Bishops of Anglican churches throughout the world are gathering in Canterbury for the opening tomorrow of the three-week-long Lambeth Conference, the assembly of Anglican leaders that is held every 10 years.
By far the most controversial issue before the churchmen is the question of ordination of women. Only five of the 25 provinces, or national churches, of Anglicanism now ordain women. The mother church in England will vote on the issue in November and feelings on both sides are at least as high as they were in this country at the time the Episcopal Church made its decision.
Other issues to come before the more than 400 bishops expected to attend include relationships with other branches of the Christian family, particularly Roman Catholics and Orthodiz: Christianity and politics; the role of the laity and the future of the church.
While the Lambeth Conference cannot legislate for member churches, the views of the only worldwide deliberative body of Anglicanism are highly influential among its member churches.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the U.S. Catholic bishops have called on the Supreme Court to reverse its 1973 decisions legalizing abortion and to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to the unborn.
The U.S. Catholic Conference, action agency of the bishops, filed its brief in the case of Beal vs. Franklin, which involves a Pennsylvania law requiring a doctor performing an abortion to seek to save the life of a potentially viable fetus.
The Supreme Court has denied the Catholics agency's petition to participate in oral arguments in the case, which will be heard in the fall term of the court.
In a related development, the eight bishops of Catholic jurisdictions, which include Maryland, have targeted abortion legislation as the first priority in the 1979 Maryland assebly's legislative sessions.
The churchmen have directed Archbishop William D. Borders of Baltimore to appoint a special Respect Life Committe to monitor proposed legislation affecting abortion laws in the state and to develop strategy for dealing with the issue.
Delegates elected the Rev. Dr. James R. Crumley Jr. as the new president of their church, succeeding the Rev. Dr. Robert J. Marshall, who has taken an international church post. Crumley is currently secretary of the 3.1 milliom-member denomination.
Delegates to the Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Chicago, reaffirmed, after prolonged debate, its earlier stand on abortion.
The assembly declined to adopt either a categorical approval or condemnation of abortion byt reasserted a stand taken in 1970 that said: "Earnest consideration should be given to the life and total health of the mother, her responsibilities to others in her family, the stage of development of the fetus, the economic and psychological stability of the home, the laws of the land and the consequences for society as a whole."