One of Christianity’s most high profile figures has criticised the Anglican Church for its conservative attitude towards the ordination of gay clergy.

An authorised biography on Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reveals the church leader was shocked by the Episcopal denomination’s reaction to the appointment of gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

The appointment led to strict policies and divisive debates in the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion over what the procedure for appointing gay clergy should be.

The book, Rabble-rouser For Peace, written by Tutu’s former press officer John Allen, reveals outrage at the obsession with sexuality over important issues, “Tutu found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty,” Mr Allen writes.

The row over gay bishops in the Anglican Communion has reached a new level recently after liberal clergy in the UK suggested teaming up with ideologically similar US churches, while the denomination’s most traditional church called for pro-gay congregations to be “excised.”

The Church of Nigeria says it is unfair to have to accommodate gay affirming churches, calling them “a cancerous lump in the body (which) should be excised if it has defied every known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient.”

The African church added: “We encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury to persuade those who have chosen to “walk apart” to return to the path chosen by successive generations of our forbears.”

This summer’s General Convention of the US Episcopal Church displeased conservative members after failing to ban the ordination of homosexual bishops, stemming from the outcry of the appointment of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

The US Episcopal Church agreed on a watered down version of a proposal which would have banned the appointment of gay clergy.

Following the Convention, conservative bishops from San Joaquin, California, South Carolina and Pittsburgh expressed dismay at the “painful complication” created when the church called for “restraint” in the ordination of gay clergy and appointed Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a supporter of gay rights, as its first female head.

The book also reveals that Tutu was once a candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury, The Guardian reports.