Same-sex spouses not invited to Lambeth Conference

A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017.Reuters/Hannah McKay

The spouses of gay bishops are not being invited to attend a once-in-a-decade conference bringing together leaders from across the Anglican Communion.

There have been calls from Anglicans opposed to same-sex unions to boycott the Lambeth Conference because of differences over human sexuality. 

The gathering takes place in Canterbury, Kent, in 2020 and will be attended by bishops and their spouses from 27 Anglican provinces around the world. 

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said he wanted to clarify a 'misunderstanding' after orthodox Anglicans suggested the attendance of same-sex spouses at Lambeth 2020 was grounds to stay away from the event. 

Dr Idowu-Fearon said that although every active bishop had been invited, it would not be appropriate to invite same-sex spouses because of the Anglican Communion's official position on marriage. 

'I need to clarify a misunderstanding that has arisen. Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend,' he said.

'But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion's position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

'Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.

'The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies.' 

The clarification follows an appeal from chairman of the Lambeth 2020 planning group, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, for all bishops to attend regardless of their differences on sexuality.  

Makgoba, who is the Archbishop of Cape Town, said in a YouTube video that all voices needed to be heard at the conference.

'I know people talk about the fabric of the communion as torn, but we are all fallible human beings in need of God's love and grace, and we need each other,' he said. 

'Whether you agree with where the communion is, whether you don't agree, come and express your difference in this beautiful space which is a gift from God. Don't just stay at home and say "I'm not going".

'We want to hear that voice. It's not a conference of like-minded people; it is a conference of Anglicans. I mean, for God's sake, Anglicans, from our inceptions, we've always had push and pull. So push and pull should not be a distraction, but it should be celebrated.

'It's what I call at home, "celebrating the gift of difference". So I encourage all bishops and their spouses to make every possible effort to come and see what God is doing through us in his world.'

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, made a similar appeal in the past when he asked that bishops would pray for those they disagree with in the run-up to Lambeth 2020. 

'Pray for those you disagree with and resist the urge to be swayed by gossip and rumour. So when you hear something, don't necessarily believe it, turn to God and say 'if that's true, I pray for him or her'. But also, try and find out the truth.'

Bishops from the Anglican Churches of Nigeria and Uganda have both said they plan to boycott Lambeth 2020.