Marriage row in Anglican church

Ottawa, Canada - Leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada who refused to condemn same-sex unions will attend a world meeting of the church next month in Britain, but only as observers, they announced after a weekend meeting.

Submitting to pressure from conservatives within their ranks unhappy with their position on gay marriage, they agreed not to vote or speak at the gathering.

At a meeting in February, 38 primates from the church asked the Canadian and American branches not to attend the global gathering and to reconsider their position on homosexuality.

They also asked for a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions.

But the Canadian church chose to reaffirm an earlier resolution to hold off deciding whether to bless same-sex unions until 2007, stating it needs more time to consult with church members.

Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster in province of British Columbia, the only diosese that allows the blessing of same-sex marriages, criticised the arrangement. He told local newspapers it would divide the world church further and casts the Canadian church as a "punished schoolchild."

So far, seven Canadian provinces and one territory have legalised civil marriages for gays and lesbians.