The Archbishop of Canterbury urged Anglican bishops to “look outwards” in an address to the Lambeth Conference this evening, after a week of controversy within the Communion.
Archbishop Justin Welby told the conference at the University of Kent, Canterbury, that “the distractions and realities of our fallen world – the fears, apprehensions, pressures and burdens we carry” threaten to obscure “the great and freely-given love of God in Jesus Christ”.
He made the remarks in a speech condemning a global economic system in which “the wealthy have choice, the poor suffer the consequences”.
This follows a turbulent start to the first conference since 2008, amid disputes over Anglican teaching on same-sex marriage. These centred on a “call to human dignity” published last week as one of ten draft statements for the bishops to discuss, which asserted that “the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole [is] that same gender marriage is not permissible”.
Following protests, the drafting group removed the sentence. The revised document, published on Tuesday 26 July, instead noted that “many provinces continue to affirm that same gender marriage is not permissible”, while others “have blessed and welcomed same sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception”.
The conference’s organisers have emphasised other issues under discussion, including care for the environment and the restructuring of the Anglican Communion. The call on human dignity includes significant comments on the legacy of colonialism. Archbishop Welby told a reception on Thursday that he “didn’t want to spend the whole week talking about sex”.
However, the topic has proved hard to avoid. The LGBTQ flag was flying from the University of Kent buildings as the bishops arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday, and at least a dozen bishops from the American Episcopal Church (which permits same-sex marriage) joined an hundred-strong march across the campus arranged by the university’s LGBTQ staff network.
Today, it was reported that several bishops had not received communion at a morning Eucharist service on the grounds that they were “out of communion” with others present.
The bishops of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda had already declined to attend the conference on the same grounds.
Responding to the news, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, chair of the conference’s design group, said that the bishops should endeavour to “walk together to the maximum possible degree”.