March 5, 2019
Dear Friends in Christ,
As many of you are aware, next week is the spring meeting of the House of Bishops in North Carolina, which I will be attending. One troubling matter that my fellow bishops and I will be discussing at length will be Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision not to invite spouses of bishops who are in same-sex marriages to the 2020 Lambeth Conference.
The Lambeth Conference is considered the worldwide Anglican Communion’s most important conference, bringing together all active bishops and their spouses to seek God’s guidance for the future of the Church. 2020 was to be a breakthrough year for the conference. For the first time in history, LGBTQ bishops are invited to attend and participate (that was not the case at the last Lambeth in 2008, when Bishop Gene Robinson was purposely excluded). However, news that the welcome does not extend to their spouses has cast a pall over the event, and Sheila and I, along with many of my bishop colleagues and their spouses, have considered not attending.
As of this writing, the Diocese of New York is taking a strong lead as we decide our course of action for Lambeth 2020. That diocese is home to the one sitting Episcopal bishop affected by Archbishop Welby’s decision, Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool (the decision also will also apply to the bishop-elect of Maine when he becomes the bishop and one bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada).
The Rt. Rev. Glasspool is the first lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion and is married to Becki Sander. On Friday, Bishop Glasspool and the two other Diocese of New York bishops, Bishop Andrew Dietsche and Bishop Suffragan Allen Shin announced that, after much deliberation and with mixed feelings, they will attend Lambeth, and Ms. Sander will accompany Bishop Glasspool to England, though she will not be permitted to participate in official meetings and activities.
In the letter, which I encourage you to read in full here, the Diocese of New York’s three bishops explained their goal in attending Lambeth:
We are graced by the lives and witness of the countless gay and lesbian priests, deacons and laypersons who have enhanced and magnified our common life by the depth of their faith, by their courage, and by the self-offering of their lives to the service to God and God’s children. We will be taking to Lambeth the lives and stories of the LGBTQ people of our diocese. We will be taking the hard histories and the holy graces of people who have asked only to receive from their church the dignity and love which they have received from their God. We will bear witness to the struggle and the triumph, and we will give voice at Lambeth to the voiceless many who will not be there. We will carry to Lambeth the spirit raised this year on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in this our own diocese, and the celebration of World Pride Week. We go to Lambeth so that you will be at Lambeth.
After much prayer and discernment, Sheila and I have concluded, also with mixed feelings, that we must join Bishop Glasspool and Ms. Sander at Lambeth to support them, as well as the other two gay bishops and their spouses. With renewed purpose, we will also carry to Lambeth the voices of the LGBTQ community in the Diocese of California and beyond.
Please pray for us and our colleagues as we prepare for Lambeth, and pray especially for those who still lack access to the full sacramental life of our Church.