“We could sit in a room and listen to a diversity of views and reflect together” — a far cry from the situation before the Lambeth Conference when bishops first received their draft of conference documents, called Lambeth Calls. Those documents included the statement: “It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible.”
The amended statement now notes that while many provinces ban same-gender marriages, other provinces “have blessed and welcomed same-sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception.”
This week’s Lambeth Conference, though, has a very different mood from the last Lambeth Conference 14 years ago.
Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York and the second most senior clergyman in the Church of England after the archbishop of Canterbury, recalled the tensions of the last Lambeth Conference over same-sex marriage. “This time, people aren’t threatening to leave. They are threatening to stay,” he told RNS on Wednesday.
For some supporters of gay unions, the lack of a decision in favor of same-sex marriage was a blow. But Mary Glasspool, an assistant bishop in New York and the first married lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion, acknowledged there was progress of a kind. “The human dignity call was as good as it could get at this stage. We felt like we were treated as human beings, rather than as an issue.
“The archbishop of Canterbury had a high-wire act to perform and he succeeded. He didn’t fall off. I felt he was at his finest in keeping the Communion together, to listen,” she told RNS on Wednesday.
Out of the 42 Anglican provinces, those that have accepted same-sex marriage include the Episcopal Church in the United States; the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil; the Anglican Church of Canada; the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; the Scottish Episcopal Church; and the Church in Wales.
On Wednesday, the 650 bishops attending the Lambeth Conference left its base in Canterbury to travel to London for a day at the archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, Lambeth Palace, to discuss climate change. Welby said that “over the last few years, there is no doubt about the climate emergency for all of us.” And he warned that climate change would lead to food and water shortages, resulting in wars over supplies and causing what he called “a savage downward spiral” that would most affect people in the poorest parts of the planet.
The Lambeth Call paper on the environment highlighted that the Anglican Communion’s churches are involved in every part of the environmental emergency: “We are the people facing devastation in disaster-stricken communities. We are all the polluters, especially in wealthy countries. We are people living in poverty and on the margins. We wield power and influence.”
The bishops heard from Kenyan environmental activist Elizabeth Wathuti, who said people in Africa were on the front line of the climate emergency and they are “drowning in empty promises.” She insisted faith leaders could influence politicians to do more.
The Lambeth Call urged Anglican provinces to advocate for the poorest communities suffering the adverse effects of climate change.