The Lambeth Conference: Homophobic by Design

Next week the long delayed Lambeth Conference gets underway. The conference is the gathering of bishops from around the Anglican Communion which used to take place every 10 years.

The conference hasn’t taken place for 14 years and was delayed by Covid and also because relationships within the Anglican Communion were so difficult that it has taken years of careful diplomacy from the Archbishop of Canterbury to get to this point, where there seems to be a viable quorum of bishops who would actually attend.

Famously, the last two Lambeth Conferences have been dominated by questions about the legitimacy of same-sex couples.

And yes, of course this is ridiculous. And no, it being ridiculous doesn’t stop it from being true.

The touchstone of this argument is a resolution which was agreed by the bishops at the 1998 conference. The resolution is referred to as Lambeth 1.10. It says some platitudinous things about people who are described as having “homosexual orientation”  but also simutaneously condemns same-sex relationships as being incompatable with Scripture.

An enormous amount of work has been done to try to get the bishops of the Anglican Communion together again. One of the things which seemed to many bishops to have been promised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who convenes and invites people to these affairs is that this conference was about people saying things which they were united about and some effort seems to have gone into suggesting that there would be no more voting on divisive resolutions.

One rather unpleasant fact of gathering the bishops is that the Archbishop decided to invite those bishops who happened to be in same-sex marriages but expressly disinvited their spouses. The Lambeth Conference exists in a pseudo-1950s age where spouses – usually wives, are invited too at great cost to the dioceses their other half leads. In the case of bishops from Scotland, it is costing £5000 per bishop to send them to the conference and a further £5000 for their spouse to go and I gather that 6 spouses are going to the tune of £30 000.

Thus, Scottish Episcopalians have been expected to fund a conference that was homophobic by design.

I must confess that I don’t understand why any of the spouses of bishops from Scotland are going, much as I think they are collectively fantastic people with great skills and wisdom.

The Archbishop, like Archbishops before him has staked his own reputation as someone who takes reconciliation seriously, on bringing people together for the conference.

It has come as a considerable surprise therefore that a list of proposed resolutions (renamed as Lambeth Calls in order to maintain the fiction that there will be no more resolutions) has been published in the last two days. Indeed, it has been published so much at the last minute that many bishops from around the world were either already travelling or packing their smalls.

And lo! Buried deep in the Lambeth Calls we find that the bishops are going to be invited to affirm a resolution which suggests that Lambeth 1.10 represents “the mind of the whole of the Anglican Communion” and which once again suggests that it isn’t legitimate for Anglicans to bless same-sex couples or marry same-sex couples.

Apart from anything else, it must be blatently obvious to everyone in the world that the Anglican Communion is not of one mind about this. It bewilders me that anyone could suggest that it is. For to state that it is is a bald, bare-faced lie.

Christians are not supposed to bear false witness or lie in public about things. (Lying is a sin that I presume we all do actually agree about).

In one sense, it is deja vu all over again. We seem to have been here before, with the legitimacy of gay lives being up for debate. Such a debate is homophobic and seems even more so when one discovers that the bishops can’t vote against it – they can only vote in favour or vote in a way that suggests that the resolution Call needs more work.

Up until now, I’ve believed that though there were problems with the conference itself, our bishops were right to be there. However, events of the last 48 hours have made me change my mind.

The resolution now before the bishops (for debate in secret, closed sessions) isn’t merely about the legitimacy of same-sex relationships. This time around it is expressly about the legitimacy of provinces of the Anglican Communion making it possible for same-sex couples to be blessed or indeed married.

The bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have issued a statement today about all this. It isn’t easy to find on the SEC website but it can be found here:

My personal view is that this is a poor response to a bad situation. Although I have much sympathy with our bishops having little time to formulate a response, they don’t seem to understand that our church’s legitimacy in making decisions about marriage is being debated this week, as is their own legitimacy in administering the decisions which our synod has made.

This isn’t actually about same-sex couples any more. Actually it never was, it was always about power, but it has seemed to be about same-sex relationships to many up until now. It doesn’t help for our bishops in Scotland to maintain that narrative any longer.

Nothing good comes from engaging with processes that are homophobic by design. Nothing.

It is my view that our bishops and those of other countries who share our values and ethics should have nothing at all to do with such a vote and should instead make it very clear that they have been invited to this conference under false pretenses.

I don’t think the Conference would have been much of a starter if it had been known all along that a vote such as this was on the cards.

That’s why it seems particularly deceitful for this to have emerged right at the last minute.

The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t look like much of a reconciler right now.


  1. Roderick Mackin says


  2. Susan Russell says

    Brilliant as always. Amen from across the pond!

  3. Fr Dougal says

    Spot on. It’s really time we actually took a firm stand and said “No!” to the duplicitous nonsense that is being foisted upon us in the name of a false sense of unity.

  4. Woo Woolley says

    This also affects those of our bishops within the English Province, who would have voted in favour of equal marriage, given the option. And breaks my heart that their vocal cords have been severed with such a blow.

    However, for those of you already allowing for all love to be celebrated within your churches, this is a kick to bring you back into line with an oppressor.

    God, this is awful…

  5. Valerie Aston says

    As a lay person I am baffled as to how it can cost £5,000 per bishop to send them to the Lambeth Conference. let alone their spouses. Private jets? Chauffeured limos?

  6. The Reverend Canon Clifford Piper says

    Kelvin thank you for putting so succinctly into a few words what many of us are thinking. The options for voting are so restricted that it is impossible to vote against. I believe that the only viable response is that our Scottish Episcopal Bishops and the Bishops from all other Provinces that have agreed same sex marriage should come home and not have any part in this homophobic Lambeth Conference.

  7. James says

    I think the proposed west African amendment to I.10 is a better representation of the gospel on sexual affairs(not to mention rooted in real martyrdom) than a schismatic approach favoured by the Scottish and American churches.

    for reference : This Conference:
    (a) noting that –
    (i) the Word of God has established the fact that God created man and woman and blessed their marriage;
    (ii) many parts of the Bible condemn homosexuality as a sin;
    (iii) homosexuality is one of the many sins that Scripture has condemned;
    (iv) some African Christians in Uganda were martyred in the 19th century for refusing to have homosexual relations with the king because of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their commitment to stand by the Word of God as expressed in the Bible on the subject;
    (b) stands on the Biblical authority and accepts that homosexuality is a sin which could only be adopted by the church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says

      You might want to read a bit more. Plenty of your assertions are not accepted by scholars and theologians. Just to take up one, the “Martyrs of Uganda,” rape is certainly a sin. It’s a sin whether it’s men against women or men against boys or girls. Rape is not the issue regarding consensual relationships among adults. Jesus tells us to love all of our neighbors and not to judge, it’s his clearest commandment. He never says “except for gay people” or any other kind of people.

  8. I agree totally with you said here, from another shore (so to speak).

    I also see another disheartening prospect from the Church of England Synod as an attempt to make the Archbishop of Canterbury be more than a first among equals. That is expanding the Crown Nominating Commission to include people outside England. Once the Communion starts having input on the who is the Archbishop of Canterbury from outside England, that person could claim to be more than a First Among Equals. That is a dangerous prospect.

    The CNC composition appears to be set up to make sure there are people unfriendly towards the rights of all Christians to participate fully in all rites of the Church. Either that means the next Archbishop won’t represent England, or the whole process will fall apart.

    Let the English choose their own Primate. After all, the Primate of All England has no authority in any other realm.

    If the bishops outside England don’t say “thanks but no thanks” to outsiders going where they shouldn’t go, I see more problems with the relevance of the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    • Dr Daniel Lamont says

      I agree with your comments about the change to the CNC for the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is another aspect which may not be apparent to people outisde the UK. The English Archbishops are members by right of the House of Lords. Thus, the CNC is nominating a member of the UK Parliament which has jursidiction over the whole of the UK ie including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland yet not only are the Church in Wales, the SEC and the Church of Ireland banned from joining the CNC, people who are not citizens of the UK are able to join it and thus have a say in the appointment of a legislator in our parliament. Does any other country permit non-citizens play a part in selecting a member of the legislature? There is a simple way round this. Remove the right of Bishops in the Church of England ro sit in the House of Lords wiuth immediate effect.

  9. Rod Gillis says

    Great article, thanks. I communicated my concerns to my diocesan bishop here in Nova Scotia with a copy to our Canadian primate, for what that is worth from a retired old goat. I included a link to this piece with my correspondence. Some of the bishops on this side of the Atlantic are pretty unhappy about this development, with views along the lines expressed in your piece.

  10. Rob E-W says

    This process has clearly been devious, deceitful and manipulative. Whoever is behind it is clearly culpable and ought to be in the dock.

    Anyone who votes to support the idea that the Anglican Communion is of one mind on this matter is either monumentally ill-informed, deluded, disingenuous or insane – or more than one of these. In any case they are not fit to be a bishop.

  11. Michael F says

    Some in our global community are voicing their beliefs about issues deeply personal to you and me. They believe differently, and their believing differently is even hurtful to us. Yet people in post-colonial nations have worked so hard to even have a voice in the conversation at all, and now that they are finally able to use that voice, we don’t get to reassert our colonizer role and issue a gag order, however hurtful their words may be. I would much rather change conservative Anglican minds on sexuality by my self-surrender than by their forced surrender. For which of those two is more Christlike?

    Romans 14-15 lays out a pattern of how those stronger in their freedom should serve those who are less free. We need to make that freedom persuasive for our fellow sisters and brothers who do not yet know it. We won’t do that by refusing to listen or demonizing them, especially from our vantage point in the most powerful countries in the world that dominate and dictate so much of the fate of other peoples and nations. So we need to be servants of these other provinces, and be instruments of grace that help them find the freedom we cherish, knowing that if God is for us, who can be against us?

    • Dr Daniel Lamont says

      I understand what you are saying. However, I don’t think that it is fair to argue that liberal Anglicans are reasserting their colonizer role and are issuing a gag order. What is at the heart of this dispute is a lack of integrity by the organizers of the Lambeth Conference as they try to manipulate the outcome of discussions. Firstly, they set up a voting system which only allows two answers – both of which amount to ‘yes’. This is straight out of Putin’s playbook for the Crimea Referendum in 2014. Secondly, they rewrite the Call without informing, let alone consulting, the original drafting group. Thirdly, they issue a substantial document which forms the basis for the conference some ten days before the start of the conference when Bishops were already starting to travel; thus giving minimal time to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ the document. Fourthly and most damagingly, they insert the infamous Resolution 1.10 in such a way as to try to manipulate the Bishops to re-affirm it. Some of us in Scotland will have read Bishop Holloway’s account of the 1998 debate and are aware of the damage it has done. In the face of such dishonesty and lack of integrity, I do not begin to see how it is possible to be ‘the servants of these other provinces and be the instruments of grace’ as you suggest. I don’t think that people are asking for a gagging order nor are they refusing to listen to other voices. Had the Calls been issued earlier without the attempt to re-affirm Resolution 1.10, it might have been possible to have an open discussion and to listen as you suggest. The organisers have now made it very difficult to do that. I do not think it is fair to imply that the objectors to the situation are operating with an Imperialist and Colonialist mindset. It not simply about hurtful words: People actually feel threatened.
      This Conference is holed below the water-line, in my view. I don’t think it any longer serves its orignal purpose and I think that the whole notion of the Anglican Communion needs to be radically rethought. Can we afford the immense bureaucracy the Communion and the Lambeth Conference generates? Why are spouses attending? Can dioceses afford the costs? £5000 for a Scottish bishop, £10,000 if accompanied by a spouse seems a lot. It is reported that it is costing one Canadian diocese 50,000CAD to send their bishop. Are there not better uses for this money?

      • Michael F says

        I’m certainly open to rethinking the functionality of the Anglican Communion to be more practical, as long as it does not remove our need to be the global church together. But I hesitate at your utilitarian argument about costs. It sounds a bit to much like an argument we encounter in scripture: “While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.” (Mark 14.3-5)

  12. Laura Howell says

    I am sorry to say that among some of my colleagues in the US, we have felt, “Oh dear, England is at it again.” Typical, high-handed, unilateral action. It will be very difficult to restore even the already weak trust. Very grateful to you for speaking out so clearly and for upholding the dignity and rights of ALL of us in the church.

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