‘A wave of love’

[Episcopal News Service – Canterbury, England] Over a dozen Episcopal bishops joined a march across the campus of the University of Kent, site of the Lambeth Conference, on July 27, 2022, to show support for LGBTQ+ inclusion as the topic once again looms large over the once-a-decade gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion, underway here through August 8.

The raucous sound of whistles and drums accompanied the procession throughout the campus, punctuated by cheers from onlookers. The bishops’ purple shirts barely stood out among the stream of rainbow flags and stickers, signs, trans pride flags and colorful outfits. Some bishops marched with their same-sex spouses, who were not invited to participate fully in the conference as bishops’ opposite-sex spouses are but who are invited to attend some events as observers.

The march drew at least 100 people. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

The march on the conference’s first official day was organized by the university’s LGBT+ Staff Network and brought together over 100 university students and staff, clergy and their spouses, local residents and other supporters. It had been planned months in advance as part of the university’s parallel programming during the conference, which it is hosting despite its objections to how the conference is handling LGBTQ+ issues.

University staff and students led the march. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Welcome from the march organizers at Kent University

“We warmly welcome the gathering of voices from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and outlooks to the Lambeth Conference and, as a University, we intend to learn from and, where appropriate, add our voice to the discussion of the vital questions under discussion,” university administrators wrote in June.

“Alongside this we are clear that the position of the worldwide Anglican Communion on the place of LGBT+ people within the Church and wider society does not fit with our deeply held values of equality, inclusion, tolerance, and mutual respect. We say that openly and unambiguously.”

Some 650 bishops and their spouses from 42 Anglican provinces and 165 countries are gathered in Canterbury for the conference. It does not have legislative authority, but is intended, through common study of world issues and matters impacting the Christian faith – as well as fellowship and worship – to shape the life of the communion in the coming decade. This is the 15th such gathering held in 155 years.

Onlookers cheered as the march went by. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Views on same-sex marriage vary widely throughout the communion, with The Episcopal Church leading the way toward full marriage equality and full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people.

The university pledged to hold events that responded to and engaged with the debate over LGBTQ+ inclusion in Anglican churches. The march kicked off a day-long “Rainbows in Religion” symposium that included presentations and panel discussions on the topic.

Newly elected Connecticut Bishop Jeffrey Mello applauds as he and other bishops join the march. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Though the march’s organizers had singled out Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision not to invite the same-sex spouses as the main motivation for the march, it took on added significance after a statement saying the Anglican Communion “as a whole” rejects same-sex marriage was added to one of the draft documents – “Lambeth calls” – that bishops will vote on. The language was altered on July 26 to eliminate the most divisive language and to reflect the lack of consensus on the issue across the communion.

Episcopal Church bishops who participated

Among the marchers from The Episcopal Church were New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool, the first openly lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion, and several other bishops whose spouses were not invited. At the end of the march, one of the university organizers addressed them specifically, telling them, “You are welcome here” as the crowd applauded.

March organizers pose with bishops and spouses, including the Rev. Thomas Mousin and Bishop Thomas Brown, second and third from left. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Maine Bishop Thomas Brown marched with his husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin.

“Whenever there’s a sense of welcome, there’s a sense of joy. And what I felt was that this university community came together to say, ‘We are glad you’re here,’” Brown told Episcopal News Service.

“It’s delightful to be here – it’s just like a wave of love,” Mousin added. “It’s wonderful that we’ve received it.”

—Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Lambeth Conference: God's Church for God's World

What is the Lambeth Conference?

Every bishop of the Anglican Communion is invited to the Lambeth Conference, which is convened by the Most Reverend Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury. The Lambeth Conference has met since 1867, happens once-a-decade, and is a significant event in the life of the Anglican Communion.

The conference will explore church and world affairs. Outcomes of the conference will shape the life of the Anglican Communion in the decade ahead.

Anglican Compass Rose

The Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion has no central authority figure or body. It is made up of 42 autonomous members or provinces. Each member church makes its own decisions in its own way.

However, their decision-making bodies are guided by recommendations from each of the four so-called Instruments of Communion

The Secretariat, also known as the Anglican Communion Office, based in London, England support Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide to carry out any requests from the Instruments and work to enable members of the Anglican Communion to fulfil their calling to be God’s people in the world.

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