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Scottish Anglicans face sanctions for voting in favor of same-sex marriage

(Reuters/Hannah McKay)A member of the continuing praying presence walks past a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017.

The Anglican church in Scotland is expected to face sanctions imposed by global church leaders sometime this week over its vote supporting same-sex marriage.

Leaders of the global Anglican communion will be attending a five-day meeting in Canterbury this week to discuss various issues such as religious persecution, climate change, the refugee crisis, as well as the church's deep divisions over sexuality.

Sanctions are expected to be imposed by the global leaders on the Scottish Episcopal Church, which could prevent it from being represented on formal bodies or from voting on decisions relating to policy or teaching.

During the last summit in January 2016, the leaders imposed the same sanctions against the U.S. Episcopal Church after it passed gay marriage in 2015.

The Scottish Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage in June, setting itself in direct opposition to the Anglican communion.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the secretary general of the Anglican communion, said at the time that the vote will be discussed by Anglican primates during this week's meeting.

However, three of 39 primates have stated that they will not attend the meeting in a sign of continuing disagreement about same-sex relationships.

Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda and Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda said that they will boycott the meeting in protest of what they see as the Anglican communion's failure to uncompromisingly back traditional interpretations of the scriptures on sexuality.

In an open letter, Okoh warned about the "next great Reformation" or schism within Christianity over issues such as homosexual practice, same-sex marriage and the "blurring of gender identity."

Ntagali said that the U.S. Episcopal church has torn the fabric of the Anglican communion by consecrating a gay bishop and approving same-sex marriage.

"At times, I wonder whether we really share a common faith! If we are not walking in the same direction, then how can we walk together?" he stated in a letter explaining why he would not attend the meeting.

Leaders from the conservative group GAFCON had complained that the "consequences" handed to the U.S. Episcopal Church are not effective and have not been imposed, with figures from the church playing a full part in an Anglican meeting in Lusaka in 2016.

"From our perspective the sanctions have not been strong enough," a GAFCON source told Christian Today. "If this meeting just repeats what happened last time [when the primates met in January 2016], then what happened in 2008 [when African bishops boycotted the last Lambeth Conference and set up a rival meeting] will happen again. If they do so the credibility and the authority of that meeting will be diminished," the source added.

In an interview published by GQ magazine on Sunday, Archbishop Justin Welby, leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said that he could not give a "straight answer" to the question of whether homosexuality is a sin.

The archbishop also acknowledged that the disagreement between African bishops and other Anglican leaders over homosexuality was "irreconcilable."

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