Every decade or so the bishops of the Anglican Communion’s constituent Churches are invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to gather for fellowship, prayer and discussion on the issues affecting the life of the Churches of the Communion for the Lambeth Conference.
The next meeting is to be held in 2020 and preparations are well under way. It promises to be a difficult meeting. GAFCON (the ultra-conservative wing of the Communion) has recently urged its bishops to stay away , undermining the whole purpose of the gathering and threatening the schism that has been on the horizon for some years.
It has now emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury has acted to prevent the attendance of the husbands and wives of the increasing number of gay and lesbian bishops from those Churches where marriage equality is celebrated and accepted. The Archbishop personally called each of the couples to tell them of his decision and to express ‘regret’ at that decision.
It is notable that there has been no such action against the wives and husbands of those bishops who have been previously married.
The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain of The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has written to the Church Times expressing the feelings of many in the LGBTI communities to protest at the inequality and prejudice of this action.
Letter to the Church Times
Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, presumably on the instruction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has banned the attendance of the wedded spouses of gay bishops on the basis that he has “to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage, which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.”
This is nonsense of course. Firstly ‘the Anglican Communion’ is not a single entity. It is a communion of independent Churches, each formulating its own policies on marriage and rightly applying them. Communion officials cannot, and shouldn’t attempt to pretend that they can, make up rules that apply to all the Churches within it.
It is also hypocritical to apply this ruling only to one aspect of the Archbishops’ statement about ‘the Communion’s position on marriage’. If this wasn’t about homophobia then he would have also uninvited any bishop married to a divorced person or themselves remarried. That’s not happening.
So let’s be clear. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck then it’s a duck. If this looks like discrimination and pandering to homophobia to you, then it is all those things. And believe me, from the press coverage this story has got outside the narrow self-referential world of the Archbishops that’s exactly how it’s being seen.
The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain