Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe was among more than 650 bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion who traveled to Canterbury for the 15th Lambeth Conference, which began July 26th and concluded Sunday, August 7th. The conference, held approximately every ten years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is an “instrument of unity” for the worldwide Anglican Communion, bringing bishops together to build relationships between the diverse churches of our international Christian community.
“This is the most diverse meeting I’ve ever been to in the Church,” Bishop Duncan-Probe reflected. “We focused on unity across our differences. Archbishop Welby encouraged us to be curious, and Lambeth is an opportunity for us to hear one another. All of us are trying to love people and live for the Gospel—in very different circumstances.”
Recent Lambeth Conferences have been the site of controversy about the relationship between the church and the LGBTQ+ community, and the 2022 conference was no exception. The Episcopal Church and other member churches of the Anglican Communion uphold marriage equality and prohibits discrimination in the ordination process based on gender identity and expression, but other Anglican Communion churches do not. “The majority of the Anglican Communion does not align with The Episcopal Church in the ways we embrace our LGBTQ+ siblings,” said Bishop Duncan-Probe. “But rather than judge them because we disagree, Lambeth is an opportunity to ‘roll up our sleeves,’ get in there, and witness to our Anglican Communion siblings about the inclusive love of Jesus,” she said.
At the 2022 Lambeth Conference, openly LGBTQ bishops were invited to attend for the first time (although their spouses were excluded from the official program for bishop’s spouses). And all the bishops participated in a conversation around the Lambeth Call for Human Dignity, which addressed human sexuality. In his opening remarks on the Call, Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby acknowledged the theological divisions between Anglican Communion member churches. Importantly, he noted that affirming churches like The Episcopal Church “have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature.” (The full text of the Archbishops’ remarks is included here.) At the close of the day’s conversation, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry sent a message to The Episcopal Church stating he left the conversation “hopeful…not because we all came to agreement across all of our differences” but “because this group of bishops today seem to be able to recognize and affirm our love and respect for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in the body of Jesus Christ.”
Episcopal and Anglican bishops across the Anglican Communion, including Presiding Bishop Curry and Bishop Duncan-Probe, issued a statement later that day recognizing the wounding of LGBTQ+ people by the Church, affirming the “holiness of their love,” and committing to “working with our siblings across the Communion to listen to their stories and understand their contexts, which vary greatly” while refusing to “shy away from tackling discrimination and prejudice against those of differing sexualities and gender identities.”
“The commitment of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Central New York to the full inclusion of our LGBTQ+ siblings is not going to change,” said Bishop Duncan-Probe. “We’re dedicated to helping all people fully live out God’s call.” Now that she’s returned to Central New York, the bishop looks forward to continued conversation and witness, and to focusing on building discipleship and formation programs in the Diocese in partnership with Canon Carrie Schofield-Broadbent, Canon Tom Ferguson, and other diocesan leaders. “Here in Central New York, how are we going to witness to the love of Jesus? How are we going to show our communities what Christian discipleship means? Coming out of Lambeth, that’s where my heart is,” she said.
This theme of witness to the wider world was echoed by many of Bishop Duncan-Probe’s colleagues as the conference closed. Episcopal News Service’s report on the closing day of the conference, “Bishops wrap Lambeth Conference with look ahead to unity, despite persistent divisions,” lifts up bishops’ hope for new beginnings in the Anglican Communion and energy around the “theme of Anglicans engaging with the wider world.”