Lambeth Conference: “Human Dignity” call to be revised

Jul 26, 2022 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

The Study Guide for the Lambeth Conference sets out the ten areas for discussion and the draft “calls” which the bishops are being asked to endorse.  Following its publication, many bishops from the global north and other supporters of a more progressive interpretation of Christian faith, have made their objections clear.

The ‘Human Dignity’ section includes this paragraph:

“Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity. Given Anglican polity, and especially the autonomy of Provinces, there is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue. It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible. Lambeth Resolution I.10 (1998) states that the “legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions” cannot be advised. It is the mind of the Communion to uphold “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” (I.10, 1998). It is also the mind of the Communion that “all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation are full members of the Body of Christ” and to be welcomed, cared for, and treated with respect (I.10, 1998).”

The offending sentences (highlighted in italics above) were initially defended by Lambeth spokesmen as simply stating fact, that a resolution was passed which while not being legally enforceable, nevertheless indicates the view of the overwhelming majority of the Communion. However, those objecting (a selection can be found here) clearly view Resolution I:10 as a dead letter, which according to C of E bishops is now on the negotiating table in the Living in Love and Faith discussion process, and according to Welsh, Scottish and north American bishops, is an example of “prejudice that continues to threaten human dignity”. They argue that Lambeth I:10 is an embarrassing legacy of past history and should simply not be referred to at all, in the interests of “reconciliation”.

In a message to his Diocese, the Bishop of Oxford says:

“It will be an immense privilege to be present at the conference and to hear so many different stories. We are aware as we travel to Lambeth of the pain and hurt of many LGBTQI+ people and their families in advance of the conference, and the painful divisions in the Communion around issues of human sexuality. We welcome the announcement yesterday (see below) that there will be changes made to the draft Call on Human Dignity. We pray that every interaction around these issues will be marked by grace and love.”

He says that the Lambeth Conference is “An opportunity to listen to one another as Christians, sometimes across deeply-held differences”, and explains: “The ten Lambeth Calls were published for the first time on 20 July. The bishops leading the Living in Love and Faith ‘next steps’ group spotted an immediate challenge.

He goes on to quote:

“The Church of England is just one voice among 41 member churches of the Anglican Communion. However, it has within it some of the conflicts and disagreements surrounding questions of identity and sexuality that influence the Communion’s discussions and deliberations about these matters and which the Human Dignity Call acknowledges.

That is why, in the Church of England, the Call’s affirmation of the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1988), that same sex unions cannot be legitimised or blessed, will be deeply troubling and painful for some whilst offering welcome reassurance to others. It is important, therefore, that the Call also affirms the safeguarding of human dignity through deepening dialogue about profound disagreements.

 It is within this spirit – of respecting the dignity of every human being by creating space for dialogue – that Living in Love and Faith (LLF) continues its path towards discernment and decision-making regarding questions of identity, sexuality and marriage.”

Bishop Steven concludes:

“The group in charge of co-ordinating the Lambeth Calls met ++Justin yesterday to discuss the many concerns that had been raised, and it has been confirmed that the drafting group for the Call on Human Dignity will make some revisions and that the new text will be released as soon as it is available. 

In October 2018, the bishops of the Diocese of Oxford issued Clothe Yourselves with Love, a pastoral letter that set clear expectations of inclusion and respect towards LGBTI+ people, their families and friends. Underpinning their letter was the foundational principle that all people are welcome in God’s Church; everyone has a place at the table.

We pray that the Lambeth Conference will be a time for deep engagement and movement on each of the ten Calls. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”



Editorial comment:

The document Clothe Yourselves with Love, referred to above, led to nearly 100 clergy and lay leaders in Oxford Diocese signing a letter of complaint to the bishop, and set at least three clergy on the path to leaving the Church of England.

Anglican Mainstream commentary warned at the time that while the Oxford bishops were not openly advocating a change to the official teaching of the church, they were suggesting that it should be kept in the background as it is hurtful to LGBT people, to whose “full inclusion” the bishops are committed. In other words, treat ethical Christian teaching as a dead letter to be ignored when it conflicts with the embrace of the contemporary zeitgeist.

Those drawing up the text of the Lambeth Calls would have given it a great deal of careful consideration. One of the factors would have been the desire to listen to the majority world, the global south bishops who are attending and who want Lambeth Resolution I:10 affirmed; another would have been making a clear statement about the dignity and inclusion of those who identify as LGBT. It looks like the organisers will bow to pressure from the progressive  lobby straight away, and remove any reference to Lambeth I:10 and the biblical, historic understanding of sex and marriage from the final document. If tweets from the powerful can have this much effect now, what will be the chance of any reference to a conservative view of sex and marriage being part of any official statements and policy following the conclusion of the LLF process in the Church of England, to be brought before General Synod next year?


See also: Our full collection of news and comment on the Lambeth Conference 

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