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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 18:06 GMT
Anglicans hold difficult summit
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Rowan Williams is fighting to save the Anglican Communion
Leaders of the Anglican Church have opened a key summit in Tanzania which is likely to be dominated by the divisive issue of homosexuality.

The conservative majority is fiercely opposed to those who believe the church should accept gay clergy members.

The controversy threatens to create a schism in the 38 national churches which make up the Anglican Communion.

A spokesman for the leader of the world's Anglicans said it looked like it could be a "difficult conference".

Decisions

The head of the Anglican Church and Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has said that he fears that the Church may split over the row sparked by the appointment of openly gay US bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003.

ANGLICAN CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Map showing Anglican church membership around the world

"We have a difficult meeting ahead of us with many challenges and many decisions to make," Dr Williams told reporters as he arrived in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

Conservative primates are angered that the recently-installed head of the American Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has publicly backed Mr Robinson, is attending the meeting.

Supporters of the conservatives which include representatives from Africa, Asia and Latin America - known as the Global South - have gathered in one hotel while liberal Anglican representatives have congregated in another, reports say.

In December, two of the oldest and largest parishes in the US broke from their bishop and become a mission of the Nigerian Church over the issue.

The head of the Anglican Church in Africa is Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who leads 37 million Anglicans and is increasingly influential.

The BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott says some sort of split looks inevitable though one option for the meeting may be for them to create a system of full membership of the Anglican church for traditionalists, and a reduced, associate membership for liberals.




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