Following are snapshots of some key players at the Lambeth Conference who are likely to affect (or be affected by) the current communion-wide focus on the Episcopal Church and its support of gay rights.

Peter Akinola: Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria
The deeply conservative Akinola is boycotting the Lambeth Conference, saying he won't meet with the bishops who consecrated openly gay U.S. Bishop V. Gene Robinson. But as head of one of the communion's largest provinces, with an estimated 17 million members, the Nigerian's voice will certainly be heard in Canterbury. Akinola has spearheaded a campaign to radically rearrange the communion, moving the power center from Europe to Africa, and replacing the Episcopal Church with a more conservative church. He's already appointed six "missionary" bishops for U.S. dissidents, and taken a number of former Episcopal parishes under his wing.

Robert Duncan: Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh
This Lambeth Conference may be Duncan's last as an Episcopalian. The conservative Pittsburgh prelate has laid groundwork to lead his diocese out of the Episcopal Church, and some churchwatchers expect the Episcopal House of Bishops to remove Duncan from ministry this fall. Duncan may not care, however; he's angling to have his Anglican Communion Network, which claims some 900 North American congregations, recognized as a legitimate, orthodox alternative to the Episcopal Church.

Fred Hiltz: Anglican Archbishop of Canada
As leader of Canada's Anglicans for barely a year, Hiltz is a relative newcomer on the global stage. Yet his church -- especially a Vancouver-based diocese -- has come under fire for allowing same-sex blessings. Canada allows gay marriage, but Canadian Anglicans do not formally allow same-sex weddings. Hiltz is seen as sympathetic to the gay and lesbian issue, and is fiercely opposed to overseas archbishops seeking to adopt conservative Canadian parishes.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
Jefferts Schori, the first woman elected to lead a province in the Anglican Communion, has drawn fire for her liberal stances on gay rights and for her gender. Several U.S. dioceses and a number of overseas archbishops don't ordain or recognize female prelates. Meanwhile, Jefferts Schori is fighting to prevent secessionist churches--and the entire diocese of San Joaquin, Calif. -- from leaving with church property. And she's anxious to keep overseas archbishops from poaching on her ecclesiastical turf. But the calm and cool former oceanographer says she won't give up her seat at the table, and won't let talk of schism interfere with the church's social justice missions.

V. Gene Robinson: Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Robinson's 2003 consecration as the first openly gay bishop in the U.S. was the spark that ignited threats of schism across the wider Anglican Communion. Even though he was the only U.S. bishop to be denied a formal invitation to Lambeth, Robinson will nonetheless travel to England to "witness" to the church's gay and lesbian members. He and his partner of 20 years entered a New Hampshire civil union last month.

Gregory Venables: Anglican Archbishop of the Southern Cone
He's a Brit who heads a small, Argentina-based province, but he's building ties into the U.S. and Canada, adopting one breakaway Episcopal diocese in California and negotiating to add the Diocese of Pittsburgh. With conservative African leaders promising to boycott Lambeth, Venables is expected to be a chief spokesman and activist at the conference, pushing fellow bishops to adopt clear bans on homosexuality and to allow conservatives to build transnational networks.

Rowan Williams: Archbishop of Canterbury
Known as a poet and a brilliant theologian, Williams is primate of England and "first among equals" in the Anglican Communion. With far less authority than a pope, the Welshman has used what little power he has to plead for unity among Anglicans. Churches, provinces, and bishops are only seen as legitimate if recognized by the archbishop of Canterbury. But leading conservatives have unveiled plans to sideline Williams, declaring that Anglican identity should not "be determined necessarily through (his) recognition." Williams has an almost thankless job, and his most trying times may yet be ahead.

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