The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.
– Psalm 121, Book of Common Prayer, p. 779
Dear Beloved People of the Diocese,
I write from England on the eve of the start of the Lambeth Conference. Walking around the historical sites of Anglicanism I find it helpful to remember who I am, who created me, and who watches over my every step now and forever.
Lambeth 2022, a decennial gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been delayed by conflict within the communion for an initial two years and then for another two years due to the pandemic. As I shared with the clergy and wardens of our diocese, I have been looking forward to connecting with classmates leading dioceses in other parts of the communion and to supporting the ministries of the first and only women bishops in Kenya, Japan, and Mexico.
My initial excitement was diminished when gay and lesbian bishops were told their spouses could not attend. It has been important to me as an ally that these bishops and their spouses have the unwavering support, care, and protection of the House of Bishops. These bishops have expressed the primacy of presence and how important it is to be present at Lambeth, even so, and will participate fully. I am one of many bishops that stand with them.
Then what a shock and disappointment it has been to discover, in the midst of traveling to Lambeth, that the agenda will include a revisit and vote on a resolution from Lambeth 1998 that condemned homosexuality, same gendered marriage, and barred homosexual people from ordination. The same resolution clearly stated that while the majority of the communion supported this thinking, not all of the Lambeth 1998 bishops agreed, "we confess that we are not of one mind.”
The ensuing years have proven this last statement to be true. The Anglican Communion is not of one mind and yet we remain in relationship with each other. Do we need to have continuing communication about the place of all God's beloved people in the life of our church? Yes, we do.
It is difficult to understand why the Archbishop of Canterbury delayed informing participants about "Lambeth Calls," which replace the resolutions of previous meetings. Learning about voting just days before the conference begins does not instill trust. Still, this action opens the door to conversations that need to continue. These difficult conversations illuminate the struggle for dignity and safety in parts of the world where homosexuality is a crime punishable by law, in some places even by death. These conversations can generate a spark of hope in places where hope is a much-needed balm.
Even so, I find it outrageous that these matters are being put before this gathering once again without regard for the damage this may cause to LGBTQ+ people and with little notice to organize a proper response. I am not satisfied with only being outraged because I am certain that all of us are called to do more than express opinions. We are called to action.
Our Presiding Bishop will gather the bishops of the Episcopal Church together on the second night of Lambeth 2022. I expect we will pray, talk, ask questions, listen, and formulate responses that speak to our desire and love of God and a church that has room for all people. The primacy of presence, staying present and engaged, is crucial. If the Episcopal Church chose to stay away, then those who need others to speak for them, lose our voice. Our presence is not simply for ourselves. Deciding to be present at Lambeth is action we bishops are called to take in solidarity.
The first action that I ask you to take is simple and vital: Please pray for all attending the conference and for God's presence and guidance in our time together. Your daily prayers will be a blessing to Lambeth 2022.
The second action each of us can take is to be honest about our own home. For the last few years in the United States we have been experiencing a growing intolerance towards all sorts of people. LGBTQ+ people in particular have been openly concerned about safety, freedom to marry, freedom to raise children, freedom to work, and what sort of welcome we offer in our churches. What steps do we as individuals and churches need to take to ensure that all people are safe and thriving? We cannot assume that some local, state, or federal authority or court will ensure these things. Our shock, outrage, and hurt must lead to action or this trend of intolerance will continue and grow.
Finally, remember who we are. Remember who created us. Remember that God watches over our every step now and forever more.
Grace and peace,
The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
XI Bishop of Newark