First married lesbian bishop to lead church service to protest ban on gay partners at Anglican summit

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks to the congregation during a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks to the congregation during a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013. | REUTERS/Gareth Fuller/Pool

A married lesbian bishop will lead an inclusive worship service to protest a global Anglican leadership event that has banned same-sex partners from attending.

Last year, it was announced that same-sex spouses were not invited to the Lambeth Conference, a global Anglican bishops’ summit attended by some 1,000 bishops from 165 countries that takes places once every 10 years, and will be held in Canterbury, U.K., this summer.

The Right Rev. Mary Glasspool, assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese New York, and Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of famed anti-Apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, will oversee a service at a church in Canterbury in July.

Glasspool, the first married lesbian to be made bishop in the Anglican Communion, told The Guardian in an interview that she believed Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican church, had “gone out of his way to uninvite individual persons in a breach of hospitality.”

“The LGBT+ community in the U.K. and other places might not understand that they are invited to celebrate at the Christian table,” said Glasspool. “We need to make it known that everyone is included — all are invited to this particular celebration.”

Tutu van Furth, a former Anglican priest who stepped down from the church position after entering a same-sex marriage, told The Guardian that her sermon at the service will reflect “Christian welcome and hospitality.”

“Jesus was always determined to make those who society sees as outsiders be insiders,” added Tutu van Furth.

For the past several years, there has been a growing divide in the global Anglican Communion over the issue of sexual ethics, especially homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The split has been largely found along regional lines, between increasingly theologically liberal churches in developed nations and growing theologically conservative churches in the developing world, especially the continent of Africa.

Last year, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, announced that same-sex spouses were not going to be invited to the Lambeth Conference.

“Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be — we are recognizing that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend,” wrote Idowu-Fearon in a blog entry at the time.

“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.”

Idowu-Fearon went on to state that as a result “it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.”

News of the service headed by Glasspool and Tutu van Furth comes amid a YouGov survey which indicated that members of the Anglican Communion, at least in England, were becoming increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage.

In a survey conducted last month, YouGov found that 48 percent of self-identified Anglicans supported same-sex marriage, an increase from 38 percent in 2013, reported the Church Times.

The YouGov poll was commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, a religious LGBT advocacy group, with respondents not indicating their level of religious practice.

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