(Reuters) - The Lambeth Conference, a 10-yearly Anglican summit hosted by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, launched its working agenda on Monday.
Here are some details:
WHAT IS IT?
* The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of the archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Communion, meeting every 10 years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
* The Anglican Communion is a family of churches around the world. Most bishops within the communion look after a diocese, or a region of parishes.
* The first Lambeth Conference was held in 1867 at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury's residence in London. There have been 13 conferences to date.
* Until 1978 the conferences were for bishops only, but in 1988 the full Anglican Consultative Council membership and representative bishops of the Churches in Communion (the Churches of Bangladesh, North and South India and Pakistan) joined in the discussions.
-- Bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the union of seven provinces of the northern Netherlands, also took part.
* Also invited are bishops from other churches "in communion" with the Anglican Communion, bishops from united churches and a number of ecumenical guests.
WHAT IS DISCUSSED?
* The agenda at each conference is different, although there is always a need for continuity.
* Conferences have tended to pass resolutions on the governance of the Church, its ministry and liturgy and its engagement with the world.
* One particular focus in 2008 will be equipping the bishop as enabler and encourager of God's people in their purpose and mission. It will look at the bishop's tasks of leadership in the Church.
A RELIGIOUS DIVIDE?
* Conservative bishops who attended last month's Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem did not develop into a full alternative and participants, despite some strong initial rhetoric, did not opt for a schism.
-- In its statement, GAFCON accused churches in the West of proclaiming "a false gospel (that) undermines the authority of God's Word" and promotes a "variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour", including same-sex marriages.
-- The declaration did not mention Williams by name but said the Anglican leadership had done nothing to discipline the Episcopal Church for consecrating gay bishop Gene Robinson or the Anglican Church of Canada for blessing same-sex marriages.
-- Conservative bishops from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya have said they would boycott the Lambeth Conference.