Conservative Anglicans, including several international archbishops, will be meeting in Birmingham, Ala., this week for a conference organized by a splinter group that includes many ex-Episcopalians who oppose the ordination of the gay Episcopal bishop.
According to the Birmingham Post, some 800 conservative Anglicans are expected at the gathering, which begins Wednesday. Of them, as many as nine Anglican archbishops, or primates, from various countries will be in attendance.
The Anglican Mission in America, which is hosting the event, does not belong to the U.S. Episcopal Church. And while church growth and mission work are the main topics of the seminars, the make-up of the audience spotlights the growing divisions within the Anglican world over homosexuality.
Several of the international archbishops slated to attend, most from Africa and Asia, have already warned of a possible schism if the U.S. Episcopal Church does not renounce its approval of gay bishops and blessing of same-sex unions.
"The controversy remains," said Bishop John Rucyahana of Rwanda, who played a key role in the founding of the AMA.
In the past, the AMA has used the authority of African bishops to ordain American bishops to oversee conservative Anglicans who have defected from the Episcopal Church. In a similar fashion, several Episcopal churches who oppose gay bishops and same-sex unions separated from the U.S. Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the authority of conservative African bishops overseas.
One such congregation was the South Riding Church in Fairfax, Va., which voted to leave the EC(USA) and the denominations Virginia diocese last November over the thorny issues. The small church joined the Diocese of Rwenzori in an effort to remain connected with the worldwide Anglican Communion.
This debate over homosexuality will likely heat up this year with the approach of the Episcopal Churchs General Convention in June the churchs first governing meeting since the openly gay bishop was approved in 2003.