Rainbows in Religion: Reflecting on the controversial Lambeth conference

Image Courtesy of: Ainy Shiyam

Vice Chancellor Karen Cox has spoken about the University's decision to host the 2022 Lambeth Conference.

The ‘Rainbows in Religion Symposium’, which concluded month-long LGBTQ+ history celebrations, was held to establish the University's position on the issue.

While LGBTQ+ bishops have been invited to the religious event, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has urged them not to bring their spouses.

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

She said: “If the conference team was originally made aware of these LGBTQ+ exclusion issues, it would have progressed to Council much earlier.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

Despite outrage by both staff and students, the event will continue to take place on the Canterbury campus in the summer of 2022.

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.”

At nearly £5,000 per head, some have argued that the economic value of the event has stopped the university from withdrawing their offer to accommodate the 15th Conference.

Attendees of the Symposium heard from a number of speakers with varying religious and educational backgrounds.

Dr Angus Slater, lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Wales Trinity St David, spoke about the Anglican Communion and 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 are 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. The issue is that, their spouses have not.”

Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation, highlighted the importance of education in the Anglican Communion.

She suggested that working alongside the Anglican Communion was the next step towards acceptance.

She said: “Show that there is pain on both sides: The conservative side feel as though they are being misplaced, whereas the LGBTQ+ community feel oppressed.

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

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

Jan Moriarty, EDI Project Manager at Kent, spoke about how hosting The Lambeth Conference is not in line with the university’s inclusion policies.

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

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

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

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

The conference has been rescheduled from the original 2020 dates due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The face-to-face Lambeth Conference will now take place from 27 July to 8 August 2022.

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