In what can only be called a stunning rebuke of the American Episcopal Church, it was given eight months to ban the blessing of same sex unions or face a reduced and censured role in the world's third largest Christian denomination-- the Anglican Communion. Here is the link to this morning's story, in the NY Times.
In an additional surprising move an separate council with a vicar was established to deal with the concerns of more conservative Episcopal dioceses in America who have felt alienated and betrayed by the recent ordaining of a gay bishop and pressure to accept same sex unions by the American Church hierarchy. Surprisingly, the newly anointed head of the American Episcopal Church Katharine Schori agreed to this arrangement, accepting an attenuation of her powers, at least for now.
Conservative Anglicans see this as a reassertion of the primacy of Scripture and the centuries old Anglican tradition on such issues over the claims of 'current' experience. This decision clearly enough was taken to prevent the world wide Anglican communion, which involves some 77 million people from splintering into several denominations, because only the American Church with just over 2 million members was out of line with the majority of Anglicans leaders everywhere else in its recent decisions. What this decision most reflects is the fact that now, and increasingly, worldwide churches, such as the Anglican communion, find that the majority of their members are no longer in the northern hemisphere, or in the more socially liberal 'West'. This puts other such worldwide communions on notice that the rest of the world church is more socially conservative than its American branches.