An estimated one quarter of the world’s Anglican bishops have refused to attend a summit in the United Kingdom which is meant to forge their unity.
In a blow to Dr Rowan Williams’ status as the Protestant church’s spiritual leader, around 230 of the world’s 880 prelates have boycotted the Lambeth Conference.
They include several leaders of Anglican churches in Africa where high-profile prelates like Rwanda’s Archbishop Emmanuel Kollini believe the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality is being ignored.
“It kills Christianity in Africa,” he said. “If we make a simple slight mistake Christianity is going to die in the south of the Sahara and in North Africa.”
The Anglican rift has widened since 2003 when the liberal US Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
Recent plans to ordain women bishops have also caused controversy.
Lambeth has been held every ten years since 1867 but has never seen a boycott on this scale.
Experts say it shows the theological splits have already taken their toll, and believe little can be done to repair the damage.