Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
I write to you not from the UK, but from my apartment in Kansas City as the Lambeth Conference is getting underway. The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of all the active bishops throughout the Anglican Communion which occurs once every 10 years. I want to share with you all why I am not at Lambeth, and my feelings about what is about to take place there.
Before COVID crippled our world, I was excited about going to Lambeth. It was postponed, rightly so. When it was moved to this year, directly after our General Convention, and with COVID cases still on the rise, I made the decision NOT to go to Lambeth because a) it would be too much time away from The Diocese of West Missouri and my immediate priority is our work here together; and b) while adequate protocols and precautions were being taken at our own General Convention regarding COVID, I heard very little about adequate precautions taken at Lambeth where over 650 bishops would gather under a tent, not including all the spouses — and from all over the world! As a cancer survivor and someone who is married to a cancer survivor, Stephen and I decided the risks outweighed any benefit of being there. I am not the only bishop who is not going to Lambeth – there are a few of us. Most bishops are going. We were hoping that there would be an opportunity to attend virtually, but that option was not offered to those of us making the decision to stay home.
On Friday, just eight days before the conference begins, the bishops received a 58 page study guide by email in which a series of Calls were listed – you can read more about that in the articles below. (Please note that as the Anglican Communion cannot dictate the actions of any member Province, therefore these actions cannot be referred to as resolutions. Instead, they are being referred to as Calls as they are not binding on any Province.) Most of the Calls the bishops will vote on were worthwhile and mirror the conversation we have been having with bishops from throughout the Anglican Communion in the months leading up to this Lambeth Conference. But one Call was met with shock and dismay by many bishops: they would have been asked to reaffirm “Lambeth I.10 (from 1998) that upholds marriage as between a man and a woman and requires deeper work to uphold the dignity and witness of LGBTQ Anglicans.” This has not been part of the discussions in any of our pre-Lambeth conversations, and not what has been “advertised” as part of the work of this Conference.
I want to be clear with you all here –- the Episcopal Church, through our General Convention, has made our decision on this subject -– and while we understand that not everyone agrees with this position, the Church has made same gender marriage rites available for use throughout our Church. We cannot, we will not, backpedal in our support for our LGBTQ siblings or their marriages. I think about our LGBTQ clergy in this diocese. I think about my LGBTQ bishop siblings: Deon Johnson, Mary Glasspool (with whom I was consecrated in 2010), Thomas Brown and Bonnie Perry. I think about their spouses who were NOT invited to this Conference.
Because of the outcry surrounding this issue, the Lambeth Conference office has announced that the Call in question will be revised by the relevant drafting group. The bishops of the Episcopal Church will meet with our Presiding Bishop on July 27 in Canterbury to “discern a way forward” before the start of the conference. I already know from many of my bishop siblings that they are very upset about the switch from the dialogue format we all experienced with bishops from all over the world prior to last week, and the series of Calls, including the one regarding same gender marriage, which will require a vote from the Bishops of the Anglican Communion.
There are links to relevant statements and articles below. I ask you to join me in prayer for my sibling bishops around the world. I ask you to pray for my sibling bishops from this Episcopal Church bearing witness to the boundless love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May all come together holding Christ at the center of their conversations.
I am available to any of you who would like to talk to me about this or any other issue which comes up at this Lambeth Conference.
Blessings and love,
The Rt. Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce
Bishop Provisional of West Missouri