10 August 2022, The Tablet

The Lambeth Conference and the deep divisions over sexuality facing the Anglican Communion

The Lambeth Conference

The Lambeth Conference and the deep divisions over sexuality facing the Anglican Communion

Bishops arriving in Canterbury for the opening service at the 15th Lambeth Conference
Photo: Alamy/PA, Gareth Fuller


The deep divisions between Anglicans over sexuality expose raw cultural sensitivities and difficult dilemmas that will put an almost impossible strain on the unity of every global Church and religious denomination

Over the past few days, I have occasionally wondered what my great-grandfather – ordained a canon in the Church of England in a rural area of south-east Nigeria in 1940 – would have made of the conversations that took place over the past two weeks at the Lambeth Conference, held at the University of Kent in Canterbury. He lived at a time when traditional teaching on marriage as between a man and a woman was unquestioned and in a cultural context in which white European missionaries had drawn African communities into a Christianity that became synonymous with piety, properness and Englishness. If he was still alive, he might have agreed with the decision of the primates of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda to boycott the most recent gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world over the issue of sexu­ality – or “human dignity”, in the current lingo of the Church of England.

But I’m not sure. Perhaps my great-grandfather may instead have held that maintaining the unity of the Anglican Communion of Churches was more important than stoking division, even if he might have held different views to those of many Church of England bishops. In a joint letter sent to the three primates several weeks before the conference began, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, lamented their absence, telling them: “God calls us to unity and not to conflict so that the world may know he came from the Father. That is the very purpose of the Church globally.”


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