Fury at inclusion of same-sex marriage ban on Lambeth Conference agenda

The Dove and Cross stained glass window, Church of Our Savior. Florida. Image credit: Deisenbe Own work CC BY-SA 4.0,

There has been a furious response to the decision to reintroduce a divisive resolution banning same-sex marriage at the forthcoming Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops.

The measure comes in a “call” stating as fact that the “mind of the communion” is against same-sex marriage. Yet there are clergy and bishops living in same-sex marriages in the United States and other parts of the worldwide Anglican church.

The unexpected inclusion comes after years of painstaking work seeking deeper relationships and understanding among the communion’s 1,000 bishops and is feared likely to torpedo any chance that the conference would be remembered for the church looking out into the world instead of within itself to internal disputes.

The Lambeth Conference meets in Canterbury from 26 July to 8 August. It is held once every 10 years and about 650 bishops are expected to attend out of a possible 1,000. Read our explainer here.

The “communion” of Anglican bishops has been deeply divided for decades over same-sex relationships and marriage. Bishops from Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda are boycotting the conference in protest at the “false gospel” of allowing same-sex relationships and marriage. Six bishops in same-sex marriages in the US are boycotting it because their spouses were not invited.

There are two sides in the dispute. One uses Bible verses as a basis for deciding same-sex relationships are wrong and that marriage is only right between a man and a woman. The other side thinks the Bible must be read in context and the overarching biblical teaching on love, relationships and equality should determine the Christian response. 

There have been strenuous efforts by the Anglican Communion to broker peace and the message went out that this conference, titled God’s Church for God’s World, would foster new partnerships on challenges outside the church.

But on Tuesday, 19 April, a document with draft “calls” — items for discussion and voting — revealed that the bishops would once more be asked to vote on the infamous Lambeth Resolution I:10, in the following wording: “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 “legitimising 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”.

This is how Anglicans have responded:

Bishops from the Church in Wales

Bishops of the Church in Wales issued a statement saying the draft Lambeth call “undermines and subverts” LGBTQ+ people. “We will work to amend this passage to reflect more adequately our understanding of their equal place in the church”.

Bishops from the Scottish Episcopal Church

A statement from the Scottish Episcopal Church pledged to amend the call:

“The wording of that call does not represent the position of the Scottish Episcopal Church as reflected in the church’s canons, which recognises that there are differing understandings of marriage in the SEC … The members of the College of Bishops will seek to amend the draft call on human dignity urging a more inclusive approach and will work in respectful dialogue both with those colleagues across the communion who would share the position adopted by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and with those who may differ.”

The Bishop in Europe: David Hamid

The Bishop in Europe David Hamid, said in a blog that he was on the inside track of Lambeth 1998 when Resolution I:10 was passed and he quotes the bishop who convened the study group which produced it, saying: “We must confess that we are not of one mind about homosexuality.” This is in contrast to the call at Lambeth 2022 that claims the Anglican communion is of one mind. It’s not, he says.

The Bishop of Edmonton, Canada: Stephen London

The Bishop of Edmonton issued a statement:

“I do have to say I was extremely disappointed to see in the resolution about human dignity that there is a call to reaffirm Lambeth Resolution I.10, from 1998, which is against marriage equality for our LGBTQ+ community. This goes against what I thought we were doing in speaking where we find we have a common mind as a communion. It is clear that there is no common mind on this issue. There are groups working already to remove this from the Lambeth call, and I will work to support this effort”. 

A statement from the bishops leading Living in Love and Faith

Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is a Church of England project enabling conversations between people who disagree profoundly over same-sex relationships and marriage. It has produced materials for local study groups and is seeking to find common ground. Two days after the Lambeth calls were published, bishops on the project team issued a statement saying the CofE mirrored some of the disagreement seen around the world. ”The call’s affirmation of the Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) that same-sex unions cannot be legitimised or blessed, will be deeply troubling and painful for some whilst offering welcome reassurance to others”. The statement said its work will continue despite this controversy and it hoped that the LLF process could be used by the Anglican Communion.

The Dean of Southwark Cathedral, London: Living in Love and Faith ‘holed below the waterline’

The Dean of Southwark, Andrew Nunn, said: “What gets me is the scandalous way the ‘church’, whoever, whatever that is, displays such a lack of openness, transparency and honesty with the rest of us who are the church. It is OK calling out the lies and the lack of integrity in Downing Street when just across the river in the offices that deal with the Lambeth Conference, the same goes on. We have just emerged from General Synod. Not a word of this was mentioned, not even in the gossip in the bar and over coffee. We are still awaiting the synod debate on the LLF [Living in Love and Faith] process … the open conversations we have all been invited to have which will help us move on even further in our understanding of each other around the subjects of sexuality and committed relationships. That process is now holed below the waterline. [The} ‘Lambeth call’ has sunk LLF and we need to recognise that.”

The Ozanne Foundation and 10 CofE leaders

Jayne Ozanne, a leading lay member of the Church of England and LGBTQ+ campaigner, is among 10 people who have sent an open letter to the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England, urging them to vote against the Lambeth call including Resolution I:10. The letter says that they have engaged with Living in Love and Faith in the CofE in the belief that it is an open process without any foregone conclusion. But if bishops vote for this motion, it will destroy trust. Other signatories include Modern Church, MOSAIC and church campaigning groups.

The Rev Charlie Bell, doctor, curate and author

The Rev Charlie Bell is fellow in medicine at Girton College, University of Cambridge; an academic clinical fellow in psychiatry at King’s College, London and curate at St John the Divine, Kennington. In a series of tweets he said the decision to include resolution I:10 was a terrible, damaging unforced error, a deliberate political choice: The Church of England had betrayed LGBTQI+ people. “Living in Love and Faith is dead.”

The Bishop of Arizona: Jennifer Reddall

The Bishop of Arizona Jennifer Reddall did not mince her words, saying the calls contain “a deliberate poison pill”. She points out that a number of bishops attending are in same-sex marriages and many provinces now allow marriage equality. “It is simply not true that there is a single mind in the Anglican Communion about same-sex marriage … It is hard not to assume that this is intentional. And it has left a poor taste in my mouth as I prepare for Lambeth. There ought to be no deceit in following Christ.”

The Bishop of Los Angeles: John Harvey Taylor

The Bishop of Los Angeles, John Harvey Taylor, wrote in a blog that he and other bishops had been told the conference would be one of reconciliation and relationship building. Planners had been “cooing in our ears about fellowship”. They all thought they would discuss areas of common ground but “someone decided” to put I:10 on the agenda. He felt particularly aggrieved that the Episcopal Church in the US had spent years trying to move towards a common place, placating both sides, with conservative bishops adopting a compromise acknowledging a pastoral responsibility to make sure that all people had access to the marriage rite. “Now these bishops are being dragged back into the same old wearying binary argument,” he added.

The Bishop of Iowa: Betsey Monnot

The Bishop of Iowa, Betsey Monnot, said in a statement on Facebook: “First, this “Lambeth call” about human dignity openly and obviously tramples on the dignity of LGBTQ+ humans, even while using language that pretends to uphold the dignity and worth of every human being. Second, it calls into question the entire purpose and process of this Lambeth Conference. All of a sudden, instead of looking forward to collaborating with colleagues from around the world to deepen relationship, find common ground, and discuss what it is to be God’s church in God’s world today, bishops from the Episcopal Church and other provinces that affirm the dignity and full participation of LGBTQ+ individuals in all the sacraments of the church will participate in a conference that is structured to lead to a predetermined and discriminatory outcome.”

The Bishop of East and West Michigan: Prince Singh

In a letter to the diocese, the Bishop of East and West Michigan, Prince Singh, says he finds it ironic that Canterbury scapegoats prejudice against LGBTQ+ Anglicans, as the area that needs: “deeper work, while at the same time identifying a gap between rhetoric and reality on historical exploitation, deepening poverty, and prejudice that continues to threaten human dignity. ”To place the life and witness of our LGBTQ+ saints in contrast to marriage between a man and a woman is a colonial ploy by an empire that is perhaps holding on to the last vestiges of its arbiter role. It also could be another attempt of Canterbury’s at clinging to relevance using an instrument of unity — Lambeth — to embrace legislative action while also appearing not to do so.”

Statement by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 22 July

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the figurehead and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement on 22 July referring to the growing anger and appealing for unity despite disagreements:
“I know that many of you are reading and praying about the draft Lambeth calls that have been published this week — and they are naturally the subject of debate ahead of the conference … As you prepare your hearts and minds for this gathering, I pray that we all reflect on the draft call on Anglican identity, which states that Anglicans ‘belong to a tradition that seeks faithfulness to God in richly diverse cultures, distinct human experiences, and deep disagreements’ … Without ignoring those things on which we deeply disagree, I pray that we will approach this gathering with an even deeper sense of what unites us: the love of Jesus Christ and his calling to serve God’s world.”

The Global South Fellowship of Anglicans

The Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, a conservative grouping against same-sex marriage, has not commented since the calls were published. But earlier its chairman, Archbishop Justin Badi of South Sudan, said it wanted the conference to affirm Resolution I:10 as the official teaching of the Anglican church on marriage and all provinces should align their actions accordingly.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa: Dr Tabul Makgoba

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 that the Anglican Communion was like a family, sometimes messy with people falling in and out. The resolution was included because, even in this mess, the majority of Anglicans globally could not go for changing the doctrine on marriage. He said sometimes people confused the Lambeth Conference with the General Synod of the Church of England, but it was different. The conference cannot make law or dictate to provinces, it can only suggest, he said.


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