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…”
…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…
..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…