The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams will visit New Orleans on Wednesday to meet bishops from the United States Episcopal church to urge them not to ordain any more gay bishops. Meanwhile the church leaders want Mr Williams to listen to their arguments for ordaining gay clergy.

Aides close to Mr Williams told the Sunday Telegraph that if the Episcopal church does not heed the recommendations of the Windsor Report, which implored them not to make further pro-gay moves, that the Anglican Communion could split.

“He’s in no uncertainty as to the importance of this meeting,” a close aid said. “The meeting is a major step in deciding whether the Anglican Communion can stay together as a global family. The Archbishop will try to find out whether the Episcopal Church is prepared to seek a way forward.

“He will talk to them about the current affairs in the Communion and explain his concerns to them. It is up to them to decide whether to act on it.”

“He will talk to them about the current affairs in the Communion and explain his concerns to them,” the aide said. “It is up to them to decide whether to act on it.”

The Anglican Communion, with more than 77 million members world-wide, has been split over homosexuality since the election of the openly gay cleric, Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Evangelicals in Africa have threatened to split from the Communion over homosexuality.

Mr Williams can not force the Episcopal church to stop consecrating gay bishops but he can implore them. The Very Reverend Tracey Lind, an openly lesbian cleric is the front-runner to be elected the Bishop of Chicago.