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Lambeth Letters – Part 1

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

I’m writing to you from the Lambeth Conference, where, to my regret, I tested positive on August 3 for Covid (with mild cold symptoms) and will be in isolation for the rest of the conference, joining the live stream as I can. While I would much rather be in person at the conference, or in isolation in my own home, I am grateful that the conference organizers are delivering food to the door of my little dorm room. I’m also grateful for other bishop friends who are helping to make sure I have what I need. I’m not the only Covid-positive TEC bishop, so everyone is checking with us to make sure we’re all right.

Isolation gives me a bit more time to write and tell you about Lambeth. The schedule is grueling, but there are great opportunities to make new friends. The photo shows me with my small Bible study group (before I tested positive), which included bishops from England, Ireland, the US, Bangladesh, Antigua, and Swaziland. What an amazing chance to hear about life in other parts of the world and gain new insights from their perspectives!

As part of the program, the bishops have been considering a series of “Calls” on various subjects. They cover vital subjects: Mission and Evangelism; Safe Church; Anglican Identity; Reconciliation; Human Dignity; Environment and Sustainable Development; Christian Unity; Interfaith Relations; Discipleship; and Science and Faith. Unbeknownst to most, small groups of people have been working hard on each call, which has four sections: an Introduction; a Declaration (i.e., theological reflection); an Affirmation (how we should respond); and the Calls (specific requests). For each Call, we hear a presentation on the scripture we’re studying (1 Peter), do a small-group Bible study, then spend time at tables in plenary with our small group, discussing the Call to give input about it.

As I wrote before I left for the conference, I had grave concerns about the whole Call process, since the bishops only received the Calls a week before the conference began, and were startled to learn that we would be voting on them. I was deeply concerned in particular about the Call on Human Dignity (p. 14 of the document linked above), because the original version of it “reaffirmed” 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which “reject[ed] homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.” Even the original drafters of the Human Dignity Call were surprised by that “reaffirmation;” Bishop Kevin Robertson of Toronto, an openly LGBT bishop who was part of the drafting group, said the group had never considered adding this “reaffirmation,” and its addition was a surprise to the authors. It was also a surprise to all of us that we were supposed to vote “yes” or “this needs more work” on each Call, and as originally designed, there was no option to vote “no.”

The outcry was intense, and changes happened immediately. The Call on Human Dignity was modified so it didn’t “reaffirm” Lambeth 1.10, but rather stated truthfully that the majority of the Anglican Communion agreed with it, but some provinces, after careful theological reflection, have decided to affirm same-sex marriage or blessings. (Those provinces include our Episcopal Church, and also churches in Scotland, Wales, Canada, New Zealand, and Brazil. Other provinces, such as Australia and the Church of England itself, are divided on the subject.) The Call now states that despite those differences, we commit to walking forward together.

Along with many other inclusive bishops, I was very happy with this result. When the day came to discuss the call on Human Dignity, it was announced that we would not be voting at all, but rather discussing the Call in our small groups and giving written feedback. What had been feared as a showdown between opposing factions turned into a caring and prayerful process, after Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the gathering with a plea for unity and mutual respect, saying that he neither has nor seeks power to discipline or exclude any province of the Anglican Communion. His address was greeted with a standing ovation, and infused the discussion that followed with a spirit of prayerful openness. In my small group, we were divided 3/3 on the subject of same-sex marriage, yet we listened to each other’s perspectives carefully and respectfully.

For members of the LGBT+ community who are part of EDSD, I imagine that this whole Anglican Communion dispute, lasting for years, has been painful and difficult. I apologize to you for the ways the church has focused on you and caused you pain. I assure you that whatever Lambeth decided, it would not have caused The Episcopal Church to change our stance – neither Lambeth nor the Anglican Communion have legislative authority over our church. You are valued and beloved members of our flock. I was glad to join with over 170 of my colleague bishops in signing this statement in support of our LGBT+ siblings.

It is possible that the Call on Human Dignity may yet change, since there will be a mysterious “Phase III” of the Call process when unidentified people will take the feedback they have received and modify the Calls. Global South Primates have already issued a statement of protest because the reaffirmation Lambeth 1.10 that many conservative bishops hoped for did not occur. They have declared that they may be in a state of impaired communion with us (and some actually refused to receive communion at the Lambeth Eucharists). They intend to appeal to the Primates (i.e., the heads of all the national churches) of the Anglican Communion to overrule the Lambeth Conference (though there is no legislative mechanism to allow this to happen). As it stands, however, the Human Dignity Call is a great step forward, in my opinion, allowing us to enter a new era where Anglicans worldwide agree to commit to each other despite our disagreements. We finally have the opportunity to put the years-long focus on human sexuality behind us, and find ways to follow Jesus together.


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15 replies to “Lambeth Letters – Part 1

  1. Richard Shugg | on August 10, 2022

    Thank you first of all for communication on this confusing issue and your stance. I am not part of the LGBT community but support the rights of everyone being equal. I am proud as a member to St.. Margaret’s in Palm Desert that even though our parish is in a predominantly conservative area, we embrace all even to the extent of having an openly gay rector. Thank you for leading our diocese in the right direction.

    • Rev. Andrew Butler | on August 10, 2022

      Thank you for your support Richard! So glad to have you as a proud member of St. Margaret’s.

  2. Stephanie Smith | on August 10, 2022

    Thank you Bishop Susan for continued
    Support for the LBGYN community
    And your support of “”Gay Marriage “
    I am proud to be a member of the
    Episcopal Church♥️

  3. Teresa Beck | on August 10, 2022

    Bishop, please get well! Thank you for affirming our church’s stance on these issues. The focus on LGBTQ is also painful to allies of LGBTQ loved ones and your message gives us hope.

  4. David Lewis | on August 10, 2022

    Thank you Bishop Susan for your very firm statement on Lambeth now and in the past. Your apology to the LGBT+ community is most welcome and very long overdue. As a musician in our beloved church and lifelong, gay Episcopalian, the pain and suffering you mentioned has been very real…but we hung on. Our previous bishops, all of whom I have known, were far less brave and focused on God’s love than you, dear Bishop.
    From the bottom of my heart…thank you.

    David Lewis
    Trinity Episcopal Church, Escondido

  5. Mary J. Porter | on August 10, 2022

    Prayers for your eovery. Prayers of thanksgiving for sharing this news with us.

  6. Marti Van Houten | on August 10, 2022

    Hi Susan
    First, I’m so sorry to hear that you have COVID and will miss being present in person for the rest of the Lambeth Conference. You are in my prayers for a speedy recovery ❤️‍.

    Second, thank you so much for sharing the events with us and being a faithful and steadfast representative for our little corner of TEC and the worldwide Anglican Communion. I, like you, continue to pray that we can put the focus on human sexuality behind us and share our lives together as people of the Jesus Movement.

    I look forward to reading about all the accomplishments that are taking place at the Lambeth Conference.

  7. LARRY SALVADORI | on August 10, 2022

    Dear Bishop Susan,
    Not only do we share an Iceland waterfall experience, but now also a Covid experience, as Jeanne and I came down with Covid the second day of a cruze to Alaska, and spent the rest of the trip in isolation watching the water go by the ship. Apart from the social stuff, we are praying for you to remain in good in good spirits for the rest of your journey. If you get a chance, please say hi to our Primate Michael, and let him know the San Diego Cursillo Community welcomes him to the Good News Festival in December. Can’t wait!

    The very best to you, Susan,

    Larry Salvadori

  8. Nancy Marvin Hardison | on August 10, 2022

    Thank you for this interesting and helpful letter. We are praying for your recovery, and sad that you are isolated. I am grateful that you are representing our diocese.
    In His love,
    Nancy

  9. Rev. Andrew Butler | on August 10, 2022

    Bishop Susan!
    Please know that we are praying for you at St. Margaret’s in Palm Desert as you continue to isolate and wishing you safe travels home. Andrew+

  10. sandra ann bedard | on August 10, 2022

    I appreciate your writing this blog, and I thank you for standing up for our LGBT+ community. For me it hits close to home since I have a gay son and also A gay grandson.I am so sorry you are ill and will miss the in person interaction in Person.

    Sandy Bedard
    St. Mary’s in Ramona

  11. David Saldana | on August 10, 2022

    I am happy to learn of this progress. The church’s support and acceptance of our LGBT brothers, sisters, sons and daughters is one of the reasons my wife and I are considering joining the Episcopal Church.

  12. Terry Kelly | on August 10, 2022

    No surprise that you are on our side, but I am eternally grateful that you are.

  13. Wayne F Sanders | on August 10, 2022

    Dear Bishop Susan+

    Thank you for you very interesting letter. Glad you are feeling better but you are missing a very muggy and hot summer so far. In my 46 wonderful years in San Diego I have never lived

    with the climate this hot! But I am not complaining because too many places are much worse than a llittle hot weather in the daytime but always cool and very liveable with a light blanket to send

    me to a deep sleep till 6 or 7 am. Kathy and I have very good news. Our daughter’s son Anthony who graduated from the Air Force Academy a couple of years ago and his recent wife Sierra also

    is a graduate of the AF Academy just had a beautiful baby boy by the name of Angelo Kie. That’s right, a very nice name but we have not heard the whole story but I am sure we will some day and

    can not wait to hug our little Angel KIe to pieces. That will be around New Year’s when we will visit them for a 6 day gathering.

    We are keeping you in our prayers and hope the Covid is healing and what a time to get sick. Things could be worse but we will be looking for a healthy Bishop ready to take a little rest and fill the

    rest of us with what’s NEW in the world and soon new to us San Diego!

    God Bless you and keep you safe and sound, a pleasnat ride home!

    In Christ always Wayne Sanders+

  14. Michael Howard | on August 11, 2022

    Bishop Susan,

    Thank you for the “Letter from Lambeth”, in the manner of those in the “New Yorker”. It is interesting to know of the doings of the Church gathered. Perhaps in empathy with you, I have just contracted COVID for the first time, in spite of full vaccination and rigorously following safety guidelines.

    It is surprising and dismaying that so many in the Church remain unwilling to accept the diversity of the humanity that God has created and are consequently so uncharitable in lack of caring for whole classes of human beings. We can be of “good cheer” that the Church in the US has made good progress in this matter and hopefully ere long other member churches of the Anglican Communion will make like progress and join the Holy Trinity in welcoming every human being into the love of God and the full faith and worship of the Church.

    Peace be with you.

    Michael Howard
    St. Paul in the Desert, PS

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