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President Jennings on the exclusion of same-sex spouses from the Lambeth Conference

President Jennings on the exclusion of same-sex spouses from the Lambeth Conference

President of the House of Deputies, The Rev. Gay Jennings delivered remarks today at the opening session of Executive Council. In those remarks she addressed the recently announced decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to exclude the spouses of bishops in a same-sex marriage from the Lambeth Conference.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is inviting some, but not all, spouses of bishops to the Lambeth Conference planned for 2020. The spouses he is not inviting are the ones who are the same sex as the bishops to whom they are married. We found this out when Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon wrote a blog post about it. The theme of this Lambeth Conference, by the way, is “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together.”

Now, because this is not my first Anglican rodeo, I would like to point out a few things. The first is a misconception about the Anglican Communion’s governance that Archbishop Idowu-Fearon promulgated in his blog post. He said that the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage is defined by a resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. But that is not how the Anglican Communion works. The Anglican Communion has four “Instruments of Communion:” the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council.

The ACC, as it is known, met for the first time in 1971. It is the only one of the Instruments of Communion that includes laypeople and clergy, and it is the only Instrument of Communion that is a registered charity under British law. As such, it is the corporate entity of the Anglican Communion.

The Lambeth Conference does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion, and the Primates’ Meeting does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion. That’s the job of the Anglican Consultative Council.

So, the situation in which we find ourselves is peculiar. The Archbishop of Canterbury is citing a resolution that does not set policy for the Anglican Communion as a reason to exclude same-sex spouses from Lambeth. That same resolution defines marriage as a “lifelong union.” However, the opposite-sex spouses of bishops who have been divorced and remarried have been invited to Lambeth. We are left to conclude that excluding same-sex spouses is a selective decision—perhaps even an arbitrary one.

Now, thanks to the intrepid reporting of Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service, we know that precisely two spouses are currently excluded from Lambeth. One is the wife of Bishop Mary Glasspool of the Diocese of New York, and the other is the husband of Bishop Kevin Robertson of the Diocese of Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada. A third, the husband of Bishop-elect Thomas Brown of Maine—also known, for a few more months, as Deputy Brown—will be excluded assuming that the consent process to that election is successful.

In short, the universe of people directly affected by this situation is small. Very small. The Archbishop of Canterbury had already written to Bishop Glasspool and her wife and spoken directly to Bishop Robertson. And yet, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon wrote a blog post about it titled “The global excitement about the Lambeth Conference.” We are left to ponder why it was important for the Anglican Communion Office to make this situation very, very public nearly 18 months in advance.

One other thing: When Bishop Robertson and his husband were married late last year, after nine years together, we learned from media reports that they are the parents of two little children. I cannot overlook the fact that the Anglican Communion Office has created a public situation in which two children are learning that the hierarchy of the church considers their family to be a source of shame and worthy of exclusion. That makes me very angry. When little children are collateral damage, that is not the way of love.

Emphasis added. Read it all.


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Bonnie Anderson

Thank you, President Jennings. I am reminded of the 2008 Lambeth where Bishop Robinson was singularly excluded. I am grateful for progress that has been made, but exclusion of spouses of gay bishops is still discriminatory, and very hurtful.
I pray that the theology of marriage will be explored deeply at the Lambeth conference. In his open letter to the LBGT community Bishop Gene Robinson (10/9/07) wrote, “What happens in a wedding is that the COMMUNITY is drawn into the relationship-the vows are taken in the presence of that community and the community pledges itself to support the couple in the keeping of their vows. It is, by its very nature, a “public” event – no matter how many or how few people are in attendance”. We continue to be called to speak the truth in love.

Belle Mears

What has the Anglican Consuultative Council said? I am interested to hear what Bishop Curry’s response is. As for me, I believe it is rude and wrong to exclude spouses who would like to attend when it appears that their exclusion is petty and makes nothing better. If someone is “offended” let them abstain from attending. I also agree that this is a very poor example indeed for Bishop Robertson’s children. Sad really.

One love.

Rod Gillis

The Rev. Gay Jennings is correct in her observations about the ‘instruments of Communion’. Concise clarity, and easy to fact check. Anyone interested in the facts may consult the constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council via the link below. NB: You’ve got to read the whole thing. The reward for doing so is a debunking the spin and misdirection about the ACC.

John Agel

Sex! Sex sizzles the media!
Sex being abused as the last obstacle for the powerful to surrender to the gospel, and the work of sacrifice and diminishment of the mitred and coped egos of Bishops in order to be disciples. Such shameful and childish behavior, and cowardice of the Archbishop of Canterbury. No, I do not mix words. Again and again the Archbishop of Canterbury is being manipulated to create suffering among the innocent, all in order to stave off the inevitable division of the Southern one from the Anglican communion.

Henry Galganowicz

I think the act of solidarity would be for all the American bishops to boycott altogether.

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