The diocese of California has been warned not to elect a gay bishop.

Frank Giswold, the leader of the US Episcopal church, which is facing expulsion and shafting from the worldwide Anglican communion after the appointment of openly gay minister, Gene Robinson in 2003, has told the diocese of California they would widen the dispute if they did the same.

Two gay candidates are on a shortlist to become the next bishop in the diocese of California in the next two weeks.

Mr Giswold told the Guardian, “The diocese needs to respect the sensibilities of the larger communion. It will note what is going on in the life of the church and make a careful and wise decision. It will then be up to the house of bishops to give or withhold their consent. Given what has happened over the last three years, I think there will be increased sensitivity.”

“It would sadden me greatly if there was a real break in the Anglican communion, because we are members one of another and share a common baptism. All of us would be diminished if any part of the communion was expelled.

“I am very aware that issues of poverty, disease and civil war are life and death issues of the sort we should be concentrating on, not our preoccupation with a particular manifestation of sexuality. I think it is possibly the work of the Evil One, making us fixate on sexuality rather than the more urgent things of the world.”

He revealed private meetings with Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to discuss the confrontation, he said: “We both live under stresses and strains, and it is important not to have second-hand communication, to meet face to face.

It enables me to hear his concerns and he can hear some from me. He knows Ecusa [the Episcopal church] very well and we have known each other for years but what he is probably most aware of are some of the more angular expressions of concern from various factions in our church.”

He stated his understanding for disapproval of Bishop Robinson’s election but said he respected the decision.

The gay candidates for the California diocese are the Very Rev Robert Taylor, the dean of St Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, and the Rev Bonnie Taylor, the rector of All Saints church, Chicago.

If either is elected, they would follow Gene Robinson, whose 2003 consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire brought the Church to the brink of a split.