‘Lambeth 2022’ fails to lift the shadow of Anglican division over marriage and sexuality

The long-awaited global conference of the Anglican Communion closed with calls to unity but theologically conservative bishops say the church cannot have “two or three doctrines”.

Evangelical Focus

CANTERBURY · 08 AUGUST 2022 · 17:37 CET

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, speaking at the Lambeth Conference in July 2022. / Photo: Facebook <a target="_blank" href="https://www.facebook.com/LambethConference">Lambeth Conference</a>.,
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, speaking at the Lambeth Conference in July 2022. / Photo: Facebook Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Communion (the Anglican Church worldwide) closed its once-in-a-decade conference on 7 August with mixed feelings among its participants.

‘Lambeth 2022’ was originally planned for 2020 but the gathering that brought over 600 Anglican bishops from 135 countries to Canterbury (Southeast of England) had been postponed twice due to the coronavirus crisis.

Under the theme “God’s Church for God’s World - walking, listening and witnessing together”, the Anglican Communion reflect on how its churches should respond to key matters. The programme included teaching on 1 Peter of the New Testament, seminaries (on issues such as church safety, environmental care, discipleship, challenges of the next decade or Anglican identity), special activities, and a closing worship service.

Specific themes highlighted in press releases had to with the need to fight climate change and poverty, the interaction of the Church with science, and the need to respond to what was described as a “ecumenical emergency” of greater unity with other Christian churches.


Sexuality and marriage: a central issue

But one issue was at the centre of the debate even years before the celebration of the largest Anglican conference: the increasingly diverse views on human sexuality and marriage.

Many leaders from the Anglican Church in European and North Americancountries are openly calling to make same-sex marriage accessible everywhere, and to include progressive approaches to LGBT issues in the teaching of the Church.

In contrast, bishops from Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda boycotted the conference over what they see as a lack of leadership in the Anglican Communion in fundamental matters of doctrine. Other theologically conservative Anglican leaders travelled to England hoping to see a clear stance from the church in support of the Biblical teaching on human sexuality.


Re-affirming Anglican doctrine

During the conference, a large group of theologically conservative bishops (125 bishops from 21 provinces, representing around 8 million believers) supported a statement of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA), which asked to reaffirm the Section 1.10 of the Anglican Communion, which describes marriage “between a man and a woman” and adds that the Anglican Communion “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”.

This commitment with the Christian teaching on marriage, said the GSFA, should help “reset” the global Anglican Communion and lead to a return to “biblical faithfulness”.

During Lambeth 2022, this fellowship representing a majority of Anflicans in the world, underlined that “the only basis for our walking together is to submit ourselves again to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture in loyalty to the Anglican tradition and its formularies”. Archbishop Justin Badi, Chair of the GSFA and Primate of South Sudan, added: “A communion is where you have one belief, one doctrine and here there is an issue where there are two different doctrines”.


A split of the Anglican Communion?

Years of heated debates on LGBT issues and same-sex marriage have brought to huge tensions in the Anglican Communion. While the Church of England and others such as the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Church of Wales have seen a shift towards affirming LGBT couples and lifestyles, a large majority of Anglican Churches in Africa, Latin America and Asia have said they are not ready to abandon the Biblical teaching on sexuality, marriage and human identity.

“We find that if there is no authentic repentance by the revisionist provinces, then we will sadly accept a state of ‘impaired communion’ with them”, the GSFA said towards the end of the Lambeth 2022 conference.

“Walking together” with Anglicans who do not agree with the official teaching of the church and of the Bible is a “a challenge for us”, the GFSA underlined. “Yes, we do recognise, all of us are repentant sinners and why we are continually saying this is because we love our brothers and sisters and we need to tell them, 'Please, come on the right way’”, they added.

Meanwhile, pro-LGBT and theologically progressive groups expressed their disappointment at the fact that the Anglican Communion is not moving fast enough in the direction of accepting the sexual diversity in the church.


Archbishop Welby: “We cannot choose our siblings”

In response to the internal debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury underlined that a division of the Anglican Communion should not be an option. Justin Welby told the conference: “We’re not at liberty to choose our brothers and sisters, our siblings. Of course, we have groups with different views. But we do not go down the road of expelling other Christians”. 

According to his view, “by God's grace” the bishops had “disagreed without hatred” during 'Lambeth 2022'.

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