Archbishop of Canterbury faces backlash for barring gay spouses from Lambeth Conference

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at St George's Chapel, Windsor, ahead of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 18, 2018 in Windsor, England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is facing a backlash after opting to ban the same-sex spouses of Anglican bishops from an upcoming summit.

It was announced on February 15 that Welby had barred same-sex spouses from attending the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of global Anglican church leaders that is set to go ahead in 2020.

The decision to bar same-sex spouses appears intended to quell dissent from anti-LGBT church leaders within the Anglican Communion, which faces an increasingly fractious split between LGBT-inclusive and anti-LGBT churches around the world.

Archbishop of Canterbury told ban on gay spouses ‘brings shame on Church’

However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is facing sustained criticism for the decision, after his representatives claimed it “would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited.”

Condemning the Archbishop’s stance, Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes said he would leave his wife at home in solidarity with gay bishops.

The Bishop, a strong supporter of LGBT+ rights, said: “I deeply regret that in the fractious complexities of our life as a worldwide people this act of exclusion has taken its place.

“It is a grief to me and to my wife, and to many others. Despite this I aim to attend the Conference, alone, in the hope of a common future.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers a speech at the annual Lord Mayor's banquet on November 13, 2017 in London, England.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers a speech at the annual Lord Mayor’s banquet on November 13, 2017 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Gay Labour MP Wes Streeting slammed Welby for the decision, tweeting: “I’m not sure how you plan to address ‘hurts and concerns’ by inflicting them, @JustinWelby?

“Deliberately excluding same-sex couples in this way brings shame on our Church – and on you.”

He was joined by fellow out Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who branded the decision “wholly retrograde and unacceptable.”

In a tweet to Welby, Bradshaw wrote: “How can you hope to move forward with an attitude like this?”

Welby has not responded to the criticism of the decision to bar gay spouses from the £4,950-a-head event.

The summit is due to be held at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus in July 2020.

Neither the University of Kent nor the Archbishop of Canterbury returned a request for comment.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned gay bishops to leave spouses at home

The official website for the conference states: “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is sending personal invitations to every eligible bishop and spouse (excluding same-sex spouses) and is looking forward immensely to hosting them.”

Ironically, it adds that spouses are invited “in recognition of the vital role spouses play across the Anglican Communion and a desire to support them in their ministry.”

Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, claimed in a blog post that the decision was made “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.”

He added: “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.”

In a bid to keep the Anglican Communion together, in 2016 Welby handed a ‘punishment’ to the US Episcopal Church for embracing same-sex unions.

The Scottish Episcopal Chuch also faced action over its embrace of equal marriage in 2017.

In a 2017 interview with GQ, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned that divides on LGBT issues were “irreconcilable” and admitted he had handled the issue poorly.