THE threat, or promise, to have the Lambeth Conference vote to reaffirm Resolution 1.10 — which pronounced that same-sex relationships were unscriptural — has receded, it emerged on Monday evening.
A reference to the resolution that marriage should be restricted to “a man and a woman”, carried by a majority in 1998, first appeared in a draft “call” on 18 July (News, 22 July). (In place of resolutions, the bishops are invited to assent to “calls” that would then be debated in their own Provinces.)
In response to widespread disquiet, the call was redrafted (News, 26 July), but the organisation that represents 275 bishops in the global South: the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), said that it would revive the idea of a vote on the resolution.
The GSFA, chaired by the Archbishop of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi, had announced at a press conference on Friday that it would be tabling its own stand-alone Resolution confirming Lambeth 1.10 as the Communion’s official teaching on marriage and sexuality, and would also be giving bishops at the Conference an opportunity to confirm their agreement by its end (News, 29 July).
That was before the GSFA Primates, include those from the Indian Ocean, Chile and Congo met the Archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday evening at their invitation. In a well-publicised action, some GSFA bishops refused to receive communion at the opening service on Sunday, since same-sex-partnered bishops and those who ordained bishops in same-sex relationships were present.
There is no figure for how many took this step, which was acknowledged by Archbishop Welby at the service and which happened quietly and without drama, as requested.
Furthermore, there is said to be dissent among the Global South bishops, some of whom are angry at the lack of consultation over the action on Sunday and the sanctions being threatened by the GSFA leadership in their name.
Conversations with the GSFA Primates are understood to have been taking place with the conference organisers over many weeks. On Saturday, George Conger, a veteran journalist attached to the conservative Anglican Ink, blogged that, after the GSFA bishops had met Archbishop Welby, his office had “offered to write a letter re-affirming the Anglican Communion’s view that marriage should be between a man and a woman”.
The Church Times has it on good authority that the leader of the GSFA, the Primate of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi, had given the Archbishop a commitment that, while the GSFA would let it be known that the meeting had taken place, it would not mention anything about the commitments made in it, and that, as a man of honour, he was appalled at that apparent betrayal of trust.
On Monday evening, it became clear that the GSFA would not force the issue by proposing a vote on Lambeth 1.10 during the session on Tuesday debating Human Dignity, the call in which the reference to the resolution first appeared. The Revd Paul Eddy, who is handling the publicity for the GSFA, announced that, instead, “over 250 orthodox bishops signed up to receive GSFA notifications” would be invited by email to “anonymously reaffirm, and in a secure manner” their commitment to Lambeth 1.10 via a text that would be sent in advance to Archbishop Welby.
It is clear that strong divisions are certain to emerge during the debate on the Call on Human Dignity on Tuesday, but Archbishop Badi is understood to have been at pains to say that the GSFA remains committed to being in the Anglican Communion and at its meetings, unlike the Provinces that have stayed away: Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda (though individual bishops from these Provinces have been spotted at Lambeth.
In contrast to the narrative of divisions in the Communion, bishops present at the sessions to discuss the various calls (and sexuality is only a subsection of one of them) are seated around tables where Global South and North have been purposely mixed. Judging by conversations with individual bishops, they are talking respectfully and listening to each other.
ONE thing of which the Conference organisers are aware is the need for bishops in the Global South to be able to go back to their countries with something to show their people and governments that they belong to a global Church that still believes marriage is between a man and a woman. It is the view held by the majority of Provinces worldwide, including those Provinces covering the 69 countries in the world where homosexual activity is illegal.
In many parts of the world, stories about Churches that change their view on marriage have been seized on to attack Christians, pitting Western (usually US) culture against the country traditions. There is evidence that many bishops in those provinces deal pastorally with LGBTQ+ people — as Resolution 1.10 stipulates in its less-quoted sections. The responsibility both to LGBTQ+ people in those countries, who face persecution, and to brothers and sisters who live there, is therefore acknowledged to lie heavy with the Anglican authorities, who also wish to affirm the inclusion practised in many Western countries.
The abandoning of electronic voting on Sunday night (News, 31 August) was welcomed by both conservative and liberal bishops, relieved that no recording would highlight a division that many do not wish to promote.
A further relief of pressure came from support for a “congress” of global South Provinces. Speaking at a press conference on Monday after a debate on Anglican identity, the Primate of New Zealand in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Most Revd Philip Richardson, said that there was “energy and support” for idea of an Anglican congress held in the Global South. The details of such a meeting will be discussed within the Anglican Consultative Council, with a report expected next year.
According to the text of the call, agreed by the bishops, the congress would aim to “discern afresh the mission of God amidst a celebration of the diversity and artistry of our many cultures”.