The head of the Anglican Church has said in a television documentary broadcast in the UK that he fears that it may be too late to stop the Church from splitting over gay and gender issues.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the leader of the Anglican Communion – a global federation of churches in 38 countries – also said that he fears that he may have now lost control of the situation. He has struggled to keep the church together since taking his position in 2002.

The crisis within the church began when Gene Robinson – an openly gay man – was made Bishop of New Hampshire in the US in 2003. The North American Episcopal Church has also been allowing an increasingly visible leadership role for women.

The moves have been slammed by fundamentalists, led by churches in the developing world including Africa, leading to the growing threat of a total split.

The Anglican Church of Tanzania has said that it will be severing ties to the Episcopal Church in the United States while some conservative factions in the U.S. are also openly opposed to the liberal policies towards gay and female clergy.

“…it is going to be bad for us. It’s going to drive people into recrimination and bitterness,” Williams said of the looming schism.

The matter is expected to come to a head at a conference in Tanzania in which the 38 Anglican primates will be meeting, set to take place in February.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and other conservatives have already stated that they will refuse to sit at the same table as the US female Episcopal leader Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Williams appears to be expecting the worst, saying that, “We can’t take it for granted that the Anglican Communion will go on as it always has been.”

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