Anglican bishops to vote on officially banning same-sex marriage around the world

Anglican Lambeth Conference

The Anglican communion’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference begins on Tuesday (26 July) and, in 2022, bishops will discuss banning same-sex marriage.

The Lambeth Conference lasts for 12 days, brings together international Anglican churches, and is convened by the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. It allows the Anglican Church to pass resolutions and decide “the mind of the communion” on current issues.

But many in the Anglican community were left shocked and angry when it was revealed earlier this year that the conference would revive a 1990s “call” to categorically ban same-sex marriage within the church.

The draft call, an item which is to be discussed and voted on, brings back the notorious Lambeth Resolution I:10, initially passed in 1998 when bishops rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture”.

Attempting to reaffirm the church’s opposition to same-sex relationships, the 2022 Lambeth Call on Human Dignity reads: “It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible… the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions cannot be advised. It is the mind of the Communion to uphold faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union.”

The call received fierce backlash from clergy, Church of England members and activists across the UK.

Despite overwhelming support for LGBTQ+ inclusion among members and the fact that the Scottish Episcopal Church has embraced marriage equality, the Church of England does not perform same-sex marriages.

It also refuses to bless same-sex civil unions, and although LGBTQ+ clergy members are allowed to be in same-sex relationships, they are forced to remain celibate to retain their positions.

The Scottish Episcopal Church said in a statement that “the wording of that call does not represent the position of the Scottish Episcopal Church”, while the Church in Wales, which does not allow same-sex marriage but does allow “blessings” of same-sex unions, declared that the call “undermines and subverts” LGBTQ+ people.

In 2020, after three years, the Church of England finally published its long-awaited resources titled Living in Love and Faith on LGBTQ+ issues including “identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage”.

There had been hope that the resources might mark the first steps towards changes in church policy, but the Church of England insisted that further consultation would be needed, and finalised proposals are not expected until the 2023 General Synod.

Several of the Lambeth Conference call’s opponents insisted that it would make Living in Love and Faith essentially meaningless.

Gay evangelical and activist for religious inclusion of LGBTQ+ folk Jayne Ozanne joined a group of clergy and activists in sending an open letter to the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England.

The group urged them to vote against the call, and added: “We engaged hopefully in the Living in Love and Faith process on the basis of the repeated assurances that it is an open process without forgone conclusions.”

In a statement responding to the backlash, released on Monday (25 July), Bishop Tim Thornton, chair of the Lambeth Calls subgroup, said that “the drafting group for the call on human dignity will be making some revisions to the call”, but did not reveal any further details.

Bishops normally have two options when voting on a call – “This call speaks for me, I add my voice to it and commit myself to take the action I can to implement it” or, “This call requires further discernment, I commit my voice to the ongoing process.”

Welby added that in this case, bishops will have a third option: “This call does not speak for me. I do not add my voice to this call.”

The Lambeth Call on Human Dignity is set to be discussed by bishops at the conference on 2 August.