I have arrived in Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference; it is great to be here. I have already met several bishops from different parts of the world. But even before the conference officially begins, there is controversy brewing.
You may have heard that the Lambeth Conference will discuss “calls” and not resolutions (resolutions that would in fact not be binding or have any authority or jurisdiction in the dioceses or provinces represented by the bishops at the conference). One of those calls in its initial form is about human dignity and unfortunately it seemed to quickly stray from human dignity as our diocese would understand it. Initially part of that call was asking bishops to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman. But that reference has been removed and the current revision reads:
“Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity. Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998). Many Provinces continue to affirm that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions” cannot be advised. Other Provinces have blessed and welcomed same sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception. As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.”
There is much more discussion to come on this and please understand that there will likely be more re-drafts.
Our diocese has been on the cutting edge of advancing progressive issues for decades and the position of the majority on the issue of marriage (between two individuals regardless of sexual orientation) in the Diocese of New Westminster is well known. I’ve also recently read a piece written by the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, where they’ve stated: “The members of the College of Bishops will seek to amend the draft call on Human Dignity urging a more inclusive approach and will work in respectful dialogue both with those colleagues across the Communion who would share the position adopted by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and with those who may differ.” To be very clear, I will be part of the group pushing for this more inclusive approach. The full inclusion of LGBTQ2SIA+ in every facet of the life of the Diocese of New Westminster is a core priority which has been evolving for decades. This priority is the result of decisions made by diocesan Synods over four decades and as the current bishop I honour and fully support those decisions and celebrate the diversity of our diocese.
I am also aware that news about this particular matter will affect many in our diocese, particularly those of you who are LGBTQ2SIA+. For some this will confirm your worst suspicions about the Anglican Communion. Continuing debate about your full humanity and your place in the Church takes a toll. Be assured that I, with other bishops across Canada and many around the world, have a vision, and an experience, of our Church that fully includes you. We will continue to advocate for your full inclusion in the life of our Church.
Every blessing to all of you and keep the Lambeth Conference in your prayers, as the theme is God’s Church for God’s World. May it be so.