The leader of the Anglican church in the United States has stoked the controversy surrounding gay ordinations by claiming there are senior gay clergy and some of them are in relationships.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, speaking on BBC Radio 4, said that the Episcopalian church, as Anglicans are known in the US, has been unfairly targeted over the ordination of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Bishop Robinson is openly gay and lives with his partner.

He recently announced his intention to enter into a civil union, which became legal in New Hampshire yesterday.

“He is certainly not alone in being a gay bishop; he’s certainly not alone in being a gay partnered bishop,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview broadcast yesterday.

“He is alone in being the only gay partnered bishop who’s open about that status.”

In an interview in August Bishop Robinson also claimed the church was deluding itself about the presence of gay clergy.

“I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has – many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories,” he said.

“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,” he said.

Since Bishop Robinson was appointed in 2003, there has been a schism in the worldwide Anglican communion over the ordination of gay people and the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Bishop Jefferts Schori’s appointment as head of the US Anglican communion in 2006 caused even more tension, exacerbated by her support of Bishop Robinson and civil partnerships and her stated belief that homosexuality is not a sin.

At the Anglican Primates meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in February last year seven archbishops who represent more than 30 million Anglicans refused to take Communion with Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Many on both sides of the divide are openly talking about a schism.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has attempted to steer a course through the row.

Neither Bishop Robinson nor a rogue American priest who was consecrated a bishop by the Nigerian Church, Martyn Minns, will be asked to the 14th Lambeth Conference later this year, the assembly of Anglican bishops held once a decade.