Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the head Episcopal bishop in America, has said she will not bow down to conservative Anglicans who object to gay bishops.
She confirmed the church’s first lesbian bishop Mary Glasspool last month.
Bishop Jefferts Schori was responding to a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who proposed that members of the Anglican Communion who support gay marriage should resign.
In the letter, he wrote that the Episcopal church should face sanctions for breaking moratoria on new gay bishops and blessings for gay couples.
He wrote: “I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces [which have breached any moratoria] on gay issues should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.
“I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on [the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order] should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.”
Bishop Jefferts Schori rejected the Archbishop’s suggestions and said the “willingness to live in tension” was a “hallmark of Anglicanism”.
In reply, she wrote that the Episcopal church was “a broad and inclusive enough tent” to hold those who agree and disagree with gay bishops.
She added: “We have not made these decisions lightly.
“We recognise that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognise that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.”
Bishop Jefferts Schori was appointed as head of the US Anglican communion in 2006.
Her selection caused even more tension in the debate over gay bishops and gay blessings, as she supported the first out gay bishop Gene Robinson and has said homosexuality is not a sin.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is fighting to avoid a schism in the church over the issue. He has previously said the church may have to accept “two styles” of Anglicanism over the issue.
He and the Anglican Communion have been pushing for “restraint” on the numbers of gay bishops but last July, Anglican clergy and laity in the US voted to reject a three-year moratorium on new gay consecrations.