[Update: The law blog Concurring Opinions just posted a short commentary on several Protestant conventions (including the Episcopalian one I've been commenting on) noting that the liberal winds of change seem seem to be blowing in several denominations.]
Get Religion posted a fine summary of recent developments in the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion. It does a much better job than my earlier post in stating the two disputed issues that now threaten to split the Communion: (1) the election of female Bishops and now an Archbishop (roughly equivalent to an LDS General Authority), which is a problem because some conservatives will now be forced to decide whether to accept priests ordained at the hands of a female Bishop or reject them; (2) the denial or extension of the church rite of marriage to same-sex couples.
In the LDS Church, (1) is not remotely an issue at present and (2) isn't really on the table either. The LDS issue is simply whether the Church will give any recognition at all to state-sponsored same-sex unions, whether "marriage" or simply "civil union", if its efforts to stop such developments via the political process fails. Performing LDS rites of marriage for same-sex couples is not even being discussed. And there's nothing like a split threatening the LDS Church on the issue: while more than the usual number of Mormons seem unhappy about the Church's recent blunt statements of position (and call to arms) on this mixed moral/political issue, they are still a small minority. But seeing the Anglican Communion lose its grip on organizational integrity is a sobering event. Business corporations can go financially bankrupt -- do religious corporations go morally bankrupt? Or do they simply lose that core sense of identity necessary to retain denominational unity?
In American religious history, there have only been two big splits. First, the issue of slavery and abolitionism split denominations into northern and southern wings. The Southern Baptists, for example, became "Southern" Baptists during this period. The second came in the wake of evolution and higher criticism of the Bible in the first years of the 20th century, with conservative "fundamentalist" wings of denominations rejecting those concepts and and "liberal" leaders accommodating the same concepts (if not exactly embracing them). Will gay marriage be the moving issue in a third period of schism? It certainly carries a lot of emotion with it.
It's worth noting that the LDS Church avoided both of those earlier splits as well. The Utah Church, by relocating to Utah, avoided much of the abolitionist tension and, of course, the Civil War. And the Church agenda at the close of the 19th and start of the 20th century was occupied entirely with ending polygamy and obtaining statehood. The LDS Church wasn't forced to come to grips with evolution and higher criticism until ... well, I'm not sure it ever has. Bruce R. McConkie, the most visible icon of mainstream LDS doctrine, thought evolution was a form of apostasy and conducted his scriptural studies with no facility with the original languages. An LDS leader can reject evolution and practice hyper-literalism and get along just fine in the LDS Church. And if you disagree, watch out, God might just turn you into a pillar of salt.
I'm not sure there's a neat conclusion to this line of thinking. I suppose it's worth noting how lucky Mormons are that the LDS Church has never really faced a schism -- the dispute over the succession to Joseph Smith was the closest we came, but most followed Brigham despite him choosing to move the Church to Utah. And I suppose we might speculate that if the issue of gay marriage has the power to split the Anglican Communion, it may do the same to other denominations and will continue to trouble LDS thinking and public posturing. The election of 2008 may be fought on this turf. That and Iraq (assuming we're not lobbing missles back and forth with North Korea at that point).