The biennial meeting of Anglican primates will take place Tuesday in Dublin despite the absence of about a quarter of the senior Anglican church leaders, most of whom are boycotting the presence of the presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
As many as ten of the leaders of the Communion's 38 provinces will not attend the meeting because of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who represents the Episcopal Church and a supporter of gay bishops and same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, confirmed Saturday to BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence program that several primates will be absent at the Dublin meeting because of the presence of The Episcopal Church representative.
"Those Primates who said they're not coming as part of an objection to the Episcopal Church and other developments have reiterated their commitment to the Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury in their writing to me," said Kearon in the BBC interview.
Conservative Anglicans are boycotting the meeting over The Episcopal Church's ordinations of gay bishops and blessing of same-sex relationships.
The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – caused uproar in 2003 when it consecrated its first openly gay bishop. And in May 2010, The Episcopal Church ordained its second openly gay bishop.
The Anglican Communion, which is comprised of over 77 million members worldwide, rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. In 2004, Anglican leaders worldwide issued a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions and gay bishops.
But The Episcopal Church has continued to support same-sex relationships, with the most recent incident occurring on New Year's Day with the marriage of two lesbian Episcopalian priests in Massachusetts. The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School, married Mally Lloyd, canon to the Ordinary, in a ceremony solemnized by The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, president and CEO of the American Anglican Council, told The Christian Post earlier this month that the act showed "reckless disregard for the life of the Anglican Communion and the authority of the Bible by The Episcopal Church."
Kearon acknowledged that some primates will probably bring up the issue of same-sex unions for discussion at the Dublin meeting. But he noted that other primates might also want to address mission, relief or human rights as the big issues facing the Communion today.
The agenda for the Anglican Primate meeting, from Jan. 25 to 30, will be developed during the course of the meeting, according to the Anglican Communion's website.
A press conference is scheduled for Jan. 30 to announce any significant outcomes of the meeting.