By Kirk Petersen
At least two Episcopal bishops are pushing back hard against the apparent intention of the upcoming Lambeth Conference to reaffirm a resolution from nearly a quarter century ago that they consider objectionable.
The 1998 Lambeth Conference passed Resolution I.10, which calls for “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.” On July 19, 2022, a week in advance of the start of the 2022 conference, organizers circulated a 58-page study guide to the attending bishops. The document cites the 1998 resolution on page 32 and declares: “It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible.”
That is very much not the mind of the Episcopal Church as a whole. The Episcopal Church (TEC) authorized same-sex marriage rites at its 2015 General Convention, subject to the approval of the local bishop. In 2018, the General Convention essentially eliminated the bishop veto. At the pandemic-delayed 2022 General Convention, there was virtually no conflict over human sexuality for the first time in decades.
Clearly, there will be conflict at Lambeth.
“You think it’s hot in London this week? Wait until next week in Canterbury,” said the Rt. Rev. John H. Taylor, Bishop of Los Angeles, in a Facebook post.
The Rt. Rev. Mark D.W. Edington, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, declared: “The tragedy is that there is actually a lot of good stuff in these papers, some of it really good, and some of the really good stuff is in (intentionally?) close proximity to some really, um, weird stuff.” He notes approvingly that the two previous paragraphs of the study guide acknowledge historical Anglican complicity in racism, and pledge to oppose “unjust economic systems.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement urging bishops to continue to reflect and pray on the study guide, and said it was “drafted by a diverse group of Anglicans – male and female, lay and ordained, from different generations and from every part of the Communion.” However, the document identifies 10 “lead authors,” all of whom are male.
The study guide includes discussions of 10 “Lambeth Calls,” the term unveiled in June to replace the traditional “resolutions,” because, as Welby said, “when the Lambeth Conference resolves something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.” The intent is to “call” on the entire Anglican Communion “to pray, and to think and reflect, and for each province to decide on its response” to the calls, which deal with subjects including “human dignity” (including sexuality), evangelism, the environment, and inter-faith relations. (Edington wrote that they range “the spectrum from apple pie to hand grenade.”)
Taylor and Edington both complained that the voting process does not include any way to register outright disapproval. “If we don’t vote yes, we can vote that a question needs more discernment,” Taylor wrote. “As of now, we won’t be able to stand up decisively for people’s God-given human rights and vote no.” Edington said it is “basically the choice between ‘yes’ and ‘yes, but not yet.'” He also compared the approval system to democratic centralism, the controlled voting process used by national legislatures in the former Soviet Union and Communist China.
The Lambeth Conference is intended to be a gathering of bishops from throughout the 41 autonomous provinces in the Anglican Communion, although two of the three largest provinces — Nigeria and Uganda — are boycotting the conference because of doctrinal differences over sexuality. The smaller Rwanda province also is boycotting for the same reason.
In addition to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, same-sex marriages or relationships are blessed in the provinces of Brazil, Scotland, Wales, and New Zealand. The issue threatens to split the Anglican Church of Australia. Most other provinces remain firmly opposed.