THE spouses who were excluded from the Lambeth Conference will be welcome to stay at the University of Kent, the venue for the event, it was confirmed this week. The Council also announced that it would seek a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss concerns about the decision not to invite same-sex spouses (News, 22 February 2019).
A statement from the chairman of the University’s Council, Sir David Warren, and the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Karen Cox, described the university as an organisation “proud of its progressive values, philosophy and record of diversity and inclusion. . . We also place great value on diversity of opinion, open, respectful debate, recognition of difference, and the central role of constructive engagement and dialogue.”
The invitation policy raised “serious issues at the heart of these values” and “significant ethical concerns”, and had prompted “a large number of concerns raised by staff, students, and members of the public”.
“Council members were clear that exclusion of same-sex spouses, on grounds of orientation, would be contrary to the values of the University,” the statement said. “Council determined that the University shall ensure that accommodation will be available on campus for those spouses affected by this decision who wish to be in Canterbury with their partners during the conference period. The University welcomes them and affirms its belief in, and commitment to, diversity and inclusivity.”
Sir David and Professor Cox are now seeking a meeting with Archbishop Welby and the organisers of the Conference, a team led by Phil George, a former executive director of the New Wine network.
On Wednesday, the Area Bishop of York-Scarborough, the Rt Revd Kevin Robertson, a suffragan in the diocese of Toronto, welcomed the statement.
“I am particularly grateful for the students and members of the University Council, who recognise that this act of exclusion is contrary to their own fundamental values of diversity and inclusion,” he said. “I applaud their willingness to speak up about what happens on their campus, and their desire to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury personally about this matter. It is fascinating to see a secular university challenge the Church about its ethics.”
He and his husband, Mohan were also “exceedingly grateful” for the invitation to stay on the University campus. “The fact that the University of Kent will make room for both of us, but the Lambeth Conference organisers will not, saddens us.
“Our hope is that the organisers of the Conference will respond positively to the many voices within Church and society who are calling for the decision to be reversed. The differences within the Anglican Communion will only be addressed by bringing people together for conversation and the building of bridges. Exclusion is not the answer.”
Kent University has hosted the Lambeth Conference since 1978. The cost of attendance for each delegate is £4950, not including flights.