Kenya: Anglican Bishops Soften Stance on Lambeth Conference

26 January 2020

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) has softened its position on the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, allowing bishops who wish to attend the once-in-a-decade gathering to do so in their individual capacities instead of a total boycott.

However, Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit says the bishops will be doing so because of the "historic nature of the gathering" and "for exposure".

The bishops who attend the conference will carry with them the church's memorandum stating ACK's position especially with regard to the ordination of gay ministers. Archbishop Sapit is among those who will not be attending the conference.

The position was reached during a meeting of the Anglican bishops and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is in the country partly on a private vacation.

"We had very fruitful discussions with the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is how we arrived at the point that those who will be going will be doing so in their own capacities since bishops are invited individually but they will take with them our memorandum," Archbishop Sapit said.

The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of all Anglican bishops and their spouses from all over the world. It will take place between July and August 2020, two years after it ought to have taken place. The theme of the conference is "God's Church for God's World: walking, listening and witnessing together".

The conference is one of the four instruments of the Anglican Communion or the unifying pillars.

The others are the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Primates Meeting, which brings together archbishops, presiding bishops, moderators and chief pastors.

It should have taken place in 2018 but the delay in holding the conference has largely revolved around the discord after some Anglican provinces ordaining gay bishops. It is the first time in its 150-year history that the conference was delayed.

For the 2020 Lambeth Conference, the contention has been that the Archbishop of Canterbury invited three bishops in The Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada who are married to same-sex spouses. The three were invited but not their spouses.

The archbishops of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda and several bishops in those provinces have announced that they will not be attending the conference.

"I think the invitation of these bishops is taking us away from the Anglican tradition -- 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 -- that states that marriage is between a male and female for life. In our view, invitation of the said bishops would mean recognition and acceptance of same-sex marriages which we don't think is in line with that resolution," said Archbishop Sapit.

"That conference is a fellowship and so it should bring people who are together in heart and mind. The invitation of the three bishops therefore means we are not going to have a full fellowship. If some Anglican provinces took a wrong turn, we should not all follow them," he added.

This is the third visit to Kenya since February 2019 for the Archbishop of Canterbury as he has been trying to rally the African provinces not to boycott the conference. He was in Nairobi in February and November.

Today he will be worshipping at St Stephen's Jogoo Road and departs later in the evening.

In the consensus reached during the meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the ACK Guest House in Nairobi, the few Kenyan bishops who will be attending the conference "will be doing so because of the historic nature of the gathering and some have not been to that kind of a gathering".

Speaking after the meeting of the bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Sapit said the church in Kenya has made its position clearly known.

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