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Giles Fraser: Lambeth: a conference of shame

06 February 2008

“Gene Robinson has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference. It is proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury at the preview press conference for Lambeth 2008 (News, 25 January).

How can it be difficult to know “under what heading” the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, ought to be invited? The heading is simple: diocesan bishop — duly elected, consented to, and all the rest if it.

At the moment, much attention is being directed towards the noisy Evangelicals who will not come to Lambeth. This gives the impression that the conference is going to be full of dangerous gay-friendly liberalism. How ridiculous: this Lambeth Conference will be remembered for only one thing — the formal institutionalisation of Anglican homophobia. This is the point where all that guff about welcoming gay people will be exposed for the lie that it is.

Some years ago, the Rt Revd Walter Makhulu — the retired Archbishop of Central Africa — gave a sermon to Inclusive Church in which he compared the Church’s take on homosexuality to the racism that resulted in apartheid. He spoke of gay people as being kept out of the Church by bouncers.

It was a metaphor. But, come July, it will be a metaphor no longer. If the Bishop of New Hampshire turned up at the Lambeth Conference and attempted to gain entry, he would be forced away by security guards. Can you imagine the message such a scene would send to the rest of the word?

Look at it this way: you are hosting a children’s party for all the members of your child’s school class. You receive a delegation from a number of mothers who say that their child won’t be coming to the party if the black kid in the class is going to be there as well. Do you really not invite the black child?

Even asking the question is morally revolting — let alone acceding to it. This is why many of us think that the Lambeth Conference 2008 will be a conference of shame.

Earlier this week, Ruth Gledhill of The Times reported an interview with the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, who is deeply conservative. She described him as “urging all Anglican bishops to attend the Lambeth Conference this year”. Yet, of course, he didn’t mean all at all. In Anglican double-speak, “all” now means “all — except gays”.

Some will rub their hands together in angst, and bleat about how terribly difficult the whole thing is. Actually, no, it is not difficult. When Jesus says that he seeks to draw all people to himself, all means all.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney in London.

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