Anglicans Eye Canterbury as Bishops Gather for Lambeth

All eyes are on Canterbury as more than 600 bishops from across the Anglican Communion arrive on Wednesday for the start of the Lambeth Conference.

Conference proceedings, spread over two weeks at the University of Kent, threaten to be overshadowed by the thorny issues of women bishops and homosexuality.

The Church of England caused controversy when it voted in support of women bishops at its July Synod in York, and the issue of homosexuality has plagued the Communion since the ordination of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Robinson was excluded from the conference but has promised to speak up for the rights of homosexuals at fringe events. He has already grabbed headlines in the days running up to the conference, after a protester shouted at him to "repent" and called him a "heretic" as he preached a sermon at St. Mary's Church, Putney, on Sunday morning.

A large number of bishops, mainly from the Global South, have decided to boycott Lambeth in protest at the presence of pro-gay bishops.

They met in a separate summit in Jerusalem last month, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), during which they complained of churches within the Communion preaching a "false gospel" mainly in regards to homosexuality.

Towards the end of the once-a-decade gathering, bishops will work on the draft Anglican Covenant, a document they hope will help hold the 77 million-strong Communion together.

After their arrival, bishops will hold a retreat until Saturday before officially opening the conference with a celebration on Sunday.