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Bitter row over Anglican ‘motion’ to reject gay marriage

Aonce-a-decade conference of the Anglican Communion has been forced into an awkward compromise on gay marriage after it descended into a bitter row over the subject within a day of opening.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, being interviewed in his office in Lambeth Palace - Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph/Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph/Geoff Pugh for The TelegraphThe Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, being interviewed in his office in Lambeth Palace - Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph/Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

After a draft communique condemning gay marriage was published earlier in the week, a backlash forced the Lambeth conference, presided over by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to scramble to produce a new version in which members of the communion effectively agree to disagree.

The conference is being held for the first time in 14 years, with previous efforts postponed by the coronavirus pandemic and fears over divisions within the church.

As part of the conference, delegates will be asked to vote on the so-called Lambeth Calls, a form of conference communique informally tying the communion together in a set of stated beliefs and values.

When the draft calls were published on Monday, the section on “human dignity” included contentious language first used at the 1998 conference which stated, “It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible”.

Motion angered bishops and campaigners in church

That infuriated LGBT campaigners within the church and several bishops condemned the wording, including the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Southwark in England.

It is unclear how the wording, known as Lambeth I.10 made it into the calls. Kevin Robertson, the openly gay Bishop of York-Scarborough in Canada and a member of the working group tasked with drafting that section of the calls, said that the language was never discussed in the group.

“I never agreed to this call in its current form,” he said, adding that the claim that it was the mind of the Anglican Communion to reject same-sex marriage “is simply not true”.

After stating on Monday evening that the calls would be amended, the conference published a new version late Tuesday afternoon.

Justin Welby ‘caught out by manoeuverings behind the scenes’

The new language reads: “Many Provinces continue to affirm that same-gender marriage is not permissible…  Other Provinces have blessed and welcomed same-sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of reception. As Bishops we remain committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree, despite our deep disagreement on these issues.”

Sources within the church suggested to The Telegraph that Lord Welby and Tim Thornton, the chair of the conference, had been caught out by manoeuverings behind the scenes. Lambeth Palace declined to comment on the matter.

The conference organisers also responded by adding a third, no option for the final vote on the calls. Previously delegates had only been able to express full or qualified agreement.

The Anglican Communion faces significant divisions between socially liberal members, focused in the UK and wealthy, Western nations, and the more numerous social conservatives mostly from African countries but with significant backing from bishops in the United States.

Those divisions led to the decision not to hold a conference in 2018. 

Reference: The telegraph: Daniel Capurro

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