A bishop from New York and a former priest from South Africa, both Anglican, lesbian, and in same-sex marriages, will preside over an inclusive worship service on the eve of the international Lambeth Conference to protest the denomination’s decision to exclude gay spouses from the gathering.
The Right Rev. Mary Glasspool, assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese New York, and Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, said they plan to host the service at an undisclosed church in Canterbury, U.K. in July, according to The Church Times. Tickets will be required, but it will also be live-streamed on the Internet.
“Like others, I initially queried the use of the phrase ‘inclusive Eucharist,’ given that all Eucharistic celebrations are, of their very essence, inclusive,” Glasspool, the first married lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion, said this week. “However, I am aware that there are, sadly, many places in the world where this is not yet the case. I hope that, in some small way, this celebration can be a part of changing that.”
The Lambeth Conference is a once-a-decade global Anglican bishops’ summit that draws an estimated 1,000 bishops from 165 countries. This year it is set for the end of July in Canterbury. Nearly two weeks long, the conference includes prayer and discussions about issues facing the denomination.
Glasspool told The Guardian newspaper she received a December 2018 letter from Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican church, informing Glasspool that her wife, Becki, was not invited to attend, even though spouses are traditionally welcomed to the summit. In the letter, Welby acknowledged it was “a decision that I am well aware will cause you pain, which I regret deeply.”
Organizers of the service include the Campaign for Equal Marriage, Inclusive Church, OneBodyOneFaith, the Ozanne Foundation, and Women and the Church (WATCH).
“The LGBT+ community in the U.K. and other places might not understand that they are invited to celebrate at the Christian table,” Glasspool said. “We need to make it known that everyone is included—all are invited to this particular celebration.”
Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest from South Africa who resigned her position after marrying her same-sex partner, said her July sermon will reflect “Christian welcome and hospitality.”
“Jesus was always determined to make those who society sees as outsiders be insiders,” said Tutu van Furth, who now resides in the Netherlands.
Several weeks after Welby sent the letters to those impacted by the decision, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, formally addressed the decision in a February 2019 blog post, according to The Christian Post.
“Invitations have been sent to every active bishop,” Idowu-Fearon’s post read. “That is how it should be—we are recognizing that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend.
“But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.”
The secretary-general added that, as a result, “it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nito100
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.