The Worldwide Anglican Church appeared to be heading for break-up last night after the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that plans for the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States would create a "huge crisis".
Dr Rowan Williams made his comments after two days of talks in London involving 37 primates of the Anglican Communion from around the world. But in New Hampshire, the diocese that is planning to consecrate Gene Robinson as its bishop, made clear that it would not succumb to the pressure to change course.
Dr Williams, in an interview with the BBC, said: "Undoubtedly there is a huge crisis looming." Asked if he thought the consecration of Canon Robinson should go ahead, he replied: "No, I don't, because I believe that on a major issue of this kind the Church has to make a decision together."
The dispute has pitted conservatives against liberals, with some provinces in the Communion, notably in Latin America and Africa, threatening to break away if his consecration takes place.
Dr Williams said: "There may be a number of provinces who will declare outright that they are not in the union in the long run ... [and] others which would wish to continue with an impaired state of relations".
The Episcopalian Church, the US arm of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement that dispelled any suggestion that it would consider changing course.
"We look forward to the consecration of Bishop-elect Robinson on November 2, believing that God has called him to this ministry, a call confirmed by diocesan election and by the consent of General Convention, in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church," the statement said.
The Archbishop was embroiled in more controversy when it was revealed that John Humphrys threatened to resign from BBC Radio 4's Today programme after an excerpt of his interview with Dr Williams was not aired, at the Archbishop's request. Dr Williams had responded with a 12-second silence to a question by Mr Humphrys on whether the war in Iraq was "immoral". The Archbishop told the BBC there had been an agreement not to talk about the war.