Rainbows in Religion: Reflecting on the controversial Lambeth conference

March 25, 2020

Image Courtesy of: Ainy Shiyam


Vice Chancellor Karen Cox opened up about the University’s decision to host the Lambeth Conference in a symposium celebrating LGBTQ rights on campus.


The ‘Rainbows in Religion symposium’, which concluded the University of Kent’s LGBTQ history month series of events in February, also hosted several key speakers on the subject.


The Vice Chancellor stated that the University weren’t aware that hosting the conference would be particularly controversial.


She said: “If the conference team was originally made aware of these LGBT exclusion issues; it would have progressed to Council much earlier.


“The Council would no longer be in the position of trying to balance something that was booked in good faith.


“This has presented us with an issue that has stopped us in our tracks.”


The Lambeth conference is a gathering of spiritual leaders from across the world, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.


The University has hosted the conference, held every 10 years, since 1978.


However, the Archbishop of Canterbury recently banned the spouses of same-sex couples from attending the event, causing anger that the University has still pledged to host the next conference.


George Oatridge, from the school of Psychology, said: “The university can’t claim to be neutral; you can’t help but feel that the money matters more than the people.


“It certainly does contradict the university’s EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity) policies and we have to push against this.”


The symposium also included a number of other speakers, all with different perspectives on LGBTQ communities and religion.


Dr Angus Slater, from the University of Wales Trinity St David, spoke about the Anglican Communion: the history of the Church of England and further explored the links between religion and sexuality.


He said: “Conservatives would uphold that homosexual people should not be bishops. They would argue that the liberal churches have changed and are no longer ‘proper’ Anglicans.


“They’re no longer in communion with each other and you start to see competition between the two.”


He added: “A lot of Church of England Anglicans are relatively socially liberal when it comes to race and sexuality.


“In an attempt to repair the hurt from the 2008 conference, homosexual bishops have been invited.  


“However, their spouses have not.”


Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation, then went on to highlight the importance of education in the Anglican Communion:


However, Jayne Ozanne, head of a charity that attempts to lower gender and sexuality discrimination in religious groups, said: “Trying to work together is by far the best way to further educate the Communion.


“Show that there is pain on both sides: The conservative side feel as though they are being misplaced whereas the oppression of the LGBT community affecting our ability to celebrate our relationships and to have families.


“The pain, however, is not equal. If you can, find ways of driving that home.”


A panel, which included both staff and students from the University of Kent, then encouraged open discussion about the upcoming Lambeth Conference.


The want to uphold the ‘safe space’ of the university was at the forefront of the discussion. Concerns were expressed for the fear that the university would no longer be a safe space for the LGBT community once the Conference commences.


It was suggested that the university should clearly enunciate the values which led it to coming to this commercial decision.


Further meetings between staff, the university Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury are due to take place within the forthcoming weeks and months.


The LGBT staff and student body at the university of Kent are hoping that increased awareness of the university’s actions will help to create a safer environment during the 2020 Lambeth Conference.


LGBT staff member Jan Moriarty, also spoke about how the Lambeth Conference is currently affecting the LGBT community in the university.


He said: “Legally, everything is fine. Morally, not so much.


“When we learnt that gay bishop’s spouses have been excluded from the Conference, the LGBT staff network’s view was that the Lambeth conference should be cancelled.


He added: “If an institution doesn’t state what its values are, people will assume their values by the actions that it takes.”

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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