The storm aroused by such a move would dwarf the ructions over the ordination of women, according to the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Michael Baughen.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," he said yesterday.
"If priests who are practising homosexuals are going to be visibly, openly ordained, that will be a catastrophe for the Church of England. It would mean the end of the Church of England as we know it."
A conservative evangelical pressure-group, Reform, which is also opposed to women priests, has also threatened to secede over the issue.
Reform claims 700 clergy members, out of the church's 10,500 priests.
These moves were the first signs of an evangelical counter-attack after an autumn in which the pro-gay lobby appeared to be gaining ground. First the new Bishop of Durham was discovered to have a homosexual conviction; then Outrage!, the gay lobby group,named 10 bishops as being gay .
Bishop Baughen holds a crucial position in these negotiations, since he drafted the House of Bishops' official resolution condemning homosexuality, which the General Synod passed in 1987.
Navy bans gay advert, page 10Reuse content