The openly gay Anglican bishop whose ordination sparked the crisis in the worldwide Communion has claimed that without gay members the Church of England, “would be close to shutting down.”

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, who lives openly with his male partner, said the church’s denial over the number of gay and lesbian Anglicans was ‘terrible.’

He added that he found it ‘mystifying’ that the Anglican Communion could not be honest about it.

“I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then ‘I’m your worst enemy’.”

The bishop was speaking in London in an interview with journalist Andrew Collier, reported in The Times.

“It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important.

“What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church?

“I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support the Episcopal Church (American Anglicans) in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge,” he told The Times.

Bishop Robinson was controversially ordainated in 2003, becoming the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican communion.

“If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut[ting] down between its organists, its clergy, its wardens… it just seems less than humble not to admit that.”

He said that the Episcopal Church, which could face sanctions from the Anglican Communion in September if it does not reverse its ordination of openly gay clergy, had been ordaining homosexual priests “for many, many years.”

“Not every bishop will do that but many do. I will and have. Many make a requirement that the person be celibate, but many do not.

“It’s interesting that the wider Anglican Communion has either not known that or has not chosen to make an issue of it before now.”

Bishop Robinson also stressed the fact that he was a priest, not an activist.

Conservative and liberal branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion have been at loggerheads over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions ever his ordination as a bishop.

A number of American Anglican congregations have decided to place themselves under the authority of bishops in Africa who are hostile to gay people in the church.

The spiritual leader of the Anglican communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams faces a split church, and others are talking of schism.

In in interview with The Telegraph, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said that the anti-gay “Global South” bishops had effectively expelled themselves from the church already if they carry out their threat to boycott the 2008 Lambeth conference, which is held once every ten years.

In April Archbishop William said he considered cancelling the conference to avoid a schism.

He then decided to exclude Bishop Robinson, but many Anglicans wrote letters of complaint to the Archbishop about the decision.

In June The Times revealed that Archbishop Williams was “exploring” whether to invite Bishop Robinson to attend but not vote at the 14th Lambeth Conference.

It will take place between 16th July and 4th August 2008 in Canterbury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury indicated last year that he did not want to discuss human sexuality issues at the conference, emphasising training matters instead.