The University of Kent has come under pressure from its own students and (and here) staff, as well as many others, for agreeing to host the Lambeth Conference, at which the husbands and wives of gay and lesbian bishops have been uninvited. The University has now issued the following statement and is seeking a meeting with the organizers of the Conference. It has promised accommodation on site for those spouses who wish to be close to their husbands and wives.
We welcome – whether as staff, students, stakeholders or visitors – people of all backgrounds, orientations and communities. Welcome and inclusion are key to who we are. We also place great value on diversity of opinion, open, respectful debate, recognition of difference, and the central role of constructive engagement and dialogue. These, we believe, are all essential to progress in a democratic society.
The University has become aware that proposals relating to the Lambeth Conference 2020, which is due to be held at the University, raises serious issues at the heart of these values.
The Lambeth Conference is, of course, a remarkable event and has been held at the University since 1978. When the organisers of the Lambeth Conference 2020 came to the University seeking to work with us again, we were happy to engage. Bringing this gathering of spiritual leaders, from across the globe, to meet, celebrate, debate, learn and reflect, supports our vision of the kind of welcoming, inclusive, civic university we stand for and formal agreement relating to the use of University facilities was reached in August 2018.
It subsequently came to the University’s attention that, on 15 February 2019, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion made a public announcement on the Anglican Communion News Service website ‘that it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference’.
The University was concerned by this announcement, as it does not accord with our values, and determined it would seek further information and discuss the issue at its next meeting of University Council, the University’s governing body. The University has since received a large number of concerns raised by staff, students, and members of the public, about hosting the conference. While we currently understand that the Lambeth Conference may be permitted by law to rely on exemption under the Equality Act 2010 for religious organisations, we also believe there are significant ethical concerns raised. These were discussed at the meeting of University Council on 22 March 2019.
Council members were clear that exclusion of same-sex spouses, on grounds of orientation, would be contrary to the values of the University. Council determined that the University shall ensure that accommodation will be available on campus for those spouses affected by this decision who wish to be in Canterbury with their partners during the conference period. The University welcomes them and affirms its belief in, and commitment to, diversity and inclusivity.
The Council also agreed that Sir David Warren, Chair of Council, and Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Kent, would seek to meet with the Lambeth Conference organisers and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to bring Council’s concerns to their attention and discuss the issues.
Sir David Warren, Chair of Council, University of Kent
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Kent