The consecration of Gene Robinson as the Anglican Church’s first openly gay bishop tonight has left the church more divided than ever.
In Britain, Liberals and gay Christian campaigners welcomed his appointment but Conservatives attacked the decision to go ahead with the ceremony in the diocese of New Hampshire.
A spokesman for British evangelical campaign group Reform said: “Gene Robinson and all of those bishops who supported him have decided to split the Anglican Church by stepping beyond what is acceptable.
“The rest of the church now has to decide how to confirm that decision.
“For us, it will mean seeking reassurances from our bishops that they won’t have anything to do with those who have taken these steps and a failure to get those reassurances will cause splits in this country.”
The group added: “We believe that homosexual relationships are clearly contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture.
“The Anglican Communion must now formalise a separation that has already occurred.”
But Changing Attitude, a national organisation of Anglican bishops, priests and lay people said Bishop Robinson would “inspire” gays and lesbians with new confidence in the church.
The Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, said the Anglican Communion was now living with “a dramatic new reality”.
“His ministry will inspire lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual Christians with new confidence that we have a full place at the communion table of our Lord.
“The highest offices of the church can be open to lesbian and gay people without pretence.
“A new honesty is present, undermining the secrecy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policies and the fear of discovery and abuse which many lesbian and gay Christians live with.
“Bishop Gene Robinson makes the present reality visible – the presence of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, lay and ordained, single and faithfully partnered, at every level of church life in every province of the Anglican Communion.”