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American lesbian bishop may split Anglican church

The global Anglican Communion has lurched closer towards open schism after the North American branch pushed ahead with ordaining the church's first openly lesbian bishop. Rev Canon Mary Glasspool, from Baltimore, was consecrated as a assistant bishop of the Los Angeles diocese over the weekend.

Her consecration – which came seven years after the Episcopal Church caused uproar by making the openly gay Gene Robinson a bishop in New Hampshire – sharply divided the world's 77 million Anglicans, with conservative leaders angrily denouncing liberal opponents for their comparatively tolerant approach to homosexual clergy.

Traditionalists in the States have already split from the Episcopal Church to form their own off-shoot, the Anglican Church in North America, which has yet to be officially recognised. The ACNA has allied itself with fellow traditionalists in Africa, Latin America and Australia.

Glasspool's promotion to bishop threatens to re-open those wounds and cause a headache for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who has the unenviable task of trying to keep the world's Anglicans together amid bitter divides over homosexuality and the role of women clergy.

In 2004, he helped broker a moratorium on any more gay consecrations, in a bid keep traditionalists onside.