On Tuesday (2 August), bishops of the Anglican Communion from across the globe held a confidential discussion on sexuality and human dignity.
The once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, which brings together international bishops of the Anglican Communion to pass resolutions and decide “the mind of the communion” on current issues, began on 26 July at the University of Kent.
While decisions and votes at the Lambeth Conference are not technically legislative when it comes to official doctrine, they carry huge weight and influence Anglican churches around the world.
Much of the discussion surrounding the conference, however, has focused on one specific resolution or “call”: The 2022 Lambeth Call on Human Dignity.
When the text of the call was first released earlier this year, LGBTQ-inclusive Anglicans were shocked that it asked bishops to reaffirm the notorious Lambeth Resolution 1.10, passed in 1998 when bishops rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture”.
Following immense criticism, the communion backtracked, amending the call to simply acknowledge the vast difference of opinion among churches, and committing “to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues”.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, also ditched the vote by bishops altogether after the discussion of calls, instead asking them to simply provide comments and feedback.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s U-turn pushed anti-LGBTQ+ Anglicans into creating an even more extreme call on ‘rejecting homosexual practice’
After the amendment, there was neither an apology nor an explanation for how the original call was developed. But having already alienated the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, the watered-down call also pushed away orthodox, anti-LGBTQ+ Anglicans.
In an effort to appease both sides, the Archbishop of Canterbury released a letter on the day that the call was set to be the subject of confidential discussions by bishops at the conference.
In the letter to bishops, Welby acknowledged that Lambeth 1.10 “continues to be a source of pain, anxiety and contention”, but also doubled down: “I write… to affirm that the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998 1:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence… The call states that many provinces – and I think we need to acknowledge it’s the majority – continue to affirm that same-gender marriage is not permissible.”
But on the same day, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) released the text of its own call to reaffirm Lambeth 1.10.
The GSFA is a powerful group, representing 25 provinces and around 75 per cent of all Anglicans around the world. The fellowship also requested a separate worship space at the Lambeth Conference, for those bishops who refused to take communion with LGBTQ+ people and their allies.
In its own call, the GSFA said: “Based on the need to establish clear doctrine on marriage and sexuality at this defining moment for the Anglican Communion, this conference reaffirms the biblical teaching of Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10.”
Copies of the call were handed out to bishops at the Lambeth Conference, sent by email to around 250 bishops in the Global South, and it was also made available online.
In reaffirming the resolution, the fellowship said it “upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union”, “believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, “rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture”, and “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same-gender unions”.
While the GSFA claimed to be committed to “listening to the experience of homosexual persons”, and called “on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”, it also advocated for LGBTQ+ people to receive “the pastoral care, moral direction of the church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships”.
The call also urged “all provinces [to] abide by this doctrine in their faith, order and practice”.
The GSFA has not announced when the results of the vote will be made public.
Archbishop compares ‘prejudice’ against those who oppose same-sex marriage to ‘segregation’
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and chair of the Lambeth Conference design group, gave a press conference following the bishops’ discussion on the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity.
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa is a member of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches.
Asked about how bishops who support Lambeth Resolution 1.10 are treated by those who are LGBTQ-inclusive, Makgoba said: “To me, prejudice is as painful as segregation, and [it] demeans the integrity of the other.”
He advised that anti-LGBTQ+ bishops who are seen as backwards should “confront the prejudice” and “stand their ground”.
Despite the debate over LGBTQ+ rights at the Lambeth Conference, many inclusive Anglican leaders still hold hope for the future.
In an open letter, leaders including the archbishops of Canada, Brazil and Wales said: “We recognise that many LGBT+ people have historically been wounded by the church and particularly hurt by the events of the last few weeks. We wish to affirm the holiness of their love wherever it is found in committed relationships.
“We therefore commit to working with our siblings across the communion to listen to their stories and understand their contexts, which vary greatly. However, we will never shy away from tackling discrimination and prejudice against those of differing sexualities and gender identities.
“Together, we will speak healing and hope to our broken world and look forward to the day when all may feel truly welcomed, valued and affirmed.”