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Press: Lambeth 1.10 bombshell obscures other news

29 July 2022

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THE GUARDIAN decided that the Lambeth Conference was interesting. First, it ran a leader urging the Lambeth Conference not to be all about sexuality, as if there was anything else that would make news; then it reported the decision to allow bishops to vote against the “Lambeth Calls” as a victory.

While I sympathise with the sentiment, this seems to me to fall into a well-dug heffalump trap. If the matter comes to a vote, as it surely will, the number of votes in favour of Lambeth 1.10 will vastly outnumber those against, and those will themselves now be split. This will be taken as evidence that the majority of the Communion is implacably opposed to any official recognition of gay relationships — because that is exactly what it will be.

Obviously, I don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes, but the ability to vote against a Call seems not only self-destructive but very weak: the story, not denied at the time of writing, is that the offending language was inserted into the draft after it had been agreed by a carefully balanced committee. If this is what happened, then the only proportionate answer is to remove it. Since that hasn’t happened, I can only suppose that the global South threatened to pull out of the Conference if it did. A large number of bishops came here only to drive this resolution through.

Nothing seems to have changed and nothing been learned — by either side — since 1998.


THE bombshell of that paragraph about Lambeth 1.10 seems to have stopped anyone from reading further, which is a pity. There is a genuinely new and unexpected proposal a little further in.

The Church Commissioners are to disburse funds as reparations for colonialism and slavery as suggested by a new committee (“the Archbishop’s Commission for Redemptive Action”), to be chaired by someone from the global South, and directed by the Archbishop of Canterbury: “We call upon the Archbishop of Canterbury (as Chair of the Church Commissioners’ Board of Governors) to ensure that this theology shapes the Church Commissioners’ response to the church’s links to colonialism and slavery. Third, the ACRA, in consultation with the work of the Church Commissioners, will identify criteria, communities, and programs that would serve a Communion wide witness to redemptive action.”

I like to believe that this is really an inspired call for unity: if there is one thing that the whole Communion believes, it is that the Church Commissioners have too much money and it should be more widely distributed.

But, in a spirit of fact-checking, I did ask the Commissioners what they thought of this idea, and a spokesman responded that: “The key issue is that the calls are not binding. These are statements effectively in principle.” I am grateful for this magnificent euphemism.


THERE are many wonderful garments that a Pope can wear, but the photograph of the week was undoubtedly the Reuters picture of Pope Francis in an indigenous headdress on his visit to Canada. It did not look in the least absurd: by squaring off the top of his forehead, it made the firm and fierce aspects of his face stand out. He was there to apologise for the residential schools that the Roman Catholic Church had run in that country for more than a century, as part of the policy of forcible assimilation (and family break-up) that had been pursued against the indigenous people.

Of course, it was right for him to apologise, but there is also an element of scapegoating, as in the similar situation in Ireland. The Church carried out a wicked policy, it’s true, but it did so on behalf of the whole society, and with its blessing and encouragement.


JUSTIN WELBY did a brief book-plug/interview in Prospect magazine, in which he was asked what was the first news event he could recall, and replied: “Not a news event, but I remember having tea with Winston Churchill as a child, because my mother was his secretary. He cried — I don’t know why — and because he cried, I cried and we sat and had tea.”

It’s a curiously haunting picture: the old man and the child weeping together, and neither, perhaps, knows why.

Did they have jelly at this tea? The question was inspired by a heatwave column from Felicity Cloake, the Guardian cookery writer, who wrote: “Thanks to the amount of labour involved in their creation, centrepiece jellies were long the preserve of the wealthy. The 1407 installation feast of the Bishop of London included a set-piece of a demon arguing with a doctor of divinity in a jelly-filled castle set in a custard moat.”

There is one former bishop, at least, who must now be regretting that he did not arrange for this at his own installation. I’m less sure about the present Bishop of London: her jelly would perhaps show a management consultant arguing with a curate while the moat would be filled with something healthier than custard — stewed rhubarb, perhaps.

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