The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Anglican Church may split over the acceptance of gay priests.

Last night, Dr. Rowan Williams revealed that the liberal and conservative branches of the church may not be able to reach agreement over gay and lesbian Christians, which could lead to the fragmentation of the Anglican communion.

“Why should we be mortgaged to other people’s prejudices, if we’re liberal, or other people’s irresponsibility, if we’re traditionalist?” Dr. Williams told the Daily Mail.

“Isn’t what matters the life and vigour, and indeed the integrity, of the Church on our doorstep?”

He compared the possible disintegration of the Anglican church to that of a marriage, saying:

“In some people’s eyes keeping the Anglican Communion together as a worldwide institution looks like prolonging the life of a dysfunctional or abusive marriage – isn’t it more honest and humane to head for the divorce courts?”

Furthermore, Dr. Williams said “the possibility of detailed and patient scrutiny of the underlying question about sexual ethics had been derailed by a feeling that the outcome had been decided in advance by one group.”

Dr. Williams feels that the current dispute is more serious and divisive than that the split over female ordination.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph , he said “At least on [women’s ordination], a conviction had emerged that it was possible to treat it as something people could disagree about and still leave intact the basics of common faith.

“This question has not felt like that for many.”

His comments follow a five-day crisis meeting in Tanzania last week, where Anglican leaders met to discuss gay rights within the church.

Conservative church leaders have pressured the U.S. church to make a statement pledging “unequivocal common covenant that the (American ) bishops will not authorise any rite of blessing for same-sex unions” by 30th September.

The instructions of the primates also states that:

“A candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent”, although it does leave open the possibility that the Anglican communion might change its mind in the future.

Threats to exclude the American church from full participation in the communion if it does not comply were also made.