The bishops of The Episcopal church in the United States have decided to reject the instructions of the worldwide Anglican communion over gay issues.

Their decision makes a split in the church more likely.

Last month a meeting of the primates from across the world instructed the wayward American church to stop ordaining gay bishops and to desist from giving church blessings to same-sex couples.

The US bishops also took the opportunity to draw attention to the persecution of gay and lesbians in Nigeria.

The Archbishop of Nigeria is supportive of new laws which will outlaw any demonstration of homosexuality or support for gay people.

The US bishops decision to call on their governing body to reject the primates demands means a possible schism over gay issues that could affect the Church of England.

The chief executive for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Rev Richard Kirker said:

“In the acrimonious power struggle that has dogged the Anglican Communion since 2003 the lives and spiritual well being of lesbian and gay Anglicans have been reduced to a bargaining chip in an attempt to buy unity. These resolutions say we are not to be gambled away.

“At last some sanity is breaking into the debate. There is an obvious realisation that the consequences of this pandering to the Puritans means an increasing hostility towards lesbian and gay people so clearly demonstrated by the Archbishop of Nigeria.

“He is fiercely promoting anti-gay legislation in his country contrary to Scripture and all the decisions of Anglicanism over the last 30 years.”

Rev Kirker attacked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, for trying to balance the views of conservative Christians with the need to minister to gay and lesbians.

At last month’s meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, a compromise resolution on gays in the church was passed.

Some delegates were wary of re-opening the debate about the place of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the church just a week after the Tanzania meeting of Anglican primates exposed the division in the worldwide communion.

A motion asking the Church to welcome and value gay Christians by the Rev Mary Gilbert of Bilston, West Midlands wanted to:

“welcome and affirm lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, valuing their contribution at every level of the Church.”

After two hours of debate, the synod, meeting in London, decided to amend the Rev Gilbert’s motion in favour of one from the Bishop of Gloucester, which highlighted:

“continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.”

However, while the Synod in the UK managed to steer a middle course, the evangelical parts of the worldwide communion will continue to protest the liberal American attitude to gay people in the church.

“If the Americans are expelled from the Anglican Communion this will encourage those already bent on our destruction to persecute lesbian and gay people even more,” commented Rev Kirker.

“Forces of the extreme American right are playing a significant role in the decisions of the Anglican Communion at the behest of Dr Williams. We see this as a dangerous sign of things to come.”