Bishops taking their seats before the final retreat session of Lambeth 2022 : Photo Helen-Ann Hartley

Traditionalist Anglican bishops are being asked to stay in their seats during the opening Eucharist of the 2022 Lambeth Conference to be held at Canterbury Cathedral, protesting the presence of partnered gay bishops amongst those present at the every ten year gathering of Anglican bishops.

At press conference held on 29 July 2022 at the 2022 Lambeth Conference, the leaders of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, the Most Rev. Justin Bada Arama of South Sudan said they were encouraging their fellow global south bishops to make a visual sign of their breach of fellowship with those bishops who had broken with the Anglican Communion’s received teaching on human sexuality. 

Archbishop Badi stated the Global South “primates will be discussing the services with their bishops, but all orthodox bishops will be encouraged to remain in their seats when others go to receive the bread and wine.  This will be the start of a number of ‘visual differentials’ as we move forward from this conference.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, on 15 February 2019 said he would not be inviting same-sex spouses of bishops to the gathering. Lambeth Conferences since the Second World War have welcomed the spouses of bishops and since 1988 have offered a parallel gathering for the bishop’s wives – and since 1998 – husbands. Lambeth 2022 will be the first conference where bishops with same-sex spouses will be present.

The decision not to invite the same-sex spouses of bishops had prompted protests. The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. Paul Bayes, vowed not to bring his (opposite sex) spouse to the conference in protest to the decision, while the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops at their Fall 2019 released a statement saying the decision to bar gay spouses was “hurtful”.

The break of Eucharistic fellowship among bishops of the Anglican Communion, had its first public airing at the 2003 primates meeting in London, when traditionalist bishops refused to worship with the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold after he had consecrated V. Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire. All subsequent pan-Anglican gatherings have witnessed the breakdown of Eucharistic fellowship over disagreements on sexual ethics and Scripture.

At the opening press conference on 29 July 2022, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town and primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa acknowledged the rupture in Eucharistic fellowship. He observed that the “Anglican family” was a “messy” affair. However, we were “walking together” and he was “hoping we will engage each other honestly” over these issues. “I hope we will be challenged” by these issues to “look at something bigger than ourselves.”

Archbishop Welby observed: “The Anglican Communion is a family and we are working through these difficulties.”  It was not something that would be “sorted out at one meeting,” he added. “We are committed to listening and walking together to the maximum possible degree”, the archbishop said.