You are not welcome at our table this summer with your cis/straight peers.
If you’re married to a same-sex partner, I grant you grudging permission to attend our worldwide Lambeth Conference in July and August, but your spouse may not attend. I have specifically disinvited them after having invited the spouses of every other Anglican leader.
Your spouse may not break bread with us because many in our Communion find you both you and your spouse to be sinful and un-Christian. We reject your spouse while we reluctantly concede that you may join us if you come alone.
Bizarre homophobia … say LGBTQ Anglicans
Welby first announced the exclusion of same-sex spouses in 2019 before the 2020 Anglican leadership conference was postponed due to COVID. His homophobia was met with howls of outrage from queer Christians and allies around the world, but he has not backed down. The problem has become bigger as the number of married LGBTQ bishops has grown.
Jeremy Pemberton, the first Church of England priest to marry his same-sex partner, told reporters that Welby’s disinvitation “panders to the views of the most extremely conservative” Anglican leaders, adding, “I just think they increase public revulsion at their hypocrisy and their inability to treat people decently.”
Simon Sarmiento, chair of the Church of England advocacy group LGBTI Mission, calls Welby’s homophobic actions bizarre: “It is bizarre to invite same-sex married bishops while excluding their spouses. This action fails on every count. It will be seen in England as pure homophobia, and it will do nothing to appease those bishops who refuse to view same-sex relationships as anything other than sinful.”
Welby’s un-Christian behavior is seen in the U.S. and Canada as pure homophobia too
The worldwide Anglican Communion includes the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church of Canada, which both consecrate bishops married to same-sex partners. The Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson, a gay man in a partnership with a man, as bishop in 2003, lifting all restrictions on same-sex marriage in 2015.
The Anglican Church of Canada has not yet approved same-sex marriage as a body, though many dioceses allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages, and many Canadian Anglican deacons, priests, and bishops are married to same-sex spouses.
Both Churches overwhelming support same-sex marriage, although the practice is not quite universally accepted in the Canadian Church, yet.
As of 2019, an overwhelming majority of Canadian Anglican lay people (80.9%) voted to approve same-sex marriage, a super-majority of clergy (73.2%) voted to approve, and a smaller majority of bishops (62.2%) voted to approve. A churchwide policy change failed at that time because the measure was not approved by a required two-thirds of bishops. Analysts say that with older bishops retiring and being replaced by more progressive young people, the rule change will pass within the next few years.
Justin Welby’s homophobia violates the spirit of the Lambeth Conference and of Christianity. Here’s why it’s happening.
Bishops in three of the largest Anglican provinces in Africa are boycotting Lambeth over the invitation of bishops in same-sex marriages, and more conservative bishops are rumored to have told Welby they would boycott if same-sex spouses attended.
The official theme of the 2022 Lambeth conference is “God’s Church for God’s World — walking, listening and witnessing together.” Left off the event’s official website is the homophobic reality: “Unless you’re gay, in which case we will barely tolerate walking with you, we will not listen, and we won’t even sit at the table with your spouse.”
I don’t think anyone familiar with the teachings of Jesus could recognize Jesus in Welby’s homophobic exclusion. I think anyone reading the Gospels would understand the Archbishop of Canterbury is behaving opposite to how Jesus always behaved.
Jesus ministered to lepers, sex workers, and even reviled Roman centurions. Would he refuse to sit at the table with a loving married couple? The question doesn’t need posing, does it? Welby is dead wrong.
He’s acting the politician, not living as a Christian. He’s worshipping the institution of the Anglican Communion instead of the God he’s supposed to love and honor. He has caved to hatred and in Christian metaphor has bowed down to an idol.
Why are any spouses invited if some are specifically excluded?
Episcopal House of Deputies president Gay Clark Jennings had strong words for Welby in 2019. She told the U.S. Episcopal executive council that if the Anglican Communion cannot yet “hold a global meeting of Anglican bishops and spouses to which everyone is invited, then I think we should not be holding global meetings of Anglican bishops and spouses.”
Many Anglicans have repeated Jennings’ suggestion, loathe to participate in an event centered on hatred and exclusion. Anglicans ask, if Welby cannot bring himself to include same-sex spouses, why doesn’t he disinvite all spouses? Why not treat everyone the same instead of treating LGBTQ people as inferior?
Nobody knows, and Welby has maintained radio silence. He even had a subordinate announce his original disinvitation, prompting some Anglicans to add “coward” to their label of Welby as “hypocrite.”
The Canadian Anglican Primate just offered up weak regrets while defending Welby’s homophobia
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, published a defense of Welby on Wednesday, issuing a statement calling his exclusionary policy “unfortunate” but excusing it by explaining he’s in an “awkward place” and “having to walk a fine line.”
Nicholls did not call on Welby to include the spouses of same-sex married bishops in the Church she leads, nor did she call on Welby to disinvite all spouses rather than only LGBTQ spouses. She made no stirring call to emulate Jesus and uttered practically no moral defense of the LGBTQ clergy under her leadership. I can only imagine how hung-out-to-dry they must feel.
In fact, Nicholls’ statement is strikingly anti-Christian, sounding more like the waffling words of a politician than of a principled faith leader.
With conservative Christians increasingly drawing an LGBTQ line in the sand, now is the time for Christian leaders to defend LGBTQ Christians, not spit on them like Welby is doing
As Esther Spurrill-Jones has noted in two recent Prism & Pen articles, conservative Christians are fighting to make sexuality and marriage a “matter of primary importance” in defining who a Christian is and who a Christian is not. She observes that some Christians don’t hesitate to lie to smear queer Christians.
Esther, an LGBTQ Canadian and devout Christian, isn’t having it. She knows being LGBTQ cannot possibly exlude her or anyone from the ranks of Christians. She knows sexuality was not of primary importance to Jesus or the early Church, and she’d tired of all the mud slung at her and good Christians like her.
Sadly, LGBTQ Christians like Esther cannot rely on prominent faith leaders like Justin Welby or Linda Nicholls, who seem to have lost Jesus’s message in their quest for institutional power.
Welby’s disinvitation really is a spit in the face. Those words are not too strong.
I realize some will object to my headline, calling my metaphor over the top. I use it to try to wake people up. Think about this carefully and slowly: The Archbishop of Canterbury invited the spouses of all Anglican bishops to the next global Lambeth Conference, and then he specifically told LGBTQ bishops that their spouses are not welcome.
If you’re a Christian and you think that’s acceptable, then you are as morally broken (as evil) as Justin Welby himself.
I call on Welby to either live as a Christian or to step aside for someone who will. I call on Christians around the world, including Linda Nicholls, to demand the same.
We LGBTQ people are tired of being spat upon; we’re tired of Christian leaders doing it or tolerating it. Enough! Stop the hate!
You’re supposed to be followers of Jesus. Start acting like it. Today would be a great day to start.
James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.