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Same-sex spouses not invited to Lambeth 2020

22 February 2019

Married gay bishops will be present at the conference for the first time next year


Spouses at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops pose on the University of Kent campus in Canterbury

Spouses at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops pose on the University of Kent campus in Canterbury

SAME-SEX spouses will not be invited to the 2020 Lambeth conference, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon confirmed last week.

Married gay bishops, of whom there are two at present, a third to be consecrated this year, will be present at the Conference for the first time next year. The compromise reached by the Archbishop of Canterbury is that their spouses will not be invited.

Reports state that Archbishop Welby has said that, if same-sex spouses were invited, “there would not be a Lambeth Conference.”

In a blog on the ACNS, Dr Idowu-Fearon wrote: “The invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.

“That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.”

A bishop assistant in the diocese of New York, the Rt Revd Mary Glasspool, and a suffragan bishop in the diocese of Toronto, the Rt Revd Kevin Robertson, are the only bishops in a same-sex marriage at the moment; the Bishop-elect of Maine, the Revd Thomas Brown, is to be consecrated in June.

Dr Idowu-Fearon wrote that Archbishop Welby “has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies”.

Bishop Glasspool told the Episcopal News Service that Archbishop Welby had written to her “directly as I feel I owe you an explanation of my decision not to invite your spouse to the Lambeth Conference, a decision that I am well aware will cause you pain, which I regret deeply”.

In her response, she wrote: “When will the Church accept to it the gift of the LGBTQ community? “Young people are watching us. If they haven’t written off all of Christianity for being homophobic, they do find The Episcopal Church inviting and inclusive.”

Bishop Robertson told ENS: “He [Archbishop Welby] said to me there are only two of you in the Communion in this situation, you and Mary, and he said if I invite your spouses to the Lambeth Conference, there won’t be a Lambeth Conference.”

He went on: “I actually find it quite offensive. I know that’s a strong word, but I’m aware the Anglican Communion is not of one mind around marriage.

“However, the decision to invite all the other spouses without inviting ours, I think, sends a very clear message about the way that same-sex relationships are regarded in the Communion. I think that’s a troubling sign.”

Tracey Byrne, the chief executive of OneBodyOneFaith said on Wednesday: “We are called to follow the example of Jesus in extending the table to those with whom we don’t necessarily agree, and we applaud the effort of the organisers to do just that – but we need to go further.

“Radical Christian inclusion demands no less from us. These partners may be few in number but they are hugely symbolically significant, prophetic even. We are reaching out to them over the coming weeks, and have already been contacted by members and supporters offering accommodation. We will do everything we can to ensure that they are there in Canterbury next year.”

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