By Kirk Petersen

More than 500 bishops have registered for next summer’s Lambeth Conference, a gathering every 10 years or so to which all active bishops in the global Anglican Communion are invited, the Anglican Communion has announced.

The press release shows support for Lambeth in the wake of high-profile boycotts announced by some theologically conservative bishops, who object to same-sex marriage and other stances taken by the Anglican Communion.

GAFCON – the Global Anglican Future Conference – plans a separate meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 8-14, 2020. That’s a few weeks before Lambeth, which will run July 23 through August 2 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

On June 21 of this year, an international group of 10 bishops led by the Rt. Rev. George Sumner, Bishop of Dallas, issued an appeal for civility, telling both sides: “While all are free to offer their views, harsh disagreement ought not to be the dominant note the world hears from us.” Sumner is a member of the Living Church Foundation.

News reports have said that the primates of Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda will boycott Lambeth. Collectively, those three provinces represent more than a third of the global membership of the communion. Also boycotting are the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), who rejected an invitation to attend as observers along with the representatives of other denominations such as Catholics and Methodists.

ACNA has long contended that it should be considered a province of the Anglican Communion. Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon recently reiterated his pointed declaration that ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury and thus is not part of the Anglican Communion.

ACNA’s website carefully states: “On April 16, 2009 [ACNA] was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion, by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans,” a precursor to GAFCON.

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, faced fierce criticism earlier this year when he announced that the spouses of bishops in same-sex relationships would not be invited to Lambeth, while all other bishops’ spouses would. The decision did not buy him any goodwill with the GAFCON side, which is more concerned about the presence of the gay bishops themselves.

The Anglican Communion’s press release is here. The reference to “over a thousand registrations” includes 566 bishops and 435 spouses.