Bishops to Abstain from Eucharist in Protest Over Sexuality

South Sudan Archbishop Justin Badi, left, and Indian Ocean Archbishop James Wong speak July 29 at a news conference organized by the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches | Photo: David Paulsen, ENS

By Mark Michael

Archbishop Justin Badi Arama of South Sudan announced at a July 29 press conference that traditionalist bishops would refrain from receiving the Eucharist at the Lambeth Conference’s opening and closing services in Canterbury Cathedral.

This action is “the start of a number of ‘visual differentials’” marking the Anglican Communion’s divisions over human sexuality, he said.

Badi, chairman of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), said Global South bishops plan to introduce a resolution reaffirming Lambeth Resolution I.10, which condemns homosexual practice and same-sex marriage, during the August 1 plenary session on the Life of the Communion. This decision comes, Badi said, “after extensive requests to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a stand-alone resolution and [after] the inserted reference to Lambeth I.10 was withdrawn on [July 26] from the ‘Human Dignity’ Call.”

Conference organizers, Badi said, have failed to recognize the 1998 resolution’s true significance, that it “is not just about sex and marriage, but fundamentally about the authority of the Bible, which Anglicans believe to be central to faith and order.” He added later, “Lambeth I.10, which was approved by the bishops, and which is crucial, is now being hidden.”

“For too long the Anglican Communion has been driven by the views of the West,” Badi said. “We often feel that our voice is not listened to, or respected. … Today in Canterbury, we may be ‘gathered together,’ but we most certainly cannot ‘walk together until provinces which have gone against Scripture — and the will of the consensus of the bishops — repent and return to orthodoxy. The Communion is not in a healthy condition at present, and only major surgery will put that right.”

“We have absolutely no intention of being a breakaway group from the Anglican Communion,” said Archbishop James Wong, Primate of the Indian Ocean, who joined Badi at the press conference. “We in the GSFA see ourselves to be a holy remnant that God has preserved in the Anglican Communion.”

Bishop Tim Thornton

Just over an hour earlier, at the conference’s opening press conference, Bishop Tim Thornton, chairman of the Lambeth Calls Subgroup and retired Bishop at Lambeth, apologized repeatedly for a lack of clarity about the release and revision to the Human Dignity Call. Thornton said the calls were subject to more revision during the conference.

‘We Are Not One’

Badi said bishops from the Global South will attend the conference’s July 31 opening Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral, but “all orthodox bishops will be encouraged to remain in their seats” instead of receiving Holy Communion “alongside gay-partnered bishops and those who endorse same-sex unions in the Church’s faith and order.”

“Sacrament is central. It is spiritual, and our communion together is based on our spirituality,” Badi said. “So [it is] a polite way of telling our brothers that something has gone wrong — we have to abstain ourselves. The liturgy clearly says that ‘you who sincerely repent of your sins and intend to lead a new life’ come forward. And later the priest says, ‘Though we are many, we are one’ — whereas we are not one, because we are divided in our thinking.

“So, we thought we remain behind because our brothers have not repented, and we also have been telling them, ‘You are wrong.’ We also have not repented. So until repentance happens [we cannot do this].”

Wong added that the Global South primates will meet with their bishops to determine where they will be seated in the cathedral and what will happen during the service.

Renewing Faith and Order

Badi said the GSFA plans to place before the gathered bishops a resolution reaffirming Lambeth I.10 as the Anglican Communion’s “official teaching” on marriage and sexuality on August 1. Bishops will have the opportunity to affirm their support of the resolution. They will then present a signed copy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, inviting him to add his signature.

When asked how many bishops he expected to sign the document, Badi pointed first to the Lambeth Conference’s unbalanced representation. “The orthodox bishops — lots of them are discouraged and few of them have come. You must understand that 75 percent of Anglicans are within the Global South. Though only a few may be here, they represent the 75 percent. Those — like America, they represent 3 percent only — you may find them here in their hundreds. The orthodox bishops seem to be few. … I have not taken a clear statistic, but it could be over 200.”

He added, “We invite each primate and bishop to sign up to our resolution and then, with the majority of the Communion in favor, for the Instruments of the Anglican Communion to find ways to put faith and order back at the heart of what the Archbishop of Canterbury describes as ‘walking together.’”

Badi said such a renewal of faith and order should take the form of “sanctions on provinces which ordain bishops in same-sex relations and conduct same-sex weddings — something which has led to schism in the church.” He also pointed to the Covenantal Structure, the Cairo Covenant released by the GSFA in 2019 as a series of commitments “that enhances ecclesial responsibility across member provinces.”

“At this conference,” Wong said, “we are being asked to look at the needs of our broken world, and to offer hope. But we cannot mend a broken world when the Anglican Communion is so broken and fractured. All provinces must remember that they are part of one body, and one Communion. Unfortunately, some provinces put emphasis on being autonomous, and forget the necessity of being interdependent.”

‘No Legal Authority of Any Kind’

The Global South bishops’ exhortation to deeper interdependence and the articulation of “official teaching” contrasted sharply with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s remarks at the gathering’s opening press conference. Since the Lambeth Conference’s beginnings, he said, some bishops have been concerned that it would “turn into a synod and take authority away from the churches.” The conference, he added, “is not a synod, has no legal authority of any kind over any province under any circumstances, ever.”

“In other words, the conference has moral suasion — in a sense. But it cannot tell anyone what they must do, and there has never been a significant move towards being able to do that,” Welby added.

Asked about the Global South bishops’ decision to abstain from receiving Holy Communion, Welby said, “The Anglican Communion is a family, and families work through their difficulties, and they don’t sort them out in one family meeting very often. And we know the issue of the ordination of women took several Lambeth Conferences to work through, as did the issue of contraception back before the Second World War. … I think the key thing in the Call on Human Dignity is, after quoting Lambeth I.10 1998, which is still, of course, very much part of the life of the Anglican Communion — it has not been, as some have said, rescinded or taken out — it is still very much there.

“The key phrase is that ‘We are committed to listening and walking together to the maximum degree possible despite our deep disagreement.’ We’re trying to be honest. There’s deep disagreement, but we’re going to be walking together to the maximum possible degree, and that will be determined by each province and diocese.”

‘The Conference Will Respond’

Bishop Tim Thornton also handled several questions about the release of the Lambeth Calls texts on July 19 and the revision of the Call on Human Dignity on July 26 during the opening press conference.

Asked about the authorship of specific texts and which voices had shaped the revision, Thornton said only that the calls had been the work of drafting groups (Archbishop Howard Gregory, Primate of the West Indies, was identified as the lead author of the Human Dignity Call in the initial study guide). At their press conference, the GSFA leaders denied that they had any role in shaping the initial version of the Call.

Thornton asserted that even though many bishops claimed to be confused, the Lambeth Calls steps had unfolded as planned.

“We sent out the draft calls to allow the bishops to say what they actually think of the calls before they gather here. It was always our intention that we would hear that response and then we would respond to that response before the conference happened, and as we have done, many of the calls we would then push out a new version of the calls, and that would happen throughout the conference. The conference is the governing body, if you like. The conference are the people who will decide how the calls are shaped, eventually.”

“Part of my role here is to constantly be listening to what the bishops are saying, and to respond appropriately to what that is,” he said.

“There is a process going on, the conference will respond,” Thornton said. “We have not yet gotten to the bottom of this story.”

Archbishop Badi’s spokesman has clarified: “the ‘we have not repented’ was a misspeak in an answer. But Archbishop Badi and GSFA [are] clear: the revisionist bishops need to repent, and the GSFA will be calling for sanctions.”

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