Misapprehensions by Anglican Mainstream – 2: What happened at Lambeth 1998

Having written about the meetings Dr Philip Giddings thinks we, LGB&T groups, had with the liberal bishops (which we didn’t), he then goes on to explain that the listening process wasn’t authorized by and didn’t begin with Lambeth 1.10, referring to the witness of Canon Chris Sugden, who was apparently at the heart of Lambeth 1998 as secretary of the Mission group of which Rowan Williams was the chair. I was also present at Lambeth 1998 and am also a witness to what happened.

There was, writes Dr Giddings, a considerable argument then about whether homosexual people would be allowed to give “testimony” to the group considering the issue of sexuality. That argument ended with a decision that they should not be so allowed. I’m not sure whether linking this with Chris Sugden’s involvement with the Mission group is supposed to imply that the decision not to allow was made by that group. My conversations with the chair of the human sexuality sub-group led me to believe they made the decision.

I was one of the people invited to address the group – giving “testimony” was not how it was put. I met the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, then Archbishop of Cape Town, on Monday 5th May 1997 (having met him by chance the day before in Southwark Cathedral). He invited me to come to Lambeth in 1998 to make a presentation to the subsection addressing human sexuality chaired by the Bishop of Johannesburg, Duncan Buchanan. We spent a year preparing our presentation, involving Integrity USA in the process. When Bishop Duncan informed the group that we would be making a presentation the group polarized and voted to delay it. Bishop Duncan said he was ‘shocked and traumatized’ by the strength of anger in the group.

The Lambeth Daily published on Friday 24 July 1998 reported that when asked at a press briefing about the “delayed” presentation by the advocacy group, Bishop Buchanan said he hoped “that we will see them, whether it’s the whole group or a part of the group.” In the event, the group chose not to receive our presentation – they declined to hear us or listen to us.

Part 3 about the Listening Process will follow.

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