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Draft Lambeth Conference ‘call’ threatens to reignite 1998 row over homosexuality

22 July 2022


Lord Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, at the opening service of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury Cathedral

Lord Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, at the opening service of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury Cathedral

BISHOPS attending the Lambeth Conference could be asked to vote once again on Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Conference, which rejected homosexual practice as “incompatible with scripture”.

A decision was taken that no resolutions — definitive announcements — were to be made at this Conference. After a plenary on a particular topic, Lambeth would instead issue “calls”: declarations, affirmations, and specific calls to the Anglican Communion to pray, think, and reflect on a topic, and for each Province to decide on its response (News, 10 June).

Earlier this week, the organisers published the draft calls in a new booklet for the bishops attending the Conference. The booklet describes how an electronic voting system will be used to allow bishops to record their views.

Each call, the Archbishop of Canterbury told a virtual press conference in June, would be “carefully structured to talk about scripture, about the tradition of the Church, and what the bishops assembled feel to be the way that God is calling them”.

Some on contentious subjects would be issued, “not with the aim of a dramatic change to the Church’s teaching, but on bringing us into deeper love for one another and understanding how God is calling us to be God’s Church for God’s world”.

The booklet explains how, for each call, bishops will vote electronically either to affirm: “This call speaks for me. I add my voice to it and commit myself to take the action I can to implement it”; or: “This call requires further discernment. I commit my voice to the ongoing process.” Bishops not at the conference will be able to vote remotely.

The booklet contains a draft text of all the calls, along with guidance and study notes. A call-drafting group has worked on the text of each one. Each has had a lead author. The call to reaffirm 1.10 comes in the “Call on Human Dignity”, led by the Primate of the West Indies, the Most Revd Howard Gregory.

It currently reads thus:

“All human beings are made in the image of God. Therefore Anglicans are committed to respect, protect and acknowledge the dignity of all. That has been, however, a gap between rhetoric and reality. Historical exploitation, deepening poverty, and prejudice continues to threaten human dignity. Amid these threats, and our own divisions and discernment, we call for: (i) an Archbishop’s Commission for Redemptive Action; (ii) the establishment of an Anglican Innovation Fund; and (iii) the reaffirmation of Lambeth 1:10 that upholds marriage as between a man and a woman and requires deeper work to uphold the dignity and witness of LGBTQ Anglicans.”

The Archbishop of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi, chairman of the Global Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GFSA), issued a video message last week to “orthodox” bishops attending the Conference. Seeking the reaffirmation of Resolution 1.10 as “the official teaching of the Anglican Church on marriage” would “sound a clarion call to biblical faithfulness,” he said (News, 13 July).

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said at the June press conference (News, 23 June) that as chair of the Lambeth Conference Design Group, he had “worked . . . to ensure that each member of the team, which represented a diversity of views from across the world, brought their voices and experiences into the planning process.

“In seeking to accommodate a different emphasis brought by different constituencies in the Communion, whether geographical, theological or other, we adopted a ‘both and’ approach instead of an ‘either or’ approach. This meant working to accommodate and make provision for disparate voices to be heard, hopefully providing an example of how to handle tensions and disagreements within the Communion.”

The Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Revd John Harvey Taylor, has reacted with horror, calling Lambeth 1.10 a “notorious, communion-rivening statement”. He points out that the voting choice offered to the bishops is limited: “If we don’t vote yes, we can vote that a question needs more discernment. As of now, we won’t be able to stand up decisively for people’s God-given human rights and vote no.”

Referring to the growing noise about the calls on social media, Bishop Taylor writes in his blog: “The word is spreading quickly that the Kumbaya Lambeth is actually a bait-and-switch Lambeth, with moderate and progressive Anglicans and Episcopalians about to arrive in Canterbury as credulous props for what is likely to be a majority vote against marriage equity. . .

“Lambeth doesn’t legislate or set policy. But that won’t matter to a global audience that is likely to read that a majority of Anglican bishops refused to affirm the dignity of every human being. It’s exactly the wrong message to a world in agony. It’s the opposite of the Christian values of healing and reconciliation. It divides, hurts, scapegoats, and denies. It tempts younger people to flee faith and serves no one but the gods of secularization, who are lying in wait for the whole world.”

Bishop Taylor cites the accord that was reached in the US Episcopal Church at its General Convention in 2018, when conservative bishops, “without denying their belief in traditional marriage . . . generously acknowledged a pastoral responsibility to make sure that all people in their dioceses, irrespective of orientation, had access to the marriage rite in the parishes they love.

“As a result, we have achieved considerable unity in spite of substantial diversity of opinion. Now these bishops are being dragged back into the same old wearying binary argument. . .

“No matter how much we debate during the conference, we won’t change one another’s minds on this question. In such situations, the holy and logical move is to common ground. It’s what we all prayed for in anticipation of this conference. Instead, someone decided that it will be good for the body of Christ to have us turn away from communion-building conversations about poverty, global warming, war, and peace and argue like it’s 1998.”

On Friday, Archbishop Welby published a message to the bishops heading to Canterbury for the Conference, which starts later next week. “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. Indeed, these Calls have grown out of a process of discussion and encounter with one another.

“They are informed by the insights and themes of the online video conversations between bishops across the world over the past year. They have been drafted by a diverse group of Anglicans — male and female, lay and ordained, from different generations and from every part of the Communion. They are one part of a process that began before this part of the Conference, and will continue long after it formally finishes, as every Province discerns its own response to the Calls in their own contexts.”

His prayer, he says, is that all will 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.” That call also states: “The Anglican Communion is a gift from God. Governed by scripture, affirming the ancient creeds, sacramentally centred, and episcopally led — Anglicans seek to be faithful to God in their agreement and in their disagreements.”

The Archbishop concludes: “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.”

Resolution 1.10, agreed in 1998:

Human Sexuality

This Conference:

  1. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
  2. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
  3. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  4. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
  5. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
  6. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
  7. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.

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