and register a same-sex civil partnership.
2005 The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is set up by the church in Nigeria as a parallel Anglican organisation for people opposed to Ecusa’s actions in relation to LGBTQ+ people. It wants to keep links with the Anglican Communion.
2007 February The Primates’ Meetingasserts that the Episcopal Church has departed from the teaching on human sexuality accepted at Lambeth in 1998 by consecrating a gay man and permitting blessings for same-sex marriages.
2008, 29 June The Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) is created in protest at the actions of Ecusa in ordaining LGBTQ+ people. A total of 291 bishops and 1,148 lay and clergy leaders meet in Jerusalem and agree the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration describing the liberal moves as a false gospel. Its current members are drawn from mainly Africa and South America, plus rebel groups in western countries.
2008, 16 July–3 August The Lambeth Conference media coverage is dominated by the issue of Gene Robinson’s consecration as bishop. Hundreds of bishops boycot the conference to attend Gafcon’s alternative meeting. The conference supported a moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex marriages and blessings for same-sex marriages.
2009, 14 July The Ecusa general convention allows consecration of openly lesbian and gay bishops and authorises blessing of same-sex unions. It had already consecrated its first gay bishop in 2003.
2010, December Ecusa consecrates a lesbian,Mary Douglas Glasspool, as Bishop of Los Angeles.
2012, July The Ecusa general convention approves transgender ordination.
2013, January Church of England bishops allow celibate clergy in civil partnerships to be appointed bishops.
2013, 24 January The Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Bill is passed by the UK parliament, allowing religious organisations to opt in to performing same-sex marriages if they wish to do so, except for the Church of England and Church in Wales, which are not permitted to do so.
2015 TheEcusa general convention allows same-sex marriage.
2016 The primates’ meeting in Canterbury removes Ecusa from committees and prevents it from the decision-making process for three years, as punishment for progressing with same-sex policies while the rest of the communion disagreed.
2016 TheArchbishop of Canterbury apologises for hurt caused to LGBTQ+ people.
2016 The Church of England Archbishops’ Councilconfirms that Church of England clergy are allowed to enter in same-gender civil partnerships and clergy are able to offer prayers in support of same-gender couples.
2017, 15 February Clergy at the Church of England General Synod reject a bishops’ report that upholds traditional teaching that only a man and woman can marry in church.
2017 The Church of England launches Living in Love and Faith, a project encouraging everyone in the church to read study materials and discuss areas of disagreement on sexuality. This is being held up as an example of how to broker a position that warring sides can live with.
2017 The Scottish Episcopal church allows same-sex marriage
2018, July The Ecusa general convention says all Episcopalians can be married by their priests in their home churches and gives access to trial liturgy to be used for same and opposite-sex couples.
2018 Archbishop of CanterburyJustin Welby says there will be no Lambeth Conference until he can be sure that the vast majority of bishops will attend.
2018, October The Diocese of Saldanha Bay in South Africa votes to support blessings for same-sex civil unions.
2019, 2 May The Anglican Church in America takes in parishes of the Convocation of North America, set up by Nigeria in 2005.
2019, September The Southern African Provincial Synod votes to ask dioceses to “reflect and study” a report that recommends allowing each diocese to choose to offer services of prayer for couples in same-sex civil unions. Dialogue is continuing through a commission on human sexuality.
2019, October More than 100 bishops in the Global South Anglicans group adopt a “covenant structure” for their future as an organisation, making each member commit to orthodox teaching and common discipline. It represents 25 of the total 39 provinces and wants to stay aligned with the Anglican Communion.
2020, July The Lambeth Conference is cancelled because of Covid with new date set for 2022. Partners of same-sex bishops are not invited after threatened boycott by traditionalist bishops against homosexuality.
2020, November Australia’s highest church court rules that a diocese may authorise the blessing of same-sex unions.
2021 Bishops meet virtually online for Bishops’ conversations to start discussing areas of common concern under the theme “God’s Church for God’s World”.
2021, October The Church in Wales permits liturgy for same-sex blessings.
2022, April Andrew John, Archbishop of the Church in Wales, says same-sex weddings could be held in churches in Wales within five years. He says the church should be inclusive and “welcome people, where they are, who they are”.
2022, 19 July The Lambeth Calls document is published. It comes as a shock to bishops because the section on human dignity includes a call for the bishops to reaffirm Resolution I:10 from 1998, which bans same-sex marriage. It says:
Lambeth 2.3 Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity. Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions” cannot be advised. It is the mind of the Communion to uphold “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” (I.10, 1998). xxviii It is also the mind of the Communion that “all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998)
2022, 26 July After a furious backlash, the calls are redrafted to state simply that the communion is divided. Bishops are also allowed to vote no to any of the calls.
2022, 2 August The Call on human dignity, simply stating facts, comes up for a vote. It is in the section on Human Dignity 2:3:
Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity. Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998). Many Provinces continue to affirm that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions” cannot be advised. Other provinces have blessed and welcomed same-sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception. As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.
2022, 2 August: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the Conference it was a reality that the Communion is deeply divided. For both sides – the large majority who believe in the traditional understanding of marriage and the minority who accept same sex marriage – to change their view is unthinkable, but both have arrived at their belief after long prayer and deep study. Resolution 1.10 from the Conference of 1998 still exists. This Lambeth gathering “does not in any way question the validity of that resolution”. He said: ” I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so”. His speech was seen as a watershed moment, accepting the validity of both sides within the Communion.
To be continued