Leaders of the global Anglican Communion will meet today for an emergency closed-door summit, in an attempt to diffuse controversy over the growing acceptance of gay relatio the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, following the election in America of the first openly homosexual bishop, the Rev Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. It also comes hard on the heels of a decision by the Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver, British Columbia, to allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions in its parishes. The summit has been called amid threats by Anglican conservatives that they will break away from the rest of the church. It is understood that Asian and African church leaders plan to use the summit to push for a ban on homosexual priests throughout the Anglican Communion. Earlier this month Pope John Paul II told Williams that the election of Robinson had caused "serious difficulties" to moves to unify the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Williams has expressed personal sympathy for gay clergy, but intervened last summer after evangelicals complained about the proposed appointment of Rev. Jeffrey John, an openly gay clergyman to bishopric of Reading, an appointment initially supported by Williams. However, in terms of Wednesday's meeting, Williams' option are severely limited, since unlike the Catholic Church, there is no centralized authority within the Anglican Church. Each province is autonomous and Williams cannot settle issues of doctrine. At the same time the bishops have no collective authority and cannot vote to punish a member church. But Williams does have the right to decide whether a denomination can affiliate with the communion, and it is here that the conservatives are attempting to bring pressure to have the US church left out of the global Anglican fold. According to Rev. Ian Douglas, professor of world Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. "If he doesn't recognize them as in relationship with the See of Canterbury, that body won't be Anglican." The American Anglican Council, which represents US conservatives, is understood to be calling for the expulsion of the US Episcopal Church and the recognition instead of itself as the true Anglican Church in North America. The Anglican Communion has 80 million members worldwide.
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