Statement on the Lambeth Conference

Gary Hughes

On 26 March 2019 the University of Kent issued a statement following a meeting of the University Council relating to the 2020 Lambeth Conference due to be held at its campus in Canterbury.

This statement:

  • reaffirmed the University’s fundamental commitment to diversity and inclusion, to the welcome it extends to people of all backgrounds, orientations and communities, and to the importance of diversity of opinion, open and respectful debate, recognition of differences, and the central role of constructive engagement and dialogue, as essential to progress in a democratic society;
  • confirmed that exclusion of same-sex spouses from the Conference was contrary to the values of the University;
  • undertook to seek dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the organisers of the Conference to discuss these concerns.

Sir David Warren, Chair of Council, and Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President, have since met the Archbishop of Canterbury and brought Council’s concerns to his attention. The University has also continued to receive feedback from a wide range of individuals, groups and stakeholders, including staff and students, relating to our statement of 26 March and the hosting of the conference in University facilities.

On 23 April, Council held another meeting to review these developments. Council also invited senior representatives from Lambeth Palace responsible for the organisation of the Conference to explain in more detail the background to the decision to exclude same-sex spouses, and the debate within the Anglican Communion on this issue. The discussion at Council gave a better understanding of the extent to which the Conference will be a forum for discussion of issues on which opinion within the Communion is currently divided.

In the light of these meetings and a wide range of comments received, Council agreed that it would seek to best uphold the University’s values, and support the interests of staff, students, and stakeholders, by:

  1. maintaining its pledge to offer an open welcome and accommodation on campus to those same-sex spouses affected by the Lambeth Conference’s decision;
  2. welcoming the Lambeth Conference and the role it plays in bringing people together from diverse backgrounds, cultures and outlooks to debate and reflect on a wide range of issues within the Anglican Communion;
  3. ensuring that a range of events and activities are organised before and during the Conference period that celebrate and promote equality, diversity and inclusivity;
  4. and taking steps to ensure that our staff and students continue to feel secure and valued in their work and study space, making explicitly clear that staff and students who feel unable to work on this conference will be able to opt out with the full support of the University.

The University remains actively committed to upholding diversity and inclusivity. We recognise the hurt experienced by many people because of the decision to exclude same-sex spouses. The insight gained from the comments received from, and the meetings held with, affected individuals has been powerful, and of great importance in helping the Council to reach its decision.

Sir David Warren, Chair of Council, University of Kent

Professor Karen Cox, Vice Chancellor and President, University of Kent