By blessing same-sex unions in his diocese, the Anglican bishop of Vancouver has placed himself in "an automatic state of impaired communion" with the rest of the church, eight Anglican leaders said in a stern rebuke.
The leadership of the Church of Nigeria, the second-largest Anglican church in the world, with 17.5 million members, went further and formally cut ties with the Canadian diocese.
On May 28, Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster officially allowed six churches in the Vancouver-based diocese to bless gay unions. His decision came just one day after leaders of the international Anglican Communion said they could not "support the authorization of such rites."
The leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, expressed "regret" for the "inevitable tension and division that will result."
Seven primates, or top bishops, of the communion's 38 autonomous member churches released a statement denouncing Ingham for his "revisionist innovation."
"Bishop Ingham's action has brought the Anglican Communion to a defining moment in which the clear choice has to be made between remaining a communion or disintegrating into a federation of churches," said the primates of the West Indies, South America, Central Africa, Kenya, South India, Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asia and the Philippines.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Abuja, Nigeria, released his own statement saying Vancouver was guilty of "flagrant disregard for the Anglican Communion" and the belief of "the vast majority" of its members. The Canadian diocese was guilty of "a new imperialism," the Nigerian bishop said.
In Canada, seven parishes in Ingham's diocese have dissented and asked for new pastoral oversight. For his part, Ingham said he was simply responding to votes by delegates in 1998, 2001 and 2002 to allow the blessing of same-sex unions.
"For a time, we will be in the spotlight of attention as a diocese, and some of us will find it quite uncomfortable," Ingham said. "We are in the forefront of a movement of change taking place across the church, and change is never accomplished easily."