Bishops will bring partners to Lambeth conference

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The wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed that she expects to host the male partners of Anglican bishops attending this year’s Lambeth conference.

It is thought around ten men, the spouses of female bishops, will be in Canterbury.

Jane Williams was speaking at the launch of the conference at the University of Kent.

She is organising the Spouses Conference, which runs in parallel with the meeting of primates and church leaders from across the globe.

During a question and answer session, she said she was expecting some “male spouses” to attend, reports Kent on Sunday.

“Some of you may think of the spouses’ conference as basically Jam and Jerusalem,” she said.

“More tea vicar or mitre-making and flower-arranging. There will certainly be food and singing in our programme, but there will also be a chance to meet some of the most interesting, committed and dynamic people in the Anglican Communion.

“Bishops’ spouses are as varied as the spouses of people in any other profession would be, but we do have some things in common: like our faith, and the pains and pleasures of living with and supporting a bishop.”

The Lambeth conference is held once a decade.

The 2008 gathering has been dominated by fights about the place of gay and lesbian people in the Anglican church.

The Global South group of Anglican church leaders decided last year that it will boycott the conference and hold their own meeting in Jerusalem in June.

As many as 120 bishops out of the 800 invited will not attend unless the American part of the Anglican church repudiates its current accepting attitude towards gay clergy and relationships.

However, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that 70% of bishops had already accepted invitations to attend.

The 14th Lambeth Conference will take place in Canterbury between 16th July and 4th August 2008.

Conservative and liberal branches of the worldwide Anglican communion have been at loggerheads over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions ever since Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was ordained as a bishop in the US in 2003.

A number of American Anglican congregations have decided to place themselves under the authority of bishops in Africa who are hostile to gay people in the church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury indicated in 2006 that he did not want to discuss human sexuality issues at the conference, emphasising training matters instead.

However at the launch event he said one day would be given over to discussions of gay issues.

“Gene Robinson has not been invited to the Lambeth conference and it is proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around, and that is where we are,” Archbishop Williams said.

“To those bishops who do not wish to attend, I recognise their absolute right to choose in good faith and in conscience whether or not they can be there.

“I shall be delighted to see more rather than fewer bishops there, that is their choice, but the door is open.”