The Anglican Communion has caused shock waves among LGBT Christians as it overwhelmingly voted to sanction a liberal US church which supports same-sex marriage.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is currently hosting church leaders from around the world, as he attempts to avoid an entire breakdown of the Anglican Communion.
While the Church of England is relatively moderate when it comes to gay rights, a number of other churches within the global Anglican Communion remain militantly opposed – leading to tensions particularly with some African churches.
The US Episcopal Church will be blocked from Anglican decision-making bodies overs its stance in favour of equal marriage and LGBT rights.
It will also be suspended from participating in the Anglican communion.
Senior Anglican clergy members from around the world made the controversial decision at a meeting held in Canterbury held amid fears that issues like same-sex marriage would divide the church.
Described as “really tough”, the meeting, which started on Monday, sees 39 Anglican primates come together.
The decision described the US church’s acceptance of gay members “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching” of the Anglican Church.
It is noted that the decision dats back to 2003, when out gay Canon Gene Robinson was ordained as a bishop in the Episcopal Church’s New Hampshire diocese.
Released after the decision, a statement read that the Anglican primates acknowledged that they had “deep differences” in their definition of marriage, but said the Episcopal church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage was a step too far.
The Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), which is a conservative branch of the Church, said it was pleased with the decision.
Gafcon, which is opposed to same-sex marriage, and members of which threatened to walk out of the meeting unless a sanction was applied, said: “This action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning”.
Speaking after the decision, Bishop Michael Curry said it would cause “real pain” to LGBT people “committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love”.
Lib Dem peer Jonathan Oates tweeted: “Born into CofE, grew up in it, baptised in it, confirmed in it. Today, thoroughly ashamed of it. No backbone. No leadership.”
Others said they were shocked that there was “no acknowledgement of the deep pain the Anglican Communion’s decisions will cause, nor any concern for the pastoral care of LGBTI Christians.”
An open letter sent before the meeting and signed by over a hundred senior Anglicans urges the Church of England to “repent” for its treatment of gay and lesbian people.
The meeting also came as it was found that the attendance of Church of England services had dropped to its lowest ever level.
The head of Stonewall warned that a split in the global Anglican church could bolster anti-gay churches.