Prior to this year’s Lambeth Conference revisionists hoped and conservatives feared that one of the outcomes of the Conference would be a change in the position of the Anglican Communion with regard to the issue of human sexuality.
In this short paper I want to argue that the result of the Conference has been to leave unchanged the position of the Communion with regard to human sexuality and that this fact needs to be taken into account in the forthcoming discussions about human sexuality that will take place in the Church of England in the aftermath of the Living in Love and Faith process.
What was the position prior to the 2022 Lambeth Conference?
Prior to the 2022 Lambeth Conference the agreed position of the Anglican Communion was that policy decisions on matters concerning the Communion as a whole were made by the bishops of the Communion meeting together in counsel at the Lambeth Conferences. Such decisions (known as resolutions) were made by means of votes by those bishops present at the Conference and although such votes had no legal authority in terms of the Canon law of the various churches of the Communion it was accepted that these decisions had a moral authority which meant that they ought to be adhered to until they were changed as a result of a subsequent vote on the matter concerned.
At the 1998 Lambeth the bishops present voted by 526-70 in favour of a resolution 1.10 on human sexuality. The resolution runs as follows:
- commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
- in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
- recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
- while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
- cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
- requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
- notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.
In the years between 1998 and 2022 there was no vote by the bishops of the Communion that rescinded or revised resolution 1.10 and it remained the official position of the Communion as a whole. In addition, 35 out of the 42 provinces of the Anglican Communion (representing 90-95% of worshipping Anglicans) continued to uphold the teaching and practice set out in the resolution. However, five provinces (US, Brazil, Wales, Scotland, and New Zealand) officially rejected the resolution by allowing same-sex blessings or marriages and by permitting the ordination of those in same-sex relationships. In two other provinces (Canada and Australia) the provincial position is unclear, although in Canada there are dioceses in which same-sex blessings and marriages take place and in which those in same-sex relationships are ordained.
Those provinces which rejected resolution 1.10 not only rejected this particular resolution, but by so doing also went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion that provinces should abide by the decisions made at the Lambeth Conferences unless and until subsequent conferences voted to change them.
What is the position after the 2022 Lambeth Conference?
Following the 2022 Lambeth Conference the position just described remains unchanged.
The bishops did not vote to change the traditional polity of the Anglican Communion and so the agreed position of the Communion continues to be that provinces have a moral obligation to abide by the decisions made at Lambeth Conferences.
The bishops did not vote to rescind, change, or replace, resolution 1.10 and so it remains the official position of the Anglican Communion on the matters it covers.
The large majority of the provinces of the Communion (representing the vast majority of Anglicans) continue to uphold resolution 1.10 while only a small minority of provinces have officially rejected it or have a position which is unclear.
Furthermore, those bishops who hold that the Communion should move away from the position taken in resolution 1.10 failed to make out a convincing case for such a move at the Conference.
During the Conference a statement was issued by 11 archbishops and 164 bishops who were ‘keen to affirm and celebrate LGBT+ people.’ This statement runs as follows:
‘‘So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and
also members of the household of God’ – Ephesians 2:19 ’
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also
should love one another.’ – John 13:34
God is Love! This love revealed by Jesus, described in the Scriptures and proclaimed by the
Church, is Good News for all – without exception. That is why we believe that LGBT+ people are a
precious part of God’s creation – for each of us is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14),
and all are equally loved.
We recognise that many LGBT+ people have historically been wounded by the Church and
particularly hurt by the events of the last few weeks. We wish to affirm the holiness of their love
wherever it is found in committed relationships.
We therefore commit to working with our siblings across the Communion to listen to their stories
and understand their contexts, which vary greatly. However, we will never shy away from tackling
discrimination and prejudice against those of differing sexualities and gender identities.
Together, we will speak healing and hope to our broken world and look forward to the day when
all may feel truly welcomed, valued and affirmed.’
The problem with this statement is that neither the two biblical quotations at the start of the statement, nor the subsequent affirmations the LGBT+ people are created and loved by God, logically lead to a belief in the ‘holiness’ of the love of LGBT+ people ‘wherever it is found in committed relationships.’
The undeclared assumption underlying the statement is that because God has created LGBT+ people, loves them, and has included them among his people, it therefore follows that their committed relationships (whatever form these take) are therefore automatically holy. This is a fallacy. The Bible and the Christian tradition are clear that it is perfectly possible for people who are created and loved by God, and who are members of God’s people, to engage in relationships which are still unholy even if they are committed.
The questions asked about sexual conduct by the Bible, and by the Christian tradition following the Bible, are not ‘Are the people concerned created and loved by God?’ ‘Do they belong to the Church’ and ‘Is their relationship committed?’ The question they ask is instead ‘Does this conduct conform to the pattern for human behaviour established by God at creation, namely a life-long exclusive relationship between one man and one woman being the proper context for sexual activity?’ (Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:3-12). Only if the answer to this last question is ‘yes’ can the conduct involved be described as holy. Otherwise, it is unholy.
The statement completely fails to address this point, and for this reason it fails to show that the new approach its signatories propose is to be preferred to resolution 1.10 , which continues to affirm the pattern for human behaviour which God established at creation.
A final point that needs to be noted is that while the Archbishop of Canterbury, both in his comments at the Conferences session on Human Dignity and in his letter to the bishops of the Communion, put forward the suggestion that issues of human sexuality are adiaphora and that both those who uphold and those who reject resolution 1.10 should be regarded as having equal standing in the Anglican Communion, this was only his suggestion. What the Archbishop of Canterbury says does not become the position of the Communion unless, and until, bishops at the Lambeth Conference vote that it is. No such vote was taken at Lambeth 2022 and the bishops of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans subsequently indicated their strong dissent from the archbishop’s position. The position of the Anglican Communion therefore remains unaltered regardless of the archbishop’s comments.
A good analogy would be a speech by a British Prime Minister setting out his view on a given issue. What is said in the speech remains simply his view and has no constitutional effect unless or until Parliament passes the relevant legislation. A Prime Minister cannot rule by decree, and neither can the Archbishop of Canterbury.
What does all this mean for the Church of England?
If we now turn to the Church of England what we find is that prior to Lambeth 2022 the Church of England accepted the principle that it should abide by decisions made at the Lambeth Conference.
What we also find is that in line with this principle the Church of England has viewed itself as bound by resolution 1.10 of the !998 Lambeth Conference.
In February 2007 the Church of England’s General Synod passed a motion which stated:
‘That this Synod
(a) commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion;
(b) recognize that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference Resolutions (1978: 10; 1988: 64; 1998: 1.10).’
This motion has never been repealed or replaced and so remains the official Church of England position.
In line with this position, the House of Bishops Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships in 2005 cites resolution 1.10 as one of the ‘key church statements’ setting out the Church of England’s position on human sexuality, and in its Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage in 2014 the House likewise cites the resolution as part of the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, noting that the resolution ‘remains the declared position of the Anglican Communion.’
Nothing has changed in regard to any of these points as a result of the 2022 Lambeth Conference.
- The Church of England has not abandoned the principle of abiding by decisions made at the Lambeth Conference.
- Resolution 1.10 remains the declared position of the Anglican Communion (and, as we have previously noted is upheld by the vast majority of Anglicans).
- The 2007 General Synod motion remains unamended and unrepealed.
- The two House of Bishops statements have not been withdrawn or amended.
There are those in the Church of England who would nonetheless claim that the situation has changed. For example, the bishops of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich have posted a piece on their diocesan website which states that in what he said at the session on Human Identity at the Lambeth Conference
‘… the Archbishop of Canterbury changed the whole framework of the debate by spelling out the obvious reality that there are (at least) two viewpoints, both deeply rooted in Scripture, both held by sincerely faithful people.
Validating the reality of these two viewpoints changed the debate. We are no longer talking about who is right and who is wrong, but how the “traditional” view of marriage, and the view that same sex relationships and marriage can also be part of the Christian understanding of marriage, are held together.’
They go on to say:
‘Both of us believe, along with many other bishops in the Church of England, that this will pave the way for a fruitful and faithful outcome to the Living in Love and Faith process.’ 
The two bishops are obviously fully entitled to their own opinion, but the fact remains that the archbishop obviously did not change the mind of all the bishops present at Lambeth and because there was no vote on the matter it cannot be said that the position of the Anglican Communion on human sexuality has changed. Resolution 1.10 upholding the ‘traditional’ view of sex and marriage remains the declared position of the Communion.
What all this means is that any move by the Church of England following on from Living in Love and Faith that leads to the blessing of same-sex sexual relationships, an agreement to ordain those in such relationships , or the introduction of same-sex marriages would mean:
- Rejecting the position held by the Anglican Communion
- Going against the principle of the church of England abiding by Lambeth Conference resolutions
- Going against the Church of England’s own declared position
- Creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
Now, of course, the Church of England is free to do any or all of these things, however it needs to have a good reason to do any of them and nothing that took place at Lambeth 2022 provides such a reason.
As we have noted, the interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury did not change the position of the Communion and all that he really ended up saying was that a minority of churches in the Communion have decided to reject Lambeth 1.10. This is not news and begs the question of whether these churches were right to act in this way.
The archbishop did not answer this question and, as we have also noted, the one statement that does attempt to answer it does so by claiming that because God has created and loves LGBT+ Christians therefore all forms of committed relationship in which they are involved must be holy. As we have seen, this claim is a fallacy. The premise does not lead to the conclusion.
In summary, the 2022 Lambeth Conference has not provided any reason for the Church of England to change its position on human sexuality following the Living in Love and Faith process and there is a list of reasons why this would not be the right thing to do, the most important being that resolution 1.10 is in accord with the teaching of the Bible and the historic tradition of the Christian Church based on the Bible.
 For this point see Owen Chadwick, ‘Introduction,’ in Roger Coleman (ed), Resolutions of the twelve Lambeth Conferences 1867-1988 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1992), pp.xvi-xvii.
 Resolution 1.10 in The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference 1998 (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1999), pp.381-382.
 The ‘indaba’ process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference meant that no votes were taken.
 Statement from Anglican Bishops and primates who are keen to affirm and celebrate LGBT+ people at:
 ‘Orthodox bishops map out a robust future and hopeful of a resetting of the Anglican Communion,’ at:
 Lesbian and Gay Christians Synod debate 2007at:
 The House of Bishops, ‘Civil Partnerships- A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England,’ paragraph 6, at:
 The House of Bishops, ‘House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage,’ appendix paragraph 4 at:
 ‘Lambeth Palace Conference 2022 at https://www.cofesuffolk.org/news/lambeth-palace-conference- 2022.php