The unexpected release of a series of Lambeth Conference Call statements on assorted subjects, and the equally unexpected news that bishops attending the Lambeth Conference next week would be voting on them, has knocked a bunch of Anglicans around the world back on their heels. Some in the Communion are delighted with this sudden turn – but most of the voices I hear are dismayed. And here in the Episcopal Church, many people in our Province and in our diocese are apprehensive or even frightened. It’s hard enough to be out as a LGBTQIA+ Christian (in both the church and the wider LGBTQIA+ community) and this sudden return to the conflict that wracked the life of the wider church for the past decades isn’t going to make it any easier.
Ever since the beginning of the year, almost simultaneously with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it seems like all the old divisions of the culture war are running hot again, fueled by extremist voices on social media. Here in the states we’re suddenly in a new moment when, post the repeal of Roe v Wade, women’s lives are being threatened and their movement around the country questioned. Supreme Court Justices and elected officials are talking about overturning the decisions that allowed for Equal Marriage, and some loud voices among religious leaders are talking about arrest and punishment of GLBTQ+ American citizens. Mixed race marriages and access to contraception are suddenly in the conversation again, for the first time since the 1960s.
Over the past few years, I was told that the Lambeth Conference would be laser focused on Climate Change and the threat it posed, particularly in the developing world. As the bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Ocean State, with our particular exposure to the consequence of Climate Change, I was ready to fully engage and looking forward to working with others post conference. But then this week’s news dropped and suddenly that critical conversation, well, it’s on the back burner again.
One of my fellow bishops pointed out that the fact that these Call statements were produced quietly, without broad consultation, and announced at the last minute (with a conference format change) wasn’t an accident and didn’t happen without planning. Why the delay in sharing the information? I’m wondering who benefits by a choice to stir up old conflicts instead of concentrating on the existential threat. I don’t have answers – and perhaps never will, but as an old friend said to me once, when something seems illogical on the surface, trying following the money and see if that will make things clearer.
For the moment, I ask for your prayers for those of us gathering beginning next week. We are now going to a different meeting that we expected. And people who are members of the Anglican Communion are once again having their presence and personhood debated as if they weren’t beloved of God and precious to the Church.