The conference of Anglican primates meeting in Tanzania has demanded that the American church stop ordaining gay bishops and give a commitment not to bless same sex partnerships.
Senior church leaders have also agreed to allow conservative American Anglicans to form their own organisation.
The five-day meeting exposed the divisions within the Anglican communion over gay issues, with liberals arguing that church teaching on tolerance should take precedence over biblical interpretation.
The Americans have been given until 30th September to make a statement pledging they will comply with the instructions of the primates.
The document, which was delayed as bishops and archbishops wrangled over the final details, demands an “unequivocal common covenant that the (American ) bishops will not authorise any rite of blessing for same-sex unions.
“A candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent,” it reads, although it does leave open the possibility that the Anglican communion might change its mind in the future.
Finally, the document from the primates threatens that if the American church does not give these assurances, the relationship between the churches will be “damaged at best,” and that will have “consequences for full participation in the communion.”
This hardline statement will be viewed as a victory for conservative bishops, many of them African, who were outraged by the appointment of an openly gay bishop in 2003.
Gene Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire, despite being openly gay and living with his partner.
The decision to allow traditionalist American Anglicans to form their own group within US church is a victory for Nigerian bishop Peter Akinola, who has already been providing leadership to dissenting American parishes and dioceses.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams seems to have avoided a split in the church, but he admitted that the gay issues have not yet been resolved.
He described the final document as:
“A challenge to the Episcopal Church to clarify its position, a challenge also to those who have intervened from elsewhere to see if they can negotiate their way towards an acceptable, equitable, settlement.”