Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 10:54 UK

Bishops gathering for conference

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury will lead bishops in prayer and reflection

Anglican bishops from more than 150 countries are gathering in Canterbury for the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference.

The 650 bishops will have three days of prayer and reflection led by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams before conference business starts.

One of the key debates will be on the Anglican Covenant document, which aims to avoid a split in the Church over the consecration of gay bishops.

Some 250 bishops have boycotted the conference over the issue.

They take the traditional view that the Bible rules out active homosexuality.

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The Church's mission and evangelisation, human sexuality, social justice, the environment and violence against women will also be discussed.

The debate about homosexuality in the Anglican Church has followed the consecration in the US of the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson.

Bishop Robinson will be present on the fringes of the conference, which is being held at the University of Kent.

The controversy over his appointment led Dr Williams not to invite him.

Those boycotting the conference include the Anglican leaders of Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and a group of countries in southern South America.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, told the BBC that with their support of homosexual clergy, the leaders of the global Church had broken away from the Anglican family.

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He said: "Rather than make a mockery of the holy Eucharist or the sacrament of the Lord, it was better we don't participate and all efforts to get us back are failed.

"So until there is restoration of communion there is no basis for coming together."

The head of Kenya's 2.5 million Anglicans is Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

He was asked by BBC News if he still saw Dr Williams as the head of the Anglican Church.

He said: "He's at the head of the Anglican Church but not necessarily the one to define Anglicans.

"When we are together with him he should be [our spiritual leader] but when he is not following what is right, he isn't."

The most senior Church of England figure not attending is the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.

His non-attendance is in protest at the presence of those who have supported Bishop Robinson.

In a statement in June, he said: "Those who have gone against Church teaching should not attend representative Anglican gatherings".




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