Amidst the heated comments of western bishops against reaffirming the 1998 Lambeth Conference’s resolution on sexuality, it is vital to remember how much “whiter” this Lambeth is than most recent Lambeth conferences. At Lambeth 2022 western churches hold influence out of all proportion to their size. Western bishops would be horrified to admit it, but their influence is a classic case of white privilege.
I am not always a fan of the language of “white privilege,” but it is certainly discernible here. Eight Episcopal dioceses in the USA have fewer than 1,000 people in church on an average Sunday as of 2019 (there are more “micro-dioceses” now). In 2019, the diocese of Northern Michigan claimed 385 attended its churches on an average Sunday — that’s fewer than a good many individual Anglican congregations. This cannot be serious. And these micro-dioceses are, mostly, led by white bishops.
In 2017, 10 Canadian dioceses — a third of all Canadian dioceses — had under 1,000 worshippers on an average Sunday. And they have shrunk further since then. Yet their (mostly white) bishops are busy opining at Lambeth.
Several Scottish dioceses are able to run North American dioceses close when it comes to the dubious distinction of being the smallest diocese, by attendance, in the Communion. The Bishop of Brechin felt able to speak out on Lambeth 1:10, but didn’t mention that the total attendance across his diocese, as of 2019, was 676 people.
Yes, a bishop’s episcopal charism does not depend on the number of worshipers in their see. But when almost all the micro-dioceses are in the west, and when western bishops are disproportionately present at Lambeth 2022, this is white privilege in action.
The Side-lining of Global South Anglicans
Over-representation of rich western dioceses is matched by gross under-representation of the Global South at Lambeth 2022 This happens in several ways.
Lambeth 2022 is taking place even though the bishops of half of African Anglicans have refused to come. Their dioceses constitute a third of the total Anglican Communion. Western bishops may say “it was their choice not to come.” But this is not a good look. That third of the communion is certainly not being listened to. The readiness of many western bishops to act as if Lambeth 2022 is “business as usual” is untenable.
Read it all in Covenant