Safeguarding is the thing that is very much on my mind at the moment. The other thing that is on my mind is the issue of gay bishops at the next Lambeth Conference. While I was fact-checking my previous blog Gay bishops, legal discrimination and the Lambeth Conference, available here, I was reminded of the exorcism incident at the 1998 Lambeth conference.
For those who are not familiar with that incident, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu, Nigeria attempted to exorcise the “homosexual demons” from the Reverend Richard Kirker, leader of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. [The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has now been renamed OneBodyOneFaith]. Kirker’s response to the attempted exorcism was “May God bless you, sir, and deliver you from your prejudice against homosexuality.” Information taken from the lgbtarchive.uk available here.
Further information can be found at the BBC archive here.
A full account of the exorcism incident can be found in chapter 8 of Stephen Bates’ book A Church at war: Anglicans and Homosexuality.
Available to purchase here.
At the following Lambeth Conference in 2008, the only openly gay bishop – Gene Robinson, the bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal church in the United States – was not invited to attend. He did visit the UK that year, he had a new book to promote called In the Eye of the Storm.
Available to purchase here.
One of the things I found particularly moving in this book is the account that Gene Robinson and his partner Mark had to wear bulletproof vests for Robinson’s consecration as bishop because they had received death threats from other Christians.
There have been gay bishops at previous Lambeth Conferences, but they have not been open about their sexuality, but have remained in the closet. Much safer there, I am sure.
Rt Revd Mary Glasspool, is the second openly gay bishop, and so far the only lesbian bishop, in the Anglican communion. This means that for the first time, there will be openly gay bishops at the Lambeth Conference. Who is responsible for their safety? Who will make sure that they won’t be facing an exorcism on the way to breakfast or checking that they won’t have to sit through a call for repentance and giving up ‘their gay lifestyle’ at morning prayer or being told that ‘God hates them’ or they are ‘an abomination’ etc as they find a seat at a seminar?
Conferences in the UK usually start with a statement about safe space and respecting others. Will anyone make that expectation clear or will we have more of the usual ‘looking forward to some interesting debates’ anglobabble? The bishops will be there at Justin Welby’s invitation, so he has a duty of care for them. How seriously will he take that responsibility when he has already shown himself willing to discriminate against the same bishops?
Nor should we forget that there is an openly gay bishop in the church of England. This was widely reported in 2016 when the bishop of Grantham came out in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. This can be read here.
My memory of that was that he was in a civil partnership, but fact checking for this article, I could not find a reference that explicitly stated that. My memory may be incorrect on that point. The only references I found were similar to those in the Guardian that refer to a long term, and celibate, partner. Will the bishop of Grantham’s partner be invited to the Lambeth Conference or not? They are not married, so they do not fall foul of the Resolution I.10 ‘standard’ as outlined by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon here.
As a general question, would the civil partner of an English bishop be invited or not? It was December 2012 when the House of Bishops concluded that there was no impediment to those in a civil partnership being ordained bishop. This is set out in the updated, 2013, CHOOSING BISHOPS – THE EQUALITY ACT 2010 (REVISED) GS Misc 1044 , which can be accessed here.
So far we are still waiting. By way of a contrast, it was decided in July 2014 that women could be ordained bishops and the first female bishop was appointed later the same year. After over six years, we are still waiting for someone in a civil partnership to be ordained bishop. There is still time before July 2020 for that to happen. Would their civil partner be invited or not?
The Lambeth Conference website does not have any information about safeguarding. It does not even state who has responsibility for safeguarding. It has a page where we can ‘meet the team’ but no way to contact them to ask. I would like to raise safeguarding with the team putting the conference together. Knowing the history of the conference and the way that gay bishops have been treated in the past, safeguarding them needs to be on their agenda.