The leaders of the world's Anglican churches have asked their US and Canadian members to withdraw temporarily from the Anglican communion's main representative body.
Some members of the Anglican community have been angered by the consecration of an actively homosexual bishop in the US and the blessing of same-sex relationships in Canada.
The threatened split is the culmination of a long-standing row over homosexuality in the church and is widely seen as a victory for the traditionalists.
Do you think the Anglican Church should remain united? Can the differences be resolved? How should the crisis be tackled? What should be the role of gay and lesbian Christians?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
In any other profession, this kind of discrimination would be unacceptable, even illegal in many countries. Why do we tolerate it solely because religion is involved?
Rob Smith, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Time to move forward. This question is not going to go away no matter how long attempts to resolve it are delayed. Here the Anglican Communion is polarised. Liberal congregations should be given the oversight of a liberal bishop, in the same way in which the ordination of women was resolved in the UK. What exactly Rowan Williams is advising the hundreds of closeted gay clergy in England alone to do is any one's guess. The H word is not homosexuality but hypocrisy.
Ian Brown (The Revd), Sydney, Australia
The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. Therefore you cannot have a practicing gay bishop or bless same-sex unions. The Bible clearly states that 'one should come as they are' so gays are welcomed like anyone else in the church, but they should not be deacons, bishops, priests etc. Christianity stems from Christ and the Bible and therefore those representing the church should abide by those rules. It is quite clear and I agree with the rest of the world splitting with the North American churches.
Karen, London, UK
Until all members of the church are prepared to look for ways to work together rather than reasons to condemn there is no real hope for unity in the church.
Barbara, Tunbridge Well, UK
The conflict can be easily resolved if all parties remember the teaching of the God they worship. Do to others as you would have others do to you and love your neighbour as yourself. The rest is window dressing.
Andrew, Williamsburg, USA
As a member of the Episcopal Church here, I've seen some members leave our church because of the ordeal over homosexuality. I still believe we must work out our differences and stay unified under our beliefs and goals as the Anglican Church.
Howell Horner, Marietta, GA, USA
So the Bible says homosexuality is wrong? At about the same point in the Bible it also tells us to eat Kosher - which is roundly ignored by Christians. We pick and choose what we like from the Bible already, its about time we picked out the bigotry against gays.
I personally would not be bothered if every clergyman on the planet was a homosexual. However I am justly upset if just one priest teaches something contrary to the Bible. I would be just as upset if a vicar was teaching people that Jesus was born in Cairo or if the name of the giant David defeated was called Fred. The Bible tells us to split from heretics, so a split may necessary. How can one belong to a church which undermines the entire faith by calling God a liar?
Chris F, Wakefield
What will be most interesting is when the Anglicans have to ask the Brits to leave over the same issue!
Steve F, Lititz, USA
It is the churches duty to welcome all into the fold regardless of sexuality. The issue however is one of leadership. You can't wilfully and openly flout bible teaching with one hand and then claim to uphold its values with the other.
Gary, Glasgow, UK
Who cares? The C of E is an anachronistic body, representative of no one and I look forward to the removal of Bishops from the House of Lords at the earliest possible time. This is so low in terms of news worthiness almost to warrant mention!
Chris Green, Hagley Worcs England
There seems to be a lot of confusion over homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. The bible (and I guess this is where the church is coming from) makes clear that the latter are wrong but welcomes anyone personally irrespective of their background etc. You can't really say to God - I'll be a Christian - but on my terms!
What the Primates did was right. The ball is in our (USA) court. Our only hope to remain in union with the Anglican Communion is to change course and agree with the Windsor Report. This is still possible with a grass-root movement that feels betrayed by our bishops promises that "all is well" and that what they did was not a shocking innovation.
If a faith - or indeed one of its denominations - cannot accept varying viewpoints, then that faith should be asking itself some hard questions. There are thousands of different Christian denominations in the world. All exist because their founders disagreed with the beliefs of some other denomination already established. Whilst it would be a pity for the Anglican rift to turn into (another) denominational split, as the Christian Church really doesn't need that, it really isn't the crisis that everyone is trying to make it. Perhaps the Anglican synod might taken themselves back to their founding, and re-examine the beliefs of that time, and then see how much change has happened in the centuries between Henry VIII and our current Queen. Then they might ask themselves just how relatively big this problem is compared to all other crises of the past.
Steve Brereton, York, UK
Our church is already involved in moves to split from the Episcopal Church (USA) and join with other like-minded conservative Anglican churches. This would have happened quite a while ago were the main Episcopal Church not threatening legal action to confiscate our church building and financial resources. There are plenty of liberals who can get nasty if you don't hold a similar viewpoint to theirs.
Andy, Annandale, USA
What this battle really shows is an enormous division in values between most people in Europe and North America, on the one hand, and most people in Africa and Asia on the other. The poor old Anglican church has become a victim of this division. Without a Pope or a Vatican to tell the faithful what they have to believe, the worldwide Anglican movement seems likely to dissolve. I have no right to tell Nigerian bishops what they should think about sex -- but they have no right to lecture me, either.
Hugh, Ottawa, Canada
I am not a Christian, do not believe in God or the concept of sin and I see nothing wrong with homosexuality. However, as far as I am aware the Bible says very clearly that for a Christian homosexuality is a sin. The answer is simple; if you are gay don't be a Christian. You can't just pick the bits you like out of a text like the Bible and ignore the ones that offend modern ideas. I think this whole argument shows just how ridiculous the whole concept of faith is in the modern post-enlightenment world.
Didn't the Church Of England spilt from the Catholic Church due to a "change in modern beliefs" aka divorce?
Tom E., Dallas, USA
I am so happy that the churches in the UK and elsewhere are taking a stance against allowing gays to hold positions in the church, and against blessing same sex marriages. I refused to allow my family to attend the Episcopal church here anymore after they decided to back same sex marriages. What kind of message is that sending to young people? They already have so many shows over here promoting that gay lifestyle, I can't even let my kids watch TV anymore. So, I think they should split. And I will go with the more moral of the two, the one that teaches the Bible and not what's popular opinion in the world.
Lorie, Oxford, USA
This only proves that we never learn from history. This year we have been reminded that homosexuals were persecuted under the Nazis during the holocaust. Religious leaders stood up and condemned the actions of those hate mongers, is this not slightly hypocritical? Are gay men and women not still being persecuted by the churches ancient views? Homosexuality is either accepted on the whole, including within churches or not at all. I do not think the church can continue trying to exist somewhere in the middle, with the line: "Homosexuals are acceptable, just not within the church."
Andrew, Brighton, England
No one should forget that there are many religions and philosophies in the world, and we, at least in the west, are free to choose. As a gay man, I have chosen to follow the teachings of Buddha, which embraces compassion for ALL living beings, tolerance and acceptance. Having been brought up in the Anglican church, I long ago realised that it did not provide the answers that I sought, with it's bigotry and vilification of those who do not conform to it's ideal. If God is really this bigoted and uncompassionate towards his own creations, then, if he does exist, none of us have very much to look forward to at judgement day, except of course those who model themselves on his philosophy!
Richard, Basingstoke, UK
It doesn't matter to most of us whether or not the Anglican church splits. What is tragic is that humanity is split into religious groups based on superstitious belief in some kind of god. Would that we were all united as humanists and atheists and in abhorrence of discrimination of any kind.
Robert, Marlow, UK
I don't think the rift should be resolved I think the North American and Canadian Anglicans should be happy to break away from the reactionary bigots who people the rest of the church. It has certainly confirmed for me the sort of organisation the Anglican Church really is.
Colin Wright, UK
Prejudice, plain and simple. According to the Bible slavery is just fine. Are you telling me you all believe in slavery? The bible always has been interpreted by men to support their views and prejudices, always will.
Steve Mac, Boston MA USA
Being an Anglican myself I strongly believe the ordination of a gay bishop is not only wrong and divisive but also sinful and religious unacceptable. The blessing of same sex marriages is unheard of in my country, I know some would jump to the conclusion of Africa being backward and primitive ,well if primitive entails rejecting same sex marriages we did rather be primitive and continue to walk the narrow path.
Zepheniah Sachirarwe, Zimbabwe
Surely we are moving to a time where people should try to empathise with one another and all the while the church follows a rigid doctrine they risk excluding people because they are not all the same. I don't believe gays choose to take this path made so difficult by ignorance and misunderstanding. It strikes me that these prejudices are being fought in everyday society but it is acceptable for the church to ignore these laws.
Andrew Woods, Leeds
If any further proof were needed of the enduring hypocrisy of organised religion then this is it! A small-minded clique who wish to condemn others for their way of life, when what they should be doing is preaching universal love and forgiveness. The churches of the world have been responsible throughout history for major division, destruction and turmoil. My god is forgiving, he is caring. I will continue to talk to him direct, rather than care to worship through a "middleman". There is no place for me in the Anglican Church.
Keith Andrews, London
I am very proud of the African and Asian church. We may seem backward but we will stand by the teachings of the bible. No homosexuality in the church.
Davie Ndege, Lilongwe, Malawi
As an Anglican I am appalled at the lack of understanding displayed by the 'traditionalists'. The message of the Bible should surely go beyond petty discrimination based on sex or sexuality? This is a time for unity, when society needs the guidance and love of Christ and his message more than ever
Catherine, London, UK
To say that those in favour of allowing gay clergy are cherry picking the bits from the Bible that they want is hypocritical. Do women who were trousers get lambasted for doing this, in the Bible it says that women should not dress in men's clothing. What about all those who eat shellfish, this is said to be wrong in the Bible. The original Bible was to have consisted of many 'books' but these were 'vetted and only the current ones were allowed to be used, now that is cherry picking at its best.
Peter, Manchester, UK
The two opposing groups should go their separate ways. There is a schism that can not be resolved. A church that constantly modifies its core beliefs in order to comply with changes in society, eventually holds no beliefs and becomes meaningless. There is no virtue in maintaining unity for the sake of it.
Ken, England UK
The one single thing that makes the Anglican Communion such a wonderful thing is its diversity. Cultural, racial and ethnic diversity have made the Anglican Communion what it is. Now, those who we call conservative Anglicans, refuse to acknowledge another form of diversity. These conservatives are turning their backs on God's creations, and are not truly following the teachings of Christ that they hold so dear. It is my hope that the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada can survive as autonomous bodies, or join together and form a North American Episcopal/Anglican Church.
John Callari, Cedar Grove, NJ, USA
I believe the church will split over this issue. The same issue is played out for many Christians in the US, who are leaving the liberal mainline denominations for evangelical churches. Contrary to the popular sentiment of the responders here, it is the "tolerant" churches that are diminishing, and the Bible-believing churches that are growing. The challenge will be for those churches to effectively minister to gays while not blessing homosexual behaviour.
Matthew B., Boston, MA, USA
I long to remain an Anglican however how can I now? I feel today as if the Primates of the Anglican Communion have re-classified me as a second class priest, a second class Christian, and worse, and the most difficult to forgive, a second class human being.
Stephen, Manchester, UK
I was always taught that Jesus accepted everybody, no matter what background, race, religion or I suppose sexual orientation. One of the sad things that some people's comments have suggested, is that gay people can be 'forgiven' for being gay. I truly believe we should always look at the inner person, and not be swayed by any external factors. The world would be a much better place if we could learn to accept people as they are. It is also a shame that a lot of religions only exacerbate this bigotry, and are so out of touch with our modern reality.
Chris Smith, Sunderland UK
I am in a conservative diocese in the USA and have seen some very ugly behaviour, not by proponents of gay integration but by those fighting it. I am horrified that in my beloved church, sincere hardworking Christians who pray, give, confess, and are anxious to serve God exactly as their peers do are being singled out in this way. It would be different if gays wanted to be held to a different standard than straight Christians, but they don't - they want to be held to the same standard. If marriage is the only acceptable relationship then how can we callously designate an entire class of people who are not allowed to participate in it? They have literally nowhere to stand. One standard for all!
I am an engaged straight woman and I know several couples made up of gay believers who are role models for the marriage my husband and I hope to build. I can learn from them how to be a better Christian and spouse. Those in the Church who are shouting for expulsion are doing so from superstition - they have never dealt with gay Christians face to face. If they did, they would see Christ in those faces. I am ashamed of my church and will be humiliated if we split.
Lesley Spencer, Florida, USA
For many Christians, this issue has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with Biblical authority. I've researched the Bible's prohibitions against homosexuality, and while the New Testament allows Christians to eat pork, it clearly prohibits homosexuality. The Bible's stance on this issue couldn't be more clear. As far as I'm concerned, you either believe the Bible is the Word of God or you don't. But, for traditional Christians, being the Word of God means, you can't pick and choose the parts you like and disregard the parts you don't like. Without the Bible, there is no standard, no rule in Christianity. We would be just all making up our own rules. That's what this issue is about. So, if you don't believe the Bible is the rule, don't attend a traditional Church. Or don't be a Christian.
Rebecca, Springfield MO
I have real difficulties with this debate. On one hand I find homosexuality abhorrent, but on the other I personally know and like many gay people. These are people who contribute to society the same as anyone else but do not brandish their sexuality about, just as many heterosexual couples don't go on about their private sex lives. What people do in their private lives is their own business, and I believe gays and lesbians, whether Christian or not, should have the same respect and consideration as we would expect for everyone else in society.
However, I don't think the church should condone 'gay marriage' by blessing these unions, and if priests and other church leaders are gay, they should be abstinent. Marriage, and indeed the sex act, are for a man and a woman - biologically there can be no denying that and therefore I think there can never be a true marriage between same sex partners. Living a Christian life is not easy anyway in this day and age. If the different sections of the Anglican church can't agree, then they will have to split and Anglicans will have to decide which branch to go with. The Christian church should be strong enough to handle splits like this - it's happened before many times.
I thought the whole point of religion was that it was time-tested. The ABC, as titular head, doesn't "hate gays" (as far as I know) but he does have a certain standard of conduct to enforce (as laid out in historic texts). The Bible was progressive in its time but still conveyed strict behavioural guidelines. You can't fault the Anglican leadership for sticking to the principles on which the movement was founded...that's not consistent.
Christine, Washington, D.C. (by way of Sydney)
Why should God's truths change just to suit the western liberal way of thinking? The word of God clearly prohibits homosexuality just as it condemns murder, adultery, etc. If the opinion of these liberals accept such behaviour should the church also accept them as normal just to be in tune with the liberal western view just because their proponents think they are modern and intellectually more superior. The bible has so many periods when the people of God stopped following the word and descended into practices that were unacceptable to God. Well, God never changed the truth just to make it more fashionable with the times. A sin remained a sin. I accept that as Christians we should be more compassionate towards our gay brothers, but that does not mean we should change the truth to suit the times. The Bible forbids homosexuality, and therefore it is unacceptable for the church to be led by a leader who actively engages in that practice.
Chris, Lilongwe, Malawi
"Love thy neighbour as thyself". I cannot recall at the confirmation classes, which I attended many years ago, under the patient instruction then given by an experienced & humane priest, ever being led to believe that Christ came into this world to exclude people. Christianity is based on the precept of universal love & nothing else.
The church must remember that Christianity is based on progressive revelation and cannot lock itself into a time 2,000 years ago. Many of the edicts, such as not eating pork were based on limited knowledge. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle. I urge compassion on both sides and an open dialogue. It may be that a separation is necessary for now, based on background, but that reconciliation in the future will bring about a stronger church.
Greg Pressey, Tillsonburg, Canada
There is no reason the Anglican Church needs to remain united. The issue is whether practicing (openly sexually active) bishops and priests should be consecrated. The bible, which at least some Anglicans still believe is sacred text, appears against it. It does seem a point of principle. If so, those holding different principles on the sacredness of sacred texts might be better off in different churches that operate under different value codes.
One can continue to allow non-celibate gays to serve in the priesthood, the other can - following biblical authority - insist on celibacy. Indeed, the traditional Anglicans may want to see if they can work out a deal to return to the Catholic Church. The liberals may want to see if the Unitarians will accept them.
Carol N, USA
I have been a churchwarden for the last 10 years and if you really knew why people come to our churches, you will forget the irrelevancies of the split in the church. Most people do understand the differences between the Bible and their faith. They realise that not every word means the same to everybody but faith is what keeps us together not what the vicar believes! The church might split into a thousand denominations but the faith will remain.
The key thing is to be seen to be there for all, irrespective of background, creed or colour. The refreshing thing is that I am gay in a loving relationship but that has not reduced the passion and commitment with which I carry out my duty to my community and the church. Maybe it will be a good thing for the church to split but the work and faith will carry on.
Nicki A, London
The disappointing part of the whole story is that the English church under the liberal Rowan Williams did not follow the American and Canadian churches out of communion with the bigots of Africa and Asia. The backwardness of certain African and Asian churches' beliefs and their selective reading of scripture should be condemned, and financial support should be cut off. The western church should use its financial muscle against bigotry.
James Savage, Stockholm, Sweden
The problem is that conservatives will always be willing to split the church to get their way, and claim that their interpretation of the Bible is the truth. Like everyone else, they pick and choose the parts that suit them - we have all modernised our view of what's acceptable and if anyone tried to stone people and ban tattoos and shellfish in the modern world they'd be outlawed just like the Taleban.
In the meantime, the liberals pander to these extremists who believe they have God in their pocket. What if the more progressive elements of the church start demanding oversight from bishops that are in touch with their views? They won't, because for some archaic reason, these people actually care about the archaic myth of church unity.
Dominic Widdows, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The choice is very simple, do you want to live by the word of the bible - or would you prefer to just cherry-pick the good bits? Just because something is popular and modern, doesn't make it right.
Bob Hotson, Manchester, UK
I am a gay man. I try my best to help those around me and to treat other people that way I would like to be treated myself. I think God will see that the way I treat other people is much more important than who I sleep with. Let the Church stumble along blindly following a book that was written by men and has been badly translated many times. Let the Church sing its songs, repress its followers and preach its hate. What the Church thinks means less than nothing to me. What God may think is far more important. He made me, the Church didn't.
Colin Morris, London, UK
Yes, Leviticus does say, "You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman. That is detestable." However it also says, "Do not put on a robe made of two sorts of cloth," "You shall not cut the hair on the sides of your heads, neither shall you clip off the edge of your beard" and "when you have come into the land, and have put in all sorts of fruit-trees, their fruit will be as if they had not had circumcision, and for three years their fruit may not be used for food."
If anyone among those advocating the split has only ever worn pure wool, never had a haircut or a shave, and never eaten fruit from a tree less than three years old, I respect their opinion. Anyone else is simply a hypocrite.
Thom, Finsbury Park, London
The behaviour of the so-called "conservative" Anglicans is disgraceful. Where is the acceptance and forgiveness preached by those they claim to believe the words of? This blatant hypocrisy should sound the death knell of outdated, bigoted belief in the church. I'm ashamed to believe my faith has anything to do with these hate-mongers.
Dave, Nottingham, UK
A split is inevitable. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. We are dealing with religion here, a set of ethics or moral principles. Yes, God loves everyone despite our faults and whilst I have no time for bigots, I understand the difficulty here. How can a parishioner take guidance from a hypocrite. How can they believe in someone espousing the virtues of the Bible, but not following it themselves? More to the point, why should they believe what a priest or vicar says when he or she is promoting something which is integrally a sin in their religion.
Karen, London, UK
The Church's whole approach to the issue of homosexuality demonstrates their complete ignorance on the issue. It is not a "lifestyle choice". The Church either needs to engage with gay men and women, (clergy and laymen) to gain an understanding of what homosexuality is all about or risk its own disintegration. The Church should be inclusive not exclusive. If they continue down this route, then I hope the issue rips the Church apart, we will then not need to worry about what they think anymore as the C of E will slip into obscurity.
Mark, London, England
Yes, this is a symptom of the times, it will become irrelevant at some point. I don't understand why some people think that the truths in the Bible change with the times. Truth is truth, and will not pander to our overly liberal society, which looks down in judgement on anything else that is not so liberal.
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England
No, it cannot. The Canadian and American Anglican churches have put themselves outside the Anglican communion by their actions.
The church needs to join the rest of the real world in the 21st century. It wonders why it is seen as increasingly irrelevant and why people get angry at its adherents for their myopic, intellectually barren pompous self-righteousness. This is the reason. If there is a God, and he did create us all, then any attempt to pick and choose who is okay and how isn't is man's prejudice - nothing else.
Nigel, Redhill, UK
Would it be the worst thing in the world if the two sides did split? At least that way the modern Church could grow with the society it exists to serve, and the close-minded intolerant Church may die out with the last of its followers, sometime around the year 2020.
I'm kind of divided on this, too. On the one hand the church should respect gay rights but on the other hand one simply cannot just change the rules as one goes along to suit trends.
Mike Di Ricci, London
This is very surprising to me that anyone would want homosexuality in the church. It is absolutely against the bible and I find the whole issue distressing. I am supporting the split.
Chantelle, Orleans, USA
Bishop Gene Robinson demands respect "as a gay man." He needs to understand that one does not respect a man solely on account of one's species and one's sexuality, but that respect has to be earned. His particular brand of self-righteousness and self-obsession does not earn respect, and he and his chums are behaving like a troupe of litigious and spoilt children.
Ken Johnson, Edinburgh, Scotland
Who really cares. If some people want to use their belief in some big beardy man in the sky as an excuse to hate homosexuals, then let them have their own church. The rest of the world will go on & leave the petty minded medieval bigots behind.
Ally Binns, Glasgow, Scotland
If some elements of the Anglican community wish to appoint gays as bishops, bless gay marriages etc why shouldn't they? By the same token, why should the other elements not reserve the right to disagree and to split? It seems to me that whereas minorities must be permitted choice, and be valued for the "diversity" they bring, the role of the majority is supposed to be to simply permit and welcome these freedoms.
Surely freedom of choice works both ways? If we want freedoms we must recognise that there is a good chance that institutions will fragment. Surely gays can't be both an integral part of the mainstream yet also distinct from it and demand that it changes to accommodate their lifestyles, can they?
I think the Anglican Church should remain united, but from all reports it would seem highly unlikely that this can be achieved in view of the distinct lack of tolerance and Christianity on the part of the traditionalists. However, should those demanding the split suddenly start behaving in the way they are supposed to - with Christian love - then there might be an end to the crisis.
John B, Milton Keynes, UK
Religion has to evolve to survive, if it can't change in the modern world then perhaps it should fall by the way side. Would the good Samaritan have still helped if the injured man was gay? I think so.
Mark, Sussex, UK
Its this sort of farce that makes the best case for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
I believed that we were created in God's image which means all of us. Surely there are more pressing problems in the world than a person's sexuality.
The Church doesn't move with the times and this split is fair indication of that. Whatever happened to 'God created all men equal'? Maybe the small print should've read 'except homosexuals, lesbians and even some women' The Church is in real danger of becoming even more archaic and distant from the real world if it doesn't shift its position on this. With falling numbers/followers I would think this is the last thing they would want to see.
Jock, Blackwood, Gwent
As a gay man and an atheist, I honestly couldn't care less. Let the Church do what it wants and let its members have their own views on sexual morality. I'm happy to leave them to it, so long as they don't start trying to foist their doctrines on the rest of us!
Martin, Hull, UK
The great hullabaloo is about the fact that someone actually dared to be honest and admit their homosexuality. Priests of all religions, in all the world have practised same-sex relationships from the dawn of time. Let all the churches split and split again, and again, until their complete dissolution. Maybe then, people would stop using it as tools and excuses to gain personal power.
Ellen Morton, Walton on Thames, UK
As a gay man I am horrified by the bigotry within the church. The best thing would be for the church to split. These traditionalists are not true Christians but spiteful, cruel people who Jesus would have pitied were he alive today.
This is a sad day for the concept of Christian love and tolerance within the Anglican communion.
Whether or not you agree with homosexuality the Bible is extremely clear about it. So how can the church appoint a gay bishop, after reading the part about Sodom and Gomorrah? Perhaps they think they are better at making decisions than God?
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK
If this rift is a fact, I think I will have to find a different church to belong to. I am an active member of my Anglican Church, but there is no way I want to belong to a church that sees homosexuality as evil. I also don't want to belong to a church that thinks that ordaining a gay bishop is worth all this mess. An attitude of 'Don't care about anyone else' in one half of the church, fundamentalism in the other.
Lucy, LA (former UK)