03 August 2022, The Tablet

Archbishop admits Anglicans remain 'deeply divided' over sexuality

Archbishop Welby affirmed that “the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10, is not in doubt”.

Archbishop admits Anglicans remain 'deeply divided' over sexuality

Anglican bishops from around the world attend the opening service of the 15th Lambeth Conference at Canterbury.

The Lambeth Conference discussed the controversial “Call on Human Dignity” in a highly-charged session that concluded in protracted silent prayer without a vote or verbal feedback.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, urged attendees to “be present” and to “speak frankly, but in love” to one another. “Do not spend the time looking on your phone at what others outside the room are saying,” he told the assembled bishops in an opening address.

“We are deeply divided,” he said. “That will not end soon. We are called by Christ Himself both to truth and unity.”

Reiterating the points he made in a letter circulated to bishops before the session, the archbishop said that the call “states the reality of life in the Anglican Communion today”. In the letter he affirmed that “the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10, is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence”. This was the controversial resolution that stated the prohibition on same-sex marriages.

In his address to the session, Archbishop Welby said: “For the large majority of the Anglican Communion the traditional understanding of marriage is something that is understood, accepted without question, not only by bishops but their entire church, and the societies in which they live.”

Other churches, he continued, “have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change”. 

He added: “They are not careless about Scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature.”

The address received a standing ovation, with bishops of both views later expressing satisfaction with the archbishop’s words, although there was no formal response to the call during the session. The remarks followed the announcement yesterday that the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches – a conservative organisation of 25 Anglican provinces – would circulate an alternative resolution asking bishops explicitly to reaffirm the 1998 prohibition on same-sex marriage.

This statement asserts that the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same-gender unions”. It committed bishops “listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God”.

It was not clear last night how many bishops had expressed support for it.

Speaking after the session, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said that resolution 1:10 was “part and parcel of the history of this Church” and that the day’s discussion was about “accepting the reality of who we are”.

Earlier in the day, before the discussion of the “Call on Reconciliation”, Archbishop Makgoba had urged divided parties to remain in communion.

“I hope we will not fight each other off, but continue wrestling with one another as we move forward until we find a godly solution,” he said.

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