A toxic draft text on same-sex unions has needlessly reopened old wounds

The staging of the twice-delayed Lambeth conference, which this week sees bishops from the Anglican communion assemble in Canterbury for the first time since 2008, should be a cause for celebration. Postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, it offers representatives from more than 40 national churches around the world the chance to reconnect in person. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has expressed the hope that it will be an occasion for fruitful dialogue, as Anglicans negotiate the challenges of creating “a postcolonial model” for a communion created in the era of empire.

Sadly, such admirable aspirations risk being undermined by more divisive debate on sexuality and the status of same-sex unions. Among a series of draft texts distributed last week to the 650 attending bishops and archbishops, one called for the reaffirmation of an infamously divisive resolution from the Lambeth conference of 1998. This flatly rejected homosexual practice as “incompatible with scripture”, and fuelled years of acrimony and culture wars, leaving gay and lesbian Anglicans feeling marginalised, betrayed and excluded. The draft text also asked bishops to back the proposition that “it is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-gender marriage is not permissible”.

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