Thinking Anglicans

Episcopal House of Bishops considers Lambeth 2020 exclusions

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church recently met, and one of the topics discussed was the exclusion of same-sex spouses from the invitations to attend the Lambeth Conference next year. That was reported on here in detail in earlier articles, starting here, and continuing here, then here, and also here, and finally here.

Following this week’s meeting this message was issued:

A Message of Love and Solidarity from the Bishops and Spouses to The Episcopal Church
For many bishops and bishops’ spouses of The Episcopal Church, next summer’s Lambeth Conference has become the occasion for a mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment. We cherish the bonds of affection that we enjoy with our Anglican siblings around the world. Gathering in prayer, study, and fellowship with our spiritual family is a gift for which we are profoundly grateful.

We, bishops and spouses choose to remain in community with each other as we navigate this passage in our common journey. We choose to remain one in the love of Jesus.

Our hearts are, however, troubled. The Lambeth Conference 2020 intentionally recognizes and underscores the important role bishops’ spouses play in the ministry of the episcopate. And yet, spouses of bishops in same-gender marriages have received no invitation to participate. Their exclusion wounds those who are excluded, their spouses, and their friends within and beyond the House of Bishops.

After faithful soul-searching, each bishop and spouse will arrive at a decision about how best to respond in the name of Christ. Some will attend and offer loving witness. Some will opt to stay at home as a different way to offer loving witness. Some will dedicate the resources not spent for Lambeth attendance to on-the-ground partnership projects as an alternative manifestation of our commitment to the Anglican Communion.  Others will find different avenues to express the unwavering love of Jesus Christ.

The community of bishops and spouses supports and stands together in solidarity with each of our brothers and sisters in this Episcopal Church as they make these decisions according to their conscience and through prayerful discernment and invite the siblings of The Episcopal Church to join us in that solidarity.

More information about how this statement came about is contained in several news stories about the meeting:
House of Bishops opens fall meeting with discussions of same-sex spouse exclusion from Lambeth 2020

…Curry alluded in his sermon to the variety of responses that Episcopal bishops are considering.

“We are going to Lambeth, but some of us can’t and some of us won’t. We’ll each have to make a decision of conscience, and that decision of conscience must be respected,” Curry said, adding that he will attend. “I’m going as a witness to the way of love that Jesus has taught me…”

Bishops step up preparations for Lambeth Conference amid anxiety over spousal invitations

…Should Episcopal bishops skip the conference in protest? Should they go and make their objections clear while in England? Should the spouses who were invited take their own principled stands, and what would that look like? Should the House of Bishops agree on a unified response to what some see as an injustice?

Such questions were to be raised during an afternoon session Sept. 19 in which the spouses accompanied the bishops. That session was closed to reporters, to allow for open and honest conversations, but earlier in the day, Episcopal News Service was able to sit in on the smaller group discussion and listen to about 15 of the bishops share their thoughts, sometimes conflicted, on the best paths forward.

Glasspool opened the discussion with a pragmatic approach.

“Let’s prepare ourselves as best we can, whether we’re making our witness at home or in England,” Glasspool said. She plans to travel to England with her wife, Becki Sander, even if Sander won’t be able to attend official Lambeth gatherings.

Glasspool also cautioned her fellow bishops not to let this one issue dominate discussions at Lambeth, especially if doing so might provoke a conservative reaction, such as a new statement opposing same-sex marriage.

“If you take away all the fear and all my anxiety and all everybody else’s anxiety and ratchet it down, it’s a two-week conference. … My hope for us is that we can prepare as best we can, that we don’t go in blind,” she said…

House of Bishops’ fall meeting grapples with range of issues, from reconciliation to innovation.

..Same-sex marriage also figured into the bishops’ discussions of the upcoming Lambeth Conference 2020, a gathering in England of all active bishops in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby chose to invite openly gay and lesbian bishops but not their spouses, so part of the Episcopal bishops’ planning has involved deciding how to respond to that exclusion.

Welby’s decision is expected to affect at least three Episcopal bishops with same-sex spouses: New York Bishop Assistant Mary Glasspool, Maine Bishop Thomas Brown and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, who will be consecrated bishop of Michigan in February. All three attended the House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis with their spouses.

Brown told Episcopal News Service on the first day of the meeting that he and his husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin, were still deliberating over whether to go to England for the Lambeth Conference.

“We continue to be in prayer as a family, along with other bishops in the world … who have reached out arms of support and encouragement,” Brown said…

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Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The whole thing is completely surreal. Imagine that you are holding a dinner party. You suspect that one of your friends disapproves of what he charmingly calls miscegnation. You have other friends, good friends, in loving marriages which cross “race” “boundaries” (you can assume that those quotation marks are accompanied by eye-rolling and heavy sighs). Do you phone them up and say that they are invited, but you would like them to leave their (for the sake of argument) black spouses at home for fear of offending your racist friend? Well, you could. But most people would call you a… Read more »

John Scrivener
Guest
John Scrivener

Though there is this difference: in your example the racist achieves his aim of an all-white party, but in the present case the ‘bigots’ don’t achieve an exclusively heterosexual gathering.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Well, they achieve the result of being able to pretend the same-sex marriages don’t exist.

John Scrivener
Guest
John Scrivener

They can try! What I don’t understand is why one would be willing to sit and deliberate with someone who is in a same-sex marriage, while being incensed that that the other partner to the marriage is in one geographical location rather than another – it seems to be straining at a gnat having swallowed a camel.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“that is where Welby finds himself: asking people to leave their spouses at home to avoid offending bigots” It’s the equivalent of the politician’s tactic ‘Many people are saying… ‘ followed by something they believe but don’t want to say because it will look bad. Blame-avoiding sophistry. It’s a hopeless tactic, nobody’s fooled, the lie is transparent: look at who he doesn’t wish to offend and who he is willing to sacrifice. If anybody still needed confirmation, he’s not on the side of LGBT people. If only he’d own it and stop hiding behind bigots’ ‘tender consciences’ ‘unity’ and other… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

You absolutely nailed it. Thank you.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The Archbishop of Canterbury is an instrument of oppression.

david runcorn
Guest
david runcorn

The other possibility – and one that I think is altogether more gospel – is that he is faithfully trying to lead a deeply unreconciled and conflicted church – and needs our prayers.

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Indeed I think it more than likely that both are the case.

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

I’m sure it’s both, too. However, only an administrator would believe that inviting gay married bishops but not their spouses is some sort of reasonable compromise. It’s emotionally tone-deaf. And, of course, it doesn’t appease the bigots who are unhappy that any openly gay bishops are invited. What he’s doing is oppressive, because the gay married bishops symbolize the health, well being, and acceptance of all LGBTQ+ people in the church. So the rejection of the spouses is hurtful to many, many people. If he thought “it only affects 3 people,” then he was pretty horribly wrong. But it is… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

You are right Mr Runcorn. Mt Welby is caught between people who hate each other. Would it not have been preferable if Mr Welby had banned all homophobic bishops to enable the same-sex spouses to attend?

david runcorn
Guest
david runcorn

FrDavidH I used the language of reconciling and prayer. Your suggestion he should simply choose which side he should label and choose to hate suggests you have missed my point.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Why not invite everyone and let the excluders exclude themselves?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Indeed. Welby had a variety of options once GAFCON got nasty. He could simply, as you say, invited everyone and let the bigots exclude themselves if they wished. He could have invited no spouses. He could have withdrawn the invitations from everyone that raised objections (the strong-arm version of the first option). He could, in fact, have done almost anything and done better than what he did, which was to negotiate with blackmailers who will never settle for anything he can offer. The only thing that GAFCON would be happy with would be the exclusion not only of bishops in… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I am sorry but that doesn’t wash, David. He isn’t some stumbling junior: he is the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Gospels contain many stories of would-be exclusion but time after time Jesus spoke up for inclusivity. Justin should know that and should be very clear that, even if same sex marriage isn’t Biblical, even so same sex spouses should still be invited.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

That framing is entirely wrong. The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is a family of independent churches. The Archbishop leads one of them.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

How easy is it for the CEO of the Anglican Communion to administratively say who can come to the Lambeth Conference, and who are refused entry.. As a Christian to me it is a disgrace that partners are not invited. In our household either both of us are invited, or none. People recognise we are a couple, and are concerned if one of us is missing. The Anglican Communion is a family, and any meetings of that family should include all members of that family, without exception. The bigots can shout as much as they like, but the witness of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The attempt by the ABC to appease the GAFCON Bishops hasn’t worked anyway – some of them (at least) will NOT be going to Lambeth. Therefore, why doesn’t the ABC admit he has made a mistake and now invite the S/S spouses of Bishops? It would help the situation for a category of bishops who actually still want to be part of the Anglican Communion in common with other participants.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Justin cannot do that because as well as being the Instrument of Communion he is also the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England doesn’t recognise same sex marriage and he is wanting to keep the lid on that pressure cooker until after Lambeth 2020.

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

A better alternative would be not to invite anyone involved in a same sex marriage.

Kate
Guest
Kate

No, that is not an option for Justin either as the optics would be devastatingly bad and the chances are high that the University would cancel the booking.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

The university would have to cancel the booking. A university which engaged in openly homophobic commercial activity would face, within weeks, the mass resignation by its external examiners. The main reason you act as an external is for the career-enhancing prestige, so the moment it stops being something you are proud to tell your colleagues about, you stop. It certainly isn’t the money or the luxury living, and unlike staff or students you can resign at almost any time without serious consequences: it’s not as though there aren’t plenty of other places that you can go to instead. Recruiting externals… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

There are two separate and distinct issues: (1) the scope of the Archbishop’s invitation, and (2) the stance to be taken by Kent University. In relation to the latter, I don’t profess to know the present position, but it is worth noting that following the issue being raised by the University itself in February this year, TA carried this report of a subsequent meeting of the University’s Council on 22nd March: “Council members were clear that exclusion of same sex spouses, on grounds of orientation, would be contrary to the values of the University. Council determined that the University shall… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Rowland, we were discussing why Paul W’s proposal (“not to invite anyone involved in a same sex marriage”) was impractical, not the current delicate compromise. When you say “It’s stating the obvious that the University cannot dictate terms to the Archbishop as to whom he may or may not invite” I disagree. If a customer of your conference facilities holds a large conference whose policy is “otherwise qualified prospective delegates who are in same-sex marriages are not welcome, by sole virtue of their marriage” then the optics would be absolutely appalling. A university which wanted to be taken seriously would… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

As I clearly said, there are two separate and distinct issues. My response was directed to the position of the University, merely making the observation at the same time that any change in the archbishop’s invitation must be on the archbishop’s initiative (the point made below by Fr Ron Smith). It seemed to me that the University (with which I have no connection) was being unfairly criticised.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

There is also the issue that the University accepted the booking for the conference, but the Anglican Communion seems not to have had the courtesy to inform them in advance that they would be excluding some people because of their gay relationships. This information was provided *after* the booking and commitment had already been made, causing loss of reputation and staff/student protest. Your racial parallel is well made, IO. If ‘Britain First’ decided to hold a conference and only ‘white’ people were allowed to attend it, for the University to try to cover themselves by saying, ‘We don’t mind black… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think the University might come to regret not cancelling the booking. At the moment they hope they have finessed the question of invitations by offering accommodation to excluded spouses. If, however, Lambeth 2020 passes a resolution against same sex marriage, the University’s exposure increases substantially.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I suspect that thirty years ago, or whenever it was that the relationship between Kent and the Lambeth Conference first arose, it looked pretty low risk. More tea, vicar? So repeat bookings probably went through without anyone going to the vice chancellor, senate or equivalent and saying “hey guys, upside, a block booking and a bit of media coverage, possible downside, a wildly controversial event which has the possibility to attract international opprobrium”. Because if that were actually said, most universities would say “OK, why don’t we market our spare accommodation to holidaymakers who want a cheap room with drawing-pin… Read more »

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

It strikes me that the whole thing is a bit of a curate’s egg: I suppose it is a slight step forward that the [openly] gay and lesbian bishops themselves are invited; but at least half a step back in the non-invitation of their spouses. It’s a bit of a backhanded compliment that recognizes their marital status while also trying to deny it. In the end it pleases no one very much, which some see as proof of being truly moderate, but others see as luke-warm at best. I would urge all offended affirming bishops to attend, however, as their… Read more »

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

The whole point of the Curate’s Egg joke is that you cannot have a partly bad egg.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Indeed, John, the idiom has become hopelessly muddled. In the original anecdote, the junior cleric is attempting to avoid telling the bishop that he has served a rotten egg. Similarly, a popular excuse for bad things in an organisation has become “it’s just a few bad apples” (a particularly popular apologetic for child abuse incidents in organised churches). When the whole point of the metaphor is that it only takes a few bad apples to contaminate the whole barrel and make them all rotten; it is important to find and remove the bad apples, rather than just assume they are… Read more »

Rev Peter Milligan
Guest
Rev Peter Milligan

Language does indeed matter, IO, but usage trumps origin. This is particularly true for sayings based on obsolete occurrences or practices.
Fresh eggs are now available all year round, so rotten eggs are rare and the Curate’s egg joke gets a new interpretation. Likewise, when we buy our apples from supermarkets, we don’t know the effect that just one rotten apple can have on the whole barrel.
In the end usage always overrides origin because language matters now.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Exactly so, which is why it applies in this case. Welby’s decision is the worst possible one out of the many options he had at his disposal (including doing nothing; see some of the comments above), but the communion as a whole is in the position of the curate in having to accept it. I imagine my facetious tone didn’t come through sufficiently to make that clear. His administrative decision is one which no one finds acceptable.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Tobias, you are right! If TEC Bishops withhold their attendance from Lambeth 2020 because of their opposition to the ABC’s reluctance to invite S/S spouses of invited bishops; then GAFCON will have scored a significant point. What is need is a ‘Unity in Diversity’ Lambeth Conference, where Love wins over Hatred and Suspicion. We all need to remember that Archbishops of Canterbury come and go but global Anglican Unity in Diversity prevails (under God).

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I’m not so sure. It’s when US and Canadian bishops decline to attend that even a Tory government might sit up and take notice.
And yes, questions in Parliament must be asked. Many and often.

david runcorn
Guest
david runcorn

Thank you for your reflections on this Tobias Haller (using what I think is now the more common understanding of the ‘curate’s egg’). You articulate the convictions that have led me to accept the invitation to attend Lambeth as an episcopal spouse.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

The hermeneutics of curate’s eggs aside, thank you David. This is really the only way to ensure that “parts of” Lambeth can be good even if the whole thing is essentially spoiled. Forming a salon des refusés on either side simply allows that side to claim, eventually, “Well, that wasn’t a REAL Lambeth Conference.” People need to understand that abstention rarely makes a statement unless it is so widespread that the entity can no longer function.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Isn’t it now the right moment to call time on the Anglican Communion which is an entity well past its sell-by date. In the days of the British Empire the concept had a role and a purpose but now, like the Labour and Conservative Parties of the U.K. the whole thing is riven with strife and enmity. Let’s cancel the 2020 Lambeth Conference and save ourselves a shed-load of money which would otherwise be completely wasted. Alternatively, why not “dis-invite” all spouses of whatever sexuality or gender.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I think the ACO created a formal spouses’ program in order to increase the turnout of bishops by creating family pressure to atttend.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I would offer two further points on this topic, which have admittedly been aired before. 1. Setting aside the Anglican Communion, the act of accommodating a function that discriminates is deeply compromising to the University, and quite a slap in the face to all LGBT students and staff (and their allies) who work there. The location of the conference is significant, because here in the UK there is no secular betwixt and between: discrimination is unlawful. Yes, there may be religious exemptions, but the University is not a religion and should not even countenance collaborating with organisations and events that… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Susannah: Please see my response to Interested Observer where making a similar point above. I’m not sure whether you or I (or, indeed, Interested Observer) have got this wrong – if it is I, apologies in advance to you and to Interested Observer. Unless events have been overtaken and the University hasn’t taken the promised action (I freely admit I don’t know) isn’t it unfair to criticise them?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

The current position is that the conference booking stands, but the university has said it will make accommodation available to any spouse who wishes to attended, invited or not. That was enough to stave off immediately action at the university’s council. However, there is significant rumbling amongst the alumni (I am not one such, but I know quite a few people who are) and their staff (ditto). The student body, or more particularly the sabatical officers of the union, changes year to year, and the response of the student body this year may be different to last. These days, campuses… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I’m relieved to hear that the university honoured its pledge. I don’t think I should say any more on the subject.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Thank you for your comments, Rowland. I have covered my response to your points in the parallel thread higher up this page. With regard to the Archbishop’s position, I engaged in correspondence with Lambeth Palace in March, and this is part of an email I received from Dominic Goodall, writing on behalf of the Archbishop: “The Archbishop is under no illusions about the diverse range of opinions on human sexuality that are held throughout the entire Anglican Communion, nor about how strongly those opinions are held and the challenge this debate poses. Archbishop Justin took the decision to be open… Read more »

Gerald Beauchamp
Guest
Gerald Beauchamp

So, last Sunday I had a conversation with one of the younger members of our Sunday School. ‘I went to a wedding yesterday’ she said brightly. ‘How lovely’ I replied. (At this point my patriarchal reconstruction deserted me.) ‘And the bride’s dress, was it pretty?’ She gave me the quizzical and weary look that the young reserve for the old. ‘It was two men’ she said. I learned later that one of the partners was a Muslim. Family came from all over the world; some from conservative cultures. On the principle that blood is thicker than water apparently a good… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Excellent point about children. I feel the same way about Sunday services which shunt children off to Sunday School. The inclusion of children – disruption and all – is very important.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

This whole business puzzles me. I’m sure someone will correct me if necessary, but if same sex partners are excluded, about which Himself said nothing, why are divorced partners allowed (I assume they are), despite Himself being clear on that issue? Or bishops who turned a blind eye to child molesters? Or usurers (all of us, so, who hope for a pension). I could go on. And then there’s polygamy … But I’m a bear of little brain who has always hated conferences. Not even the fun of betting on which toady will ingratiate her/himself first, and other such wholesome… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

There is now only one person who can – in an instant – remove this dilemma from the prospect of the Anglican Communion’s bishops and spouses from meeting at Lambeth 2020! The Archbishop of Canterbury (++Justin Welby) could, by dint of a Tweet, an email, or a phone message to the few people concerned; admit he had made a mistake and that he would now welcome them to attend Lambeth 2020. This would please those who want to remain in communion with Canterbury, and will make not one bit of difference to those who don’t. Simple, really!

Kate
Guest
Kate

He could but this is an Archbishop not overburdened with humility so I don’t think he will.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Although Justin banned gay and lesbian spouses in his capacity of organising the Lambeth Conference, that cannot be dislocated from the context of England, or from his position and duties as Archbishop of Canterbury in the Established and national Church. This all has repercussions beyond Justin himself, or the Lambeth Conference itself, in the Nation and the Church’s relationship with the Nation. The conference – run by an English charity – is being overseen by an English primate, at an English University. Part of being an Established Church is that we live in tension and contract with the UK establishment,… Read more »

ACI
Guest
ACI

All very good reasons to alter the complexion of the Anglican Communion, away from the exigencies of an established church context.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Well… the ‘Anglican Communion’ as an overall entity is not established. It is the Church of England that has existed as an Established Church.

Are you saying that the Communion as a whole should ‘dislocate’ in some way from the Church of England, since it is Established, or that the Church of England should ‘dislocate’ from establishment as well?

Personally I support the principle of a national church, in England at least.

ACI
Guest
ACI

You are the one indicating what you judge is a dilemma, given established church realities you embrace.

So either option you mention is possible, for others in an Anglican Communion vastly larger than the CofE, which further, throughout the Provinces, has no established church polity and would not seek to defend or embrace one.

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

What would happen if two bishops were in a same sex marriage?