“The greatest Call is the call to relationship.” Archbishop Justin Welby
As with most absolutizing statements, the above statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his closing keynote address this morning, may overstate the reality, but it is largely true. The Lambeth Conference brought together, invited by the Archbishop, some 650 bishops and most of their spouses from across the Communion, a global body present in 165 countries.
There were three provinces and quite a few more dioceses that chose not to attend, mainly in protest of the presence of provinces like ours, that affirm same-gender marriage. There were also spouses of gay and lesbian bishops who were excluded, so absent not by their own choice.
All of the absences are losses for the whole. In the case of those dioceses and provinces who stayed away deliberately, I think it was a massive miscalculation. Simply relating to one another in our small Bible-study groups is transformative: we moved from assumptions about one another that masked the marvelous diversity of our personalities and cultures and into something that could be friendship. Friendship across differences is not good for those who have the goal of erecting and maintaining unscalable walls between people of differing opinions, opinions that cannot possibly sum up one’s whole self.
For instance, in my Bible study group of seven there was a bishop from Pakistan and one from South Sudan. The bishop from Pakistan was silent on Lambeth 1.10 (the resolution from the Lambeth Conference 1998 that declared same-gender marriage untenable in the Anglican Communion). The bishop from South Sudan was, however, quietly insistent on the inclusion and affirmation of Lambeth 1.1o in the Call on Human Dignity.
When we studied the portion of I Peter, though, in which the epistle says that wives should be subject to husbands, both the Pakistani and the South Sudanese bishop stated emphatically that they disagreed with the scripture (!). The South Sudanese bishops said that the author was writing from within his time and culture, and that in South Sudan decisions are made within families in a somewhat conciliar way – whoever has the best idea is followed, even if that idea comes from the youngest child! This willingness to approach the holy scriptures with a flexible mind is a deeply hopeful thing. I say this without, I hope, any sense of cultural superiority, but I do believe that as the Mind of Christ is more and more unveiled by the Holy Spirit, those who take what they might call a literalist view of scripture will come to see that recognizing the full lives of LGBTQ+ people completely accords with divine love. As the South Sudanese bishop differentiates his views on gender relationships from those expressed in 1 Peter, so I believe he will come to see human sexuality in a new inclusive and expansive way.
The relationships we seek in the Christian Church are mutual and strive for equality. As such, I know I will be converted and transformed by these intra-Communion relationships too, in ways I cannot yet guess. Being transformed by relationship is an adventure, though not without, I expect, pain and struggle for me too.
The number of spouses of LGBTQ bishops is minute, relatively speaking. But who can begin to measure these spouses’ importance? The negative impact of excluding them from the conference is not only on those individuals and couples, it is on the whole conference. I had my reasons for attending (climate change activism being a major one; also speaking up in solidarity for the very people being excluded), but the work of self examination, the purification of motives, is necessary spiritual work.
Speaking of climate change, the Lambeth Conference was a tremendous step forward for both the Episcopal Church and the Communion for our engagement with the health of the planet. The Archbishop of Canterbury could not have emphasized the urgency of our collective and local work on climate and environmental health more. Not only did he speak forcefully about the pressing need for climate action, the Archbishop devoted the London Day of the conference to climate and environment.
The official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London is London Palace. All the bishops and spouses were welcomed into the palace gardens, land that has been known to have been gardened or farmed for over 1,000 years. In this precious space, where the grass was brown and sere due to the heat and drought here, the Communion Forest initiative was launched. The Communion Forest was planned by a small team from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and the Anglican Alliance. I feel deeply blessed that I was part of that team, and have been working on the Communion Forest for the past three years.
Not only was the Communion Forest initiative well received by bishops and spouses, I also was able to witness that everywhere across the Communion bishops and spouses recognize the climate emergency as one of their central concerns. At last, I believe, the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are poised to step up our climate activism and advocacy. For the Episcopal Church, while the actions on climate will be highly diverse, I believe we will continue to emphasize eco-justice, the ways that environmental degradation and climate change disproportionately weigh on already vulnerable populations.
Lambeth 2022 started out rocky, with the unexpected Lambeth Calls. Through unswerving solidarity and also through courage and flexibility on the part of Archbishop Justin, Lambeth 2022 ended in a much better place than many of us expected. The whole experience for me is one that reminds me to hope, pray and put my trust in the Holy Spirit.
I also want to thank our great diocesan communications working group. Working group head Stephanie Martin Taylor obtained a press pass and did some great reporting on the conference while she was here, and also helped line up media opportunities for Sheila and me, allowing us to amplify valuable messages on policy areas we care about.
Working from the United States, Adia Milien kept the communications moving smoothly in a remarkable way. Great thanks to you both!
We look forward to being back in California at the end of this month, and assure you of our continued prayers for the diocese.
Story and photos by Stephanie Martin Taylor, DioCal Canon for Communications
The Communion Forest booth at the Lambeth Conference
[Canterbury, U.K.] On Wednesday, Bishop Marc and Sheila will travel to Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official London residence. The day’s highlight will be a symbolic tree planting on the palace grounds and an invitation for bishops, spouses, and others present to pledge to a new initiative called “The Communion Forest.” The global initiative is designed to spark provinces, dioceses, and individual churches to engage in local activities of forest protection, tree-growing, and ecosystem restoration.
At a Lambeth Conference environment seminar Saturday, Bishop Marc hosted a conversation table centered on creation care and liturgy. During his report to the entire seminar group, comprised mostly of bishops and spouses, he encouraged them to engage in the Communion Forest initiative and find ways to integrate their care of creation pledges into their communal worship.
“Think about the liturgy that you hold up, and you tend, and how can you creatively — which means in a living way —shift it so that it helps people make new commitments to the flourishing of life on the earth,” he said.
Wednesday’s tree-planting and Communion Forest pledges at Lambeth Palace could offer a much-needed moment of healing for the 2022 Lambeth Conference, which has been largely overshadowed by divisions over sexuality and the status of same-sex unions.
“Yes, there are cracks in the Anglican Communion,” said the Rev. Dr. Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network.
“But we do believe that care for creation, the Communion Forest, and fighting climate change can bring us together. Not only to heal the nations but also help to heal the Anglican Communion,” she said.
At the Saturday seminar, participants agreed there is no time to lose, with climate change threatening lives and livelihoods in dioceses across the world.
“Ghana is fast becoming a desert,” said Bishop Dennis Tong, from the Diocese of Tamale (Ghana). Rainfall has declined sharply in recent years, he explained, “So food production is very, very low. So whatever we can do as a church to help change the situation, we are ready to engage.” His diocese is already engaging in tree-planting to restore vegetation and is looking to form and strengthen partnerships with the government, non-profits, and other churches to help prevent the already-dire situation from worsening. “Those who are going to suffer the most are the marginalized and the poor,” he said.
Click here to learn more about the Communion Forest initiative
Bishop Marc speaking at a Lambeth Conference environment seminar. He encouraged bishops to think creatively about how to incorporate creation care into their churches’ liturgies
Perhaps you’ve seen the Episcopal News Service coverage of the LGBTQ+ solidarity march by University of Kent staff and students during the Lambeth Conference. Sheila and I were among a number of Lambeth Conference attendees to take part. Why were the Kent folks marching in the middle of the summer during a gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world? Because spouses of bishops in same-gender marriages have been barred from official participation in the conference.
The University of Kent is the physical host of the Lambeth Conference – we meet in their buildings and eat in their food-service facilities. For those University of Kent marchers, the stand of the Anglican Communion Office and the Lambeth planning office didn’t match their sense of what is moral and right in human life. The Church, the body entrusted by Christ with liberating and supporting the flourishing of all life was acting to suppress and constrict life.
It’s easy to see how the Lambeth Conference landing on the campus of the University of Kent brought the issue of unfairness on the part of a global body home, down to the local level. While it may not seem so obvious back in the Bay Area, it is equally of moment in the Diocese of California as it is in Canterbury (the town where the University of Kent is).
Way back in the early 2000s, during a House of Bishops meeting, a seminary professor pronounced to me that Church policy on LGBTQ inclusion was unrelated to justice. “It’s just about who gets to serve on vestries and other intra Church organizations, like altar guilds.” At the time I was the Bishop Suffragan of Alabama. Not long before this House of Bishops meeting, gay men in Alabama had been the victims of violent hate crimes.
If, in the State of Alabama where people could and did lose their lives because of their sexual identity, it didn’t matter about how the Church approached LGBTQ people, then what we were really saying is that the Church doesn’t matter, that the Church is disconnected from the life.
And we can look anywhere and say the same thing – either the Church is body that helps bring the love of Jesus Christ into the world, or it is something other than the Church, and is at best irrelevant. “Anywhere” includes our beloved diocese, the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area, the Diocese of California. Transgender women of color are vulnerable in the Bay Area in the same way as they are elsewhere, anywhere. The stand that your Communion, the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of California or your congregation takes matters, is noticed. We either make the world safer and better for all, or we make it worse.
So here at the Lambeth Conference 2022 the bishops of the Episcopal Church are laboring to do two things, both of which seem to me to be hallmarks of Christianity: we are seeking to enlarge the rights and protections afforded to LGBTQ people in the Church, a Communion that has some eight million members in 167 countries, while we stay in relationship with parts of the Church that differ and disagree with us. Modeled beautifully by Presiding Bishop Curry, we stay connected – “we aren’t going anywhere” – and we remain resolute on justice. We have friends within the Communion, many more than at Lambeth 2008, and we work to have no enemies. Please pray for us as we pray for you.
Sheila and +Marc Andrus
In front, center: Bishop and Regional Canon Carol Gallagher (Massachusetts) Next row, from left to right: Bishop Daniel Paul Richards and Mrs. Amy Rose Richards (Upper South Carolina); Mr. Mark Gallagher (Massachusetts); Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde (Washington); Bishop Marc Handley Andrus (California); Mr. Tim Bascom (Kansas); Dr. Sheila Andrus (California), Bishop Cathleen Chittenden Bascom (Kansas); Bishop David Rice (San Joaquin); Mrs. Patricia Hull Lattime (Alaska) Back corner, left to right: Bishop Mark Lattime (Alaska); Bishop Robert Hirschfeld (New Hampshire)
Story and photos by Stephanie Martin Taylor, DioCal Canon for Communications
[Canterbury, U.K.] California Bishop Marc Andrus and several of the other bishops who wrote the “Mind of the House” climate emergency statement adopted at the 80th General Convention in Baltimore reunited in Canterbury at a 17th-century pub. Over fish and chips, glasses of ale, and other traditional pub fare, they celebrated their collective work on the statement and rallied for the tasks that lay ahead, which included sharing the document with others in the Anglican Communion. An excerpt from the statement:
Many of God’s people – especially our children – are in despair as they observe the frightening shifts in our environmental narrative. The risen Christ continues to send us out to proclaim the Gospel to the whole of Creation (Mark 16:15). Like Mary, we go out to all proclaiming God’s love in deed and word. It is our work to lead the way for change, to model good stewardship, and to move forward with courage and purpose.
Click here to read the full statement. The gathering at the pub, aptly—albeit rather strangely*—named “The Bishop’s Finger,” offered a welcome break for the bishops and several spouses attending Lambeth. Fresh off a whirlwind General Convention in Baltimore, they are once again following a busy conference schedule, with activities scheduled from early mornings to late evenings. As the pub gathering concluded, Bishop Marc, who wrote the original draft of the “Mind of the House” statement, praised the group for their collective input on the document and their help in bringing the draft to its final form. Click here to read more about the process that took place in the House of Bishops.
Trivia time: So, what does “the bishop’s finger” mean?
The sign that hangs over the entrance to the Bishop’s Finger alehouse
With a little help from Google, I learned that “The Bishop’s Finger” is a reference to the finger-shaped signposts that pointed pilgrims to Canterbury and the tomb of Thomas Becket. Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury when, in 1170, knights of King Henry II murdered him in a side chapel of the cathedral (see image below). If you look closely at the pub placard’s upper right corner, you’ll notice one of these finger-shaped signs.
The Becket Martyrdom Altar at Canterbury Cathedral
I join with many Episcopal Church bishops, the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and, in the days to come, I’m sure with many other bishops of the Communion in expressing my dismay at the “Lambeth Calls” document that was abruptly distributed to Anglican bishops on the eve of the Lambeth Conference. Both the timing and the content of the document are problematic in that they offer little opportunity for those of us who disagree to voice our dissent.
What is objectionable about the Lambeth Calls document? Let me focus on two areas of concern: 1) the apparent attempt to fast-track a Communion-wide stance that accords with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own stand on human sexuality and 2) the nature of his position, which is to oppose same-gender marriage (see page 31 of the “Lambeth Calls” document, in the section on Human Dignity).
The Episcopal Church will not go backward on our affirmation of the full rights of the LGBTQ community, and certainly this diocese, which has long been a leader in this area, will be resolute. The Diocese of California can count on Sheila and me to do our best during the Lambeth Conference to advocate and witness for LGBTQ rights. We will have many allies in this effort; I ask for your prayers.